You’ve been dreaming about this trip for ages, and it’s finally happening! You’re about to set off on your first trip to New Zealand, or Thailand, or the Galapagos Islands...and it’s starting to sink in just how long your flight is going to be.
Don’t panic! Our Travel Experts have been all over the world, and we have a few tricks up our sleeves for surviving those long haul flights. Whether you’re travelling for business or as far away from business as you can possibly get, here’s how to make the hours fly by.
What to Do Before You Fly
1. A great flying experience starts with choosing an airline you can trust. Look for airlines that have a reputation for top-notch service, especially in the event that something unexpected disrupts travel plans.
2. If you can swing it, book your seats in premium economy, business class, or first class. You’ll enjoy perks like priority baggage handling, roomy seats, express security lines, and priority boarding. Every minute you can save at the airport is more time to enjoy your trip.
3. If you’re flying economy, buy your tickets early so you can pick your seats. Fortunately, if the price drops later, you’ll be covered for the difference with Flight Centre’s Ultimate Captain’s Package (plus, you’ll have $150 in Holiday Credits to put towards your next getaway!).
4. Will your long haul flight include a layover? Consider investing in the airport business class lounge. You can enjoy quality food in comfortable seats instead of spending your time fighting strangers over electrical outlets and squirming in those uncomfortable benches.
5. If you have any digestive issues or special dietary requirements, plan ahead! You don’t want to be stuck in a plane feeling sick or hungry. Order your special meal in advance (more often than not, you’ll be served first).
What to Pack in Your Carry-On
6. Noise-cancelling headphones. Need we say more?
7. If you can get away with a small personal item, choose that over a big purse or backpack. By not having to stow away a clunky item under the seat in front of you, it’ll make it easier to stretch your legs, even in economy seats.
8. Pack plane-friendly healthy snacks to enjoy between meal service. Just remember not to bring anything that might offend the senses of your seatmates!
9. Find out in advance what kind of in-flight entertainment will be offered on your route. You might choose to bring your own anti-boredom supplies. Don’t forget to pack a portable charger!
Travel Expert Tip: “For long haul flights, I start a few months beforehand downloading movies, shows, podcasts, and books that I don’t let myself see until a certain hour of the flight. If you’re really wanting to read a certain book and can’t start it until hour three, the flight will fly by!” Kate Neufeld of Oakville
10. Air cabins have low humidity. Remember to pack a travel-size moisturizer to prevent dry, itchy skin during your long flight.
11. Don’t pack your basic toiletries in your checked luggage. Keep them in your carry-on along with a change of underwear so you can still go through your ‘bedtime’ rituals and then wake up feeling fresh- not funky.
12. Pack chewing gum to help with ear popping (and to discretely offer a seatmate who might need it).
13. Inflatable neck pillows can save on packing space without sacrificing neck support. If space isn’t an issue for you, the best neck pillow for a long flight is a memory foam one.
Travel Expert Tip: “Take a memory foam neck pillow, but use it to sit on instead of as a pillow for long haul flights. Turn it with the opening towards the seat, just like my chiropractor told me!” Corinne Spitznagel of Vancouver
How to Dress for a Long Flight
14. Air cabins can have unpredictable temperatures, so dressing in layers is your best bet.
15. Dress for comfort, not for style. If you’re flying for business reasons, you’re better off changing into your work attire towards the end of your flight. Most business class seats include a coat check so you can keep you suit wrinkle-free.
16. Jeans might sound like a good idea. Leggings might sound like a good idea. But anything that’s tight on your body can become annoying after the first 5 hours of your flight. Instead, choose loose-fitting pants, a comfortable sports bra (underwire has no place on a long-haul flight), and slip-on shoes.
17. To help prevent circulation issues, wear tall compression socks.
18. Wear your glasses, pack your contact lenses (or vice versa) to help prevent dry eyes.
What to Do During Your Flight
19. Switch to your destination time zone as soon as you board your plane. This can help you adjust easier and ward off jet lag.
Travel Expert Tip: “The Timeshifter App I found pretty interesting. It’s a personalized app for dealing with jet lag!” Izabella Lusty of Toronto
20. Skip caffeinated and sugary drinks so you can enjoy quality sleep on the plane.
21. Stay hydrated! It’s okay to ask your flight attendant for two drinks at a time during meal service or fill a reusable water bottle before you board.
22. If you’re able, take a quick walk through the aisles every few hours or do simple exercises and stretches in your seat to improve circulation.
Travel Expert Tip: “Speaking as a former flight attendant, go to the furthest bathroom and find some other insomniacs (including the crew) to stand or sit around with and chat about what brings you to the skies.” Taryn Thomson of Guelph
How to Survive Long Haul Flights with Kids
Guest Blogger (and mommy of two) Amanda Lee shares her tips for travelling with children on long-haul flights so you can spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the flight:
23. If only one parent is travelling with their children, be sure to carry a letter of consent from the other parent to leave the country. This is incredibly important. Copies of what the letter should contain can be found here.
24. Call the airline and be sure you and your children are seated together. Request children’s meals in at least 48 hours in advance, along with any special dietary requirements. If you are travelling with babies, request a baby bassinette, usually in the bulkhead area. Your Flight Centre agent can help take care of these requests with the airline for you
25. Consider applying for your child’s own frequent flyer number. If you’re making regular trips to visit family over the years, the points add up. Some airlines, such as British Airways, allow families to pool their points into one account.
26. It’s a good idea to give your children adequate time to burn off some steam before they settle down on that long-haul flight. The day you’re flying out, schedule some time to take them to the park, an indoor gym or for a swim.
27. If your children are old enough, have them pack their own backpack with some of their favourite small toys. Save some room for surprise gifts that will keep them entertained during the course of the flight.
28. Extensive air travel dehydrates the system and kids, (especially babies or toddlers). Make sure they drink regularly—the best choice is water—or ‘spike’ their juice with a top up of water. If you are breastfeeding on a long-haul flight, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
29. If you are travelling with babies, bring a baby sling for on-board the plane. Not only is it compact in your carry-on, a sling allows you to be hands free to walk your baby around the plane and lull them to sleep.
30. With younger children, schedule regular bathroom breaks. With smaller children, the sound of toilet flush on a plane can be scary (reassure them they won’t get sucked away!)