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How to Survive a Long Haul Flight

digital nomad blog

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.

Hydrate

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

Chapstick

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 7 countries in 7 months. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to just buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!

5 Travel Necessities That Fit in Your Purse

 

things to pack for a flight

 

It seems every time I hop on a flight and settle in, I always say to myself “Man, I should have packed _____ in my carry on!”

I hate that feeling, so I’ve learned to make a list and always pack these 5 things. The best part is they all easily fit in my purse or carry on!

Eye Drops

Eye drops serve so many purposes. Especially as a traveler. The 2 most important come from flying:

1.  Waaake up, world traveler! If you’ve just spent hours in the airport and even more time on the plane, you’re aware that your eyes look tired, red, and swollen. Eye drops = instant fix.

2. Airplanes are essentially germ tubes. Or at least that’s what I see when I board. After a long flight or a day of traveling, feel refreshed with a few drops of the good stuff. Bonus points: it clears out germs you’re exposed to in the air 😉

Fresh Socks

We’ve all been there. After walking around the airport all day, or going from Point A to Point B, you want to take off your shoes and relax. Do your seat neighbor a favor and bring a clean pair of socks to change into once you board. Pack a ziplock bag or two to put your old pair in and any loose trash like gum or q-tips.

Mineral Water Mist

 

I am about as low maintenance as it gets, and sometimes don’t even take my makeup before bed, but one of my most treasured routines to looking and feeling great, even when I’m exhausted or otherwise feel like crud, is spritzing mineral water on my face.

I got this Avène Thermal Spring Water in my Ipsy bag a few months ago and have been hooked every since!

Colgate Wisp Mini Toothbrush

When I fly, I always choose the aisle seats – this has both its pro’s and con’s. One of the cons is how awkward it is asking 2 sleeping neighbors to scootch over so I can go to the bathroom to freshen up. Avoid that all together by packing a Colgate Wisp! Minty breath has never been so convenient.

Portable Phone Charger


In-flight entertainment has seriously stepped its game up in recent years, but you still don’t want to completely forget your smart phone or tablet/iPad while traveling. Not only are they excellent options to listen to music or stream TV shows or movies, but when you land, you’re going to need your devices to call cabs, confirm hotel reservations, contact shuttles, and any other issues. It’s so small (the size of a lipstick!) and charges my phone for hours!

Next time you board a flight, you’ll be glad you packed these 5 items! Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

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 7 countries in 7 months. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to just buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!

Why You Should Use SeatGuru Before Booking Your Flight

flights using seat guru

Have you ever been stuck on a flight with a seat that doesn’t recline, or beside the restrooms, or with limited foot space? Have you ever had to endure any of these during a (gasp!) 3+ hours or international flight? This why you need to use SeatGuru to help you avoid all of that hot mess.

I’ve recently booked 3 major flights for travel, and each time I learn a little bit more on how to save money, how to get better seats, and how to make the flight just a litttleee more enjoyable. I mean, as much as you can on an international flight in coach.

Choose Your Flight Seats on SeatGuru

seat guru flights travel

One of my traveling buddies, who will be heading to Iceland with me next month, recommended for me to use SeatGuru before I officially booked my flight.

I now owe her so much in gratitude for sharing her travel tip with me.

SeatGuru allows you to type in the Airline you’re flying plus the flight number and it will show you all the available seats, best seats for your money, and comments from fellow travelers about their experience in each seat.

Want to maximize your seat potential in addition to checking Seat Guru?

Buy your tickets early

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The folks at Seat Guru say “Usually, you can’t choose a good seat the day before since seats go quickly. The earlier you book your flight, the more seats available, the bigger your pool to pick from.”

Choose the Aisle Seat

This can be a mixed-bag of opinions. The window seats are usually the most popular, and therefore, the first to go, but I’m a fan of the aisle seat. You don’t have to share your armrest, you can get up and stretch/use the bathroom without hesitation, and you’ve got the added benefit of extra leg room.

Know Your Airline

Not all airlines are created equally. Which is why we use Seatguru to view plane layouts!

For instance, Aeromexico’s Boeing 777 boasts a 34 inch seat pitch and an 18.5 seat width compared to CEBU Pacific Air’s 30 inch seat pitch and 15.5 seat width. Ouch.

Check this handy dandy comparison chart of legroom and space between different airlines to make your best judgment of call of which airline you’d rather spend hours aboard.

seat guru choose seats

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 7 countries in 7 months. I encourage anyone who wants to live a Digital Nomad lifestyle to just buy the ticket first, and figure out the rest later!