A First Timer’s Guide to Long-Haul Flights

Let’s face it, long-haul flights are kind of a pain in the ass. Regardless of whether you are flying alone or flying with babies, they are not too fun. Whenever anyone asks me what superpower I’d have, of course, it’d be teleportation. Duh. The only long-haul flight I’d ever been on was to Australia when I was 11 years old, but that doesn’t really count.
So when I knew I’d be flying to Thailand last month I had to be ready to face the dreaded long-haul flights and learn to adjust to the different time zones. From must-have long flight essentials to getting the best seats, here’s what I learnt in the process…

Plan Stuff to Do

Long-haul flights tips

Have stuff that you’re excited to do in the plane, whether it’s watching a new movie or reading a new book. For me, this consisted of the last two episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6, and those two episodes were beyond insane. I was so excited to board both flights to and from Thailand just so I could catch up on the latest episode. Remember to download these well in advance of the flight so you’re not running around Bangkok Airport like a headless chicken trying to find WiFi. Yes, that happened…
Of course, you can rely on the in-flight movies, but it’s fun having something specific to look forward to. At the moment I would totally recommend watching Mr. Robot or Stranger Things, both of which are insanely good and will have you hooked within the first five minutes. This makes them perfect to binge-watch. Believe me, you’ll be asking yourself where those 15 hours went.

Eliminate Stress Before and After

Long-haul flights tips

Whether it means splashing out on a hotel or paying that little bit extra for parking (who can trust trains, really), you want to start things off on a good note. If you’re flying in the daytime try to save time to have a nice breakfast or even go to the gym. And remember to be at the airport at least 3 hours before your flight departs. The night before our early flight to Thailand we stayed at ibis London Heathrow to ensure we were well-rested before our 15 hours in transit towards Chiang Mai.
One way of reducing stress is sorting out your transport to and from the airport in advance. I was recently contacted by Purple Parking asking if I’d like to review their Meet and Greet service. Whilst I didn’t use them for my long-haul flight to Thailand, I did use them when flying to Copenhagen and back from Amsterdam. We flew to and from Bristol and the process really couldn’t have been any easier or more stress-free.
All we had to do was drive to the car park by our terminal, pull up in any bay and then a chauffeur comes to take your keys from you. It really is that straight forward… When we returned we weren’t able to call them to let them know we had arrived, as neither of our phones had any battery, but it wasn’t a problem at all. We just went back to the same car park and there was Little Red ready to go! Simple as that.

Book your Seats Near the Back of the Plane

Long-haul flights tips

While other people may tell you otherwise, I would always recommend booking your seats near the back of the plane. This may have been an anomaly but on both our flights to and from Thailand there were tons of free seats and even whole rows at the back of the plane, whereas the front of the plane was full to the brim. This meant Gaz and I had a spare seat on our row on both flights which we used to either lie down or as dumping space for all our stuff. When you sit down keep a close eye on the seats filling up around you so you can be the first to nab any unfilled seats once the plane doors have closed. 
At the same time try to book seats as far away from the toilets or cabin divides as possible. These are most likely to be the noisiest areas on the plane which won’t help when you need to catch those zzz’s. Plus being further away from the toilets means you have more time to stretch your legs when you need to pop to the loo.
To get the best pick of all the seats, be sure to check-in online as early as possible, and keep checking the available seats every week as you can normally change the position of your seats as many times as you desire. If people book seats beside you, move the heck away!

Comfort is Key

Long-haul flight tips

Well, duh… Wear layers! Planes tend to be very cold at high altitude and whilst you are typically provided with blankets, having more layers always helps. It means that if it does get hot by some miracle you can also shed some layers. Bringing a large scarf that doubles as a blanket is also a good idea and means you also save on luggage space!

To Thailand, I wore a pair of thick and comfy harem style pants from Next, a very baggy t-shirt and a jumper, so I was practically wearing pyjamas. For shoes, I wore flip flops. On that note, always wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off for when you need to get up to go to the toilet. 

Also wear something that is appropriate for the climate in your arrival destination, unless you want to bring a change of clothes in your hand luggage and spruce yourself up in the toilet. I was boiling when I arrived in Thailand in my harem pants, even though it was at 9 am, but luckily I could roll them up and throw my jumper in my bag.

Adjust to your New Timezone

Long-haul flight tips

Get the time at your destination up on your phone and try to adjust to it throughout the flight. It’s wonderful how much thinking about the other time can help psychologically. Our flight from London Heathrow to Thailand left at 12:30 pm which was 6:30 pm Thailand time. As a result, I kept myself awake for the first few hours of the journey and did lots of activities to tire myself out, and then began to snooze.


Long-haul flight tips

Okay, I’m not saying you should do your full workout routine on a tiny plane but just make sure you don’t sit in your seat the entire time. Get your blood flowing by moving your neck, wrists, ankles and legs. Take as many walks as possible down the isles and make the most of the time you spend going to the loo.

There are even plenty of in-seat exercises which you can do, including my favourite: lifting your feet off the ground by a few inches and rotating them in circles.

Bring Everything You May Need

Here’s a handy packing list of long-haul flight essentials you might want to throw in your hand luggage:

  • Snacks – Aeroplane food isn’t the best and you don’t want to be going hungry. Bring plain snacks like biscuits or crackers, or come supplied with some chocolate to give you a quick sugar fix.
  • Eye mask and earplugs – Sleeping on planes is a right challenge, so make the whole process easier by packing an eye mask and earplugs with you. I’m personally not a huge fan of eye masks but if they work for you then bring them! Noise-cancelling headphones also work a charm.
  • Charger or power adaptor – No one wants to get two hours into their flight to realise they have 12% battery left and no charger.
  • Moisturiser and lip balm – Don’t let the harsh air conditioning get the better of your skin! Stay moisturised, and on that note, stay clean! Bring face/body wipes, and ladies, don’t wear make-up. If you really have to wear it to get to the airport, take it off as soon as you get on the plane, and reapply it just as you’re about to land. You’ll thank me later. 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – No one likes that grim after-nap taste in their mouth. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about and I’m not alone in this. Brushing your teeth is perfect for when it’s time to leave the plane as well – you’ll feel slightly fresher. Failing that, mints will probably do the trick.
  • Earphones – Pretty self-explanatory. Who wants the ones the flight attendants provide?
  • Deodorant – Deodorant always goes down a charm. Bring it. 
  • Compression socks – To avoid swollen feet and ankles.
  • Neck pillow – Or any kind of pillow for that matter…

Some Final Tips

  • Just ask – Don’t suffer in silence. If you need water (stay hydrated kids) or an extra blanket just ask the flight attendants. You’re not being annoying – it’s their job. Just hit that little service button on the remote control and they’ll be over in a dash.
  • Avoid caffeine and booze – Long story short, it won’t help. It will only dehydrate you further and make it harder to sleep. If drinks help you sleep then, by all means, go for it, but they usually make you feel worse.
  • Shell out for Premium Economy, Business or First Class – Easier said than done, but if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. You can even try asking for a free upgrade… good luck!

  • Stay healthy and hygienic – Pretty self-explanatory, but it’s far easier to catch a cold on a flight.


So what do you do to battle through long-haul flights? Let me know in the comments below and let’s make life that little bit easier for each other!

Let's face it, long-haul flights are kind of a pain in the ass. But don't you worry, I've compiled all my tips and tricks to make flights a little easier in this first timer's guide to long-haul flights. Click through to read more..

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