How to Survive the Longest Flights in the World


When I say the longest flights in the world I am not exaggerating. Next Saturday I will be boarding a flight from LA to Melbourne, which is on the list of the world’s longest flights. This will be my ninth long/ultra long haul flight in the past six months. A long haul flight is considered 6-12 hours whereas an ultra-long haul is anything greater than 12 hours.

I definitely would not consider myself an expert in this field but I am getting quite a bit of experience in not losing my sanity while sitting knees to chest in a claustrophobic airplane cabin (doesn’t that sound appealing- who wants to come visit?!). Here are my tips of the trade…

Where to Sit

First class, duh. BUT for those of us regular folks who don’t have that luxury we have to turn to other means of comfort in the dreaded economy cabin. Depending on how much you spent on your flight, upgrading to economy plus for a couple hundred dollars can be worth it for those extra few inches of leg room, especially if you can get in the bulk head or exit row aisles.

If I am alone then I always try and get a window seat so I don’t have to worry about creepily falling asleep on a stranger. If I am flying with Travis, I try the whole ‘book the aisle and window seat’ trick and cross my fingers a stranger doesn’t want to sit in the middle. This works the majority of the time and if it doesn’t then you just have to ask them to switch with one of you.  Even when it’s just me I try and pick rows that have someone already sitting in the aisle seat so there’s a smaller chance of someone joining you.

If you are a heavy sleeper, try to avoid the aisle seat or you might trap your neighbors who need to get up or go to the bathroom.

What to Pack

Typical items in my carry-on include:

  • snacks (depending on the airline carrier- some are much more generous than others)
  • empty water bottle that can be filled on the plane
  • headphones, ipad, phone and charger for entertainment purposes
  • lightweight change of clothes, tooth brush, toothpaste and moisturizer to freshen up when we land
  • neck pillow, eye mask and natural sleep aid to ensure a bear-like hibernation will occur
  • blue or black pen to fill out customs forms

What’s Going Down

Once I get on the plane, I like to get out my necessities and chunk my carry-on in the overhead compartment so that it doesn’t take up any of the precious, little leg room I have. I get settled in, watch a movie or TV show while I wait for dinner to be served.

This is NOT the time to pass out. Nothing in the world is worse than falling asleep in the first hour of the flight only to wake up and check the flight path only to find that there are TEN more hours to go, or worse TWELVE more hours. There is plenty of time to sleep and it will be much more enjoyable after a full belly of gross airplane food.

If you time it out correctly, when you wake up it should be breakfast time and possibly enough time to squeeze in another movie or tv show. Also, make sure you fill out any customs or immigration paperwork you have been given so you are prepared when you land. Some people also choose this time to freshen up or change in the airplane bathroom but I prefer to do this routine in a slightly more spacious environment aka the airport bathroom. Depending on how much travel I still have left, I typically brush my teeth, change clothes, moisturize and touch up my make-up.

What To Do

  • Wear lightweight, loose clothing- I stick to maxi dresses or workout clothes that can be layered. Bring a scarf or cardigan that can be used as a blanket as well.
  • Don’t wear tight shoes, your feet will swell. Just ask my grandpa about the time he wore cowboy boots on a flight to Australia. Spoiler Alert: he disembarked the plane with them in his hands.
  • Hydrate!!! Drink water and bring chapstick to counter the dry lips that tend to be unavoidable.
  • Walk around and stretch as much as you can. Ain’t nobody got time for blood clots.

What NOT To Do

  • Recline your seat all the way back- nobody likes that.
  • Go to the bathroom barefoot or in your socks- for obvious sanitary reasons.
  • Put your bare feet on the armrest in front of you. Yes- people do this.
  • Talk loudly. People are trying to sleep.
  • Bring any sort of smelly food on board, your neighbor will not be pleased
  • Don’t ask if you can have anyone else’s food they didn’t eat (this has happened to my sister multiple times and it is odd)

Hope these tips help you on future travels, let me know if there’s any I forgot!

Linking up with Travel Tuesday

16 thoughts on “How to Survive the Longest Flights in the World

  1. Haha, Jim and I try to do the “you pick the aisle and I pick the window seat” thing all the time. And like you said, the majority of the time it works! Sometimes, we both pick a window seat one behind another just so we can both sleep.

  2. These are great tips! My best tip really is to try and sleep on the flight over if it’s an overnight flight, so that you can get yourself acclimated to the time zone… ambien usually helps me with this, but make sure you don’t have any crazy side effects. 😉

  3. Long flights are just the worst, wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could all just teleport to wherever we want to go? haha! I definitely agree with all of your tips. Another thing I would add, if you are going to a country with a foreign language that you aren’t too familiar with, is to bring something to study the language while on the plane (if you’re smart, you would have started this before and have a book or something about the language)! That way you can at least have a basic conversation with the people and ask for directions 🙂

  4. I just did LA-Melbourne last week and my feet were (mildly) swollen for two days after getting off the plane! Guess I didn’t stand up as long as I should have!

  5. Ailee | Snapshots & My Thoughts says:

    These are great tips!! We’ve tackled some long flights – like Houston to China and LA to Sydney. I am an expert sleeper (as in, I slept the ENTIRE flight to Australia), but Sasha sucks and flying with him involves me being woken to entertain him. Flying from St. Petersburg to Houston with Isla will be interesting… (as in, probably awful). You do seem to be all over the globe right now!! Safe travels! xox

    • says:

      I’m the same, I fall asleep before we take off. Travis on the other hand stays up and watches 58429 movies. I can’t to hear all about your trip! My parents are moving back to Houston this summer so we will be keeping our travels on our side of the world this year.

    • Nilda Simon says:

      Please stand up and walk around next time you’re in a long flight. It is very dangerous not to. Have you heard of thrombosis? You can get blood clots and it cause death.

  6. Amazing tips! I know many of your readers will take these to heart 🙂
    Any flight over 6 hours deserves first class, and it’s worth it to upgrade. When I make the 12 hour flights from Seoul to Chicago to see family, I try to sleep as much as possible and watch movies to pass time. 🙂

  7. Excellent tips! One thing I don’t get is the chair reclining thing though, people are so funny about it! If all the chairs recline isn’t it fine? Except if you are just in front of the back row which sometimes doesn’t recline, I can’t see a reason not to recline the whole way!

    • says:

      That was always my school of thought as well, until my I started taking so many long flights. When the person in front of me leans all the way back, I can’t even eat my meal because the tray is underneath them or jabbing into my ribs. The last long flight I was on I was in the back row and I could actually lean back all the way, it was nice not worrying about the person behind me.

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