How to survive a long haul flight

by Cath

Long haul flights are hard. The first one is rather easy, if you’re like me you’ll be super excited because it’s something new. But after a couple of flights, the novelty wears off and being on a plane for 12+ hours it’s just hard. That’s what I feel now after I flew for 2 years to Auckland, New Zealand frequently for work. The shortest time to arrive there from Porto is around 32h.

So yes, now I just want to survive a long haul flight and I’m sharing what works for me.

Wear comfortable and warm clothes

Me trying to sleep in airport

Comfortable clothes it’s obvious, right? Since you’re going to be seated for 12+ hours, you want to be as comfortable as you can in those seats.

Regarding the warm clothes part, let me tell you a story: the first time I travelled to New Zealand I thought: I’ll bring a skirt, I’ll be more comfortable since I can move around freely. NEVER AGAIN. I was freezing most of the time even with the blanket the airline gave. You can see in the photo how freezing I was waiting for our connection flight.

That’s why I’m a big fan of bringing layers to the airplane, as temperature varies a lot during the duration of the flight, especially during meal time. I usually bring a long sleeve top, some comfortable sports pants, a cardigan and a warm hoodie.

Going to the plane hungry

Food in airplane

In the plane from Japan, most of them don’t look so good!

This will be the weirdest tip of the post but one that works super well with me! Since forever it always has been been hard for me to sleep in other places besides my bed and this helps me get into sleep mode faster.

I go to my flight hungry! I’ll be eager to the first meal on the airplane, which usually takes place 1h after take off and once I finish eating I’ll be with my tummy full and ready to take a nap (being warm is also super important for this).

I’m a huge believer in trying to get sleep in the planes, regardless of the time in your destination country. You’ll be jetlagged anyway so might as well try to sleep the most you can. You can argue that you should be sleeping only when it’s nighttime but our bodies are not meant to experience these kind of shifts so they’ll be weak, sleep will always be a good way to nurture them at this stage.

Bring your own headphones

Airplane headphones

Daniel discovered this one. All the headphones/earphones that you receive to watch in-flight entertainment are pretty bad. In our last trip, my boyfriend brought his headphones (Sennheiser HD 429) and it’s a game-changer!

You’ll definitely feel more at peace, it blocks the sound that the plane does plus you can actually hear the sound of the movie you’re watching. I consider myself pretty good at English but I cannot hear English very well with the free phones, so I try to choose movies that have subtitles in English, with my own headphones this problem doesn’t exist anymore! His headphones don’t even have noise cancelling and they’re already pretty good for this, I don’t think you need to have very expensive headphones to achieve this, as long as it blocks sufficient sound you’re good to go.

Use compression socks

In the beginning, being seated for all these hours affected my legs but not as much as it does now.

I’d definitely recommend using compression socks since it’ll help the swelling of your legs and improve your blood flow. Unfortunately I already have spider veins in my legs for not wearing these earlier so be sure to prevent them if you can. I kinda afraid that if I’ve spider veins now, and I’m only 26, what will happen throughout the years, but what is done is done.


Airport panel

In Auckland airport, they advise you to relax

These flights can be stressful, so just do whatever you need to relax. Now I only watch funny movies in the airplane, the ones that I usually don’t bother watching at home because they are properly pretty stupid. When I saw drama movies, the ones that usually make me cry (I’m such a big movie crier) I’d get more depressed that I was in the airplane, OMG still 7h left, how I’m going to get through this, that amount of drama. So I just do whatever I need to do to keep me happy.

Extra tips


For people who are shorter

If you’ve carry-on baggage that’s slightly padded and can hold on its own, put it in your seat in front of you. This will be super helpful to bring your feet a little bit higher as most of the long flight airplanes don’t have a footrest, it’ll get slightly uncomfortable without something in there to put your feet.

I’m 1.61m and I started getting restless and needing a footrest after 4 hours, this trick helps me a lot in addition to the compression socks. I’m aware that there are inflatable foot rests but haven’t tried any of them so as of now this is my no-money-spent-alternative!

For people who are taller

Choose the hallway or the window seat – both have the opportunity to give you more leg room. In the hallway you can put the knees a little further out and in the window you’ve that extra space between your seat and the window.

My boyfriend is 1.86m and in some airline companies (Lufthansa for example) his knees are touching the back of the seat in front of him without any room for him to feel more comfortable. If he ended up in one of the middle rows, I would always try to give him some space but choosing the window or hallway seat is better.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these to make your flight more comfortable and share what usually works for you!

How to survive a long haul flight

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Ellie August 5, 2018 - 12:06 pm

I really like your suggestions here especially the warm clothes and the own headphones ones (I do both) . I always try to get an aisle or window seat when going anywhere (I’m 179cm) as it makes such a difference to be able to stretch! When I take long flights I tend to use my old iPod classic, there is just so much stuff on here and the battery lasts ages so I can watch my own films/music/TV shows as long as you don’t mind the small screen ♥

Cath August 5, 2018 - 1:09 pm

That’s great! You can choose ahead of time what you want to listen/watch 🙂


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