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This is assuming you (like most of us) cannot afford to treat yo’self to a first class ticket on a long haul flight. For the rest of us, there’s a few tricks you can use to survive a long haul flight.

First thing’s first, if you booked an international flight on AirAsia, do not pass go, do not collect $200, rebook your flight right now if possible.

One day I will write a blog about how saving money is not worth flying AirAsia, but until then, just trust me.


Learn from me when I tell you not to be tempted by free booze served on international flights. Yes, a calming glass of wine or gin and soda to take the edge off is 5 points for Gryffindor, but try not to go overboard. Alcohol will dehydrate you fast when you’re 30,000 feet in the air and the last thing you want to be in that metal tube is dealing with dry skin, motion sickness from the turbulence and booze combo and then feeling hungover after you wake up… still have 4 hours left until wheels down.

Pro tip: Chug a gatorade or sports drink in the terminal before boarding. You’ll be thankful for those extra electrolytes before boarding a 15 hour flight.

Use SeatGuru

seat guru long flight

SeatGuru is an amazing tool to survive a long haul flight. You have the ability to choose the best seats on a plane, even if you’re flying economy. You can read other passenger reviews, view real photos from real travelers, and doublecheck the configuration to make sure you’re not stuck next to the bathroom for 12 hours.

Upgrade Your Ticket

survive international flight

If possible. I had a 16.5 hour flight from NYC to China en route to Thailand and I was dreading this long haul flight. I had never flown China Southern Airlines and didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t find any upgrade information online and their website is very difficult to navigate if you’re not in China. So I asked the ticket agent how much an upgrade cost for Premium Economy and to my surprise, it was only $250 USD! It was the best money I had ever spent traveling. Premium Economy gives you access to slippers, hot towels, custom meals, wider seats, quieter, cabin – I mean, I felt like I was flying in luxury(-ish) all for $250!

If you’re not backpacking, or super strict on budget, do yourself a favor and ask the gate attendant how much an upgrade is. You’re more likely to get a better deal right before the flight because the airline would rather sell those tickets at a discount than have the seats go unused.

Charge Your Devices, and Then Charge Again

Most airlines nowadays have USB ports built into their seats, but don’t risk it. See above rant about AirAsia. I recommend a portable cell phone or tablet USB charger like TYLT. If your airplane has onboard wifi, that’s also a battery drainer so be strategic if your seat doesn’t have a USB charger.

Other than that, bring a few old school books or magazines to read! Flights are the perfect time to take a break from the digital age and catch up on a New York Times Best Seller. 

Request a Special Meal or Bring Your Own

The key to make sure you survive a long haul flight is to treat yourself as best as possible… even if you’re sitting in coach. If you can, pack a healthy, tasty meal that you can eat on the plane (no liquids) or at the very least visit your airline’s website to manage the booking and request a special meal. Different airlines provide different requests, but most offer vegetarian, vegan, diabetes, low fat, low sodium etc. meals for international destinations.

Pick a Seat in the Back

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Sitting in the back of the plane ensures a few things. One, that there are less people who will be lining up to use the bathroom at the back of the plane. There’s also less foot traffic in general which means if you’re in an aisle seat, you don’t have to move your legs or head every 5 minutes to get out of the way for passersby.

I love the aisle seat for long haul flights, but I can never sleep because everytime someone passes, I feel like I have to move my leg or arm or head out of the way to make room. Sitting in the back away cuts down on the amount of people in the aisle, which I love.

Pack Slippers in Your Carry-On

I knowwwww that space in your carry on bag is a luxury. But hear me out…

If your flight is 12+ hours, you’re gonna be so grateful to have a comfortable pair of slippers to put on your swollen feet, for a couple of reasons. Hopefully, if you’re drinking enough water on your flight (which you should be doing), you’ll be getting up to use the bathroom a few times and please for the sake of humanity do not walk to the lavatory barefoot or in your socks.

Alternatively, on a long flight, you’ve probably already slipped your shoes off and tucked them under the seat in front of you. Instead of taking them off and putting them back on, you’ll be so thankful to have a pair of soft slippers with you. Plus, my philosophy is that you should always bring whatever makes you feel at home or treat yourself to feel special during a miserable long flight.

Get a Massage Before Your Flight

how to survive international flight
Feeling GOOD after a massage in Thailand before a flight.

I recently got a Massage Envy account after a recent experience involving a delayed flight.

I was stranded in an airport after my flight was delayed after having just landed from an 8 hour flight. That long haul flight was miserable – tense muscles, uncomfortable back pain, you name it.

During the layover, I decided to grit my teeth and purchase an hourlong massage at one of those relax parlours in the airport terminals. It was expensive-as-hell but so, incredibly worth it. My next 12 hour flight was comfortable, pain-free, and relaxing. I also just got a massage before a cross-country roadtrip, driving across the United States for 6 days and I promise you, I would not have enjoyed it as much had I not gotten a massage the day before I left. It made a HUGE difference!

Items You Do NOT Want to Forget to survive a long haul flight:

An Eye Mask

A sweater if it gets cold

Personal headphones or earbuds

Phone charging device


SLIPPERS (See above paragraph)

Baby Wipes to keep fresh

Q-tips or gum for your ears

Hand Sanitizer



Hi, I'm Chelse! I am a Digital Nomad obsessed with traveling the world and seeking adventure beyond the 9-5 office life. When I turned 25 I decided that I was going to stop making excuses and do what I've always dreamed. I went from having 0 stamps in my passport to 15+ countries in one year. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!

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