Here’s how to survive a long flight

People walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2023.
People walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

This summer I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Taiwan, visiting the places where my husband used to live. While the trip is something I look forward to, having flights lasting more than 15 hours is not.

How can we make long flights bearable? From managing jet lag to staying comfortable in cramped spaces, survival requires a combination of practical tips and mental strategies.

How do you cope with long flights?

1. Bring snacks

Flight attendants tend to sync the timing of meals with the destination. This could mean that you might feel especially hungry before a meal is served. Bringing extra snacks can help hold you over until a larger meal comes. However, try to stay away from too many salty snacks to avoid dehydration, per Kayak.

2. Book your best-located seat

On larger planes, the economy seats with the most space are usually found at the front of the cabin or in the exit rows. These are ideal if you’re tall and need extra legroom. Sitting in the front can reduce engine noise too. If you don’t need extra legroom, seats toward the back could be quieter too. Aim for a few rows ahead of the bathrooms for better comfort, according to Kayak.

3. Choose a good airline

Choosing the right airline can make a big difference in your travel experience. Before booking, do some research and check passenger reviews of the airline you’re considering. Look for airlines that offer comfortable seats, decent in-flight meals or anything that matters most to you, per Skyscanner.

4. Exercise

Sitting for a long time, existing health problems, tight seating and other factors can increase the risk of painful blood clots. Try wearing compression socks and move around to prevent the aches and pains from sitting for too long. Create a simple routine of exercises or stretches to do on the plane, according to Kayak.

Make sure to walk around the terminal during layovers to keep your blood flowing, per The New York Times.

5. Get entertainment

Plan on watching a TV series or movies, listen to music or podcasts, or read a book to help fill in time. If needed, download entertainment before your flight so there is no need to rely on spotty Wi-Fi, per The New York Times.

Remember to bring portable chargers, headphones and other accessories so that you can watch or listen to entertainment as needed, according to Kayak.

6. Make new friends

Everyone onboard has their own travel story, so why not discover it? One enjoyable way to pass time on a long flight is to chat with the person sitting next to you or someone you keep running into, per Skyscanner.

7. Pack carry-ons — but be smart

Make sure your carry-on bag has everything you need, packed in a way that makes it easy to grab the most important items. These items could be for comfort, like a blanket, or entertainment, like a book. Furthermore, packing a spare set of clothes and essentials like a toothbrush can help you feel fresh, especially during layovers where you might find a shower, according to The New York Times.

If you are putting your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin, try to keep things travel-sized and to a minimum. It can be stressful trying to carry a heavy suitcase throughout different airports or to lift it high enough to store away, per Skyscanner.

8. Preempt jet lag

Crossing multiple time zones can be tough on your body. To prepare for your trip, try adjusting your sleep schedule beforehand or choose a flight that lands during the day. The quicker you adapt to the new time zone at your destination, the better you’ll feel, according to Kayak.

9. Sleep

Try to sleep for a large portion of your flight. Many travelers find sleeping pills, melatonin, eye masks, pillows and noise-canceling headphones helpful, per The New York Times.

To prepare beforehand, dress for sleep success. Think about the climate on the plane or at the destination. Wear comfortable, layered clothes so you can take them off as needed for the heat or pile them on for the cold, according to Kayak.

10. Stay hydrated

The air on the plane is very dry. Bring moisturizer, lip balm, eye drops or nasal spray to stay comfortable. Avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water during the flight. If wanted, you can add powdered vitamins or electrolytes to your water for extra hydration, per The New York Times.

11. Think differently

Reframing how you think about the flight might help you find a little more relaxation.

Jennifer Bagnall, a communications executive who often flies between her home in Los Angeles and Sydney, spoke to the The New York Times about this tip.

“Instead of approaching (the flight) as a long stretch of time in a confined space without escape, I think about how it’s a long stretch of uninterrupted time with no responsibilities and where I can’t be contacted. It’s so rare you get that,” she said.

While these ideas are primarily for long flights, many tips also apply to road trips or other extended travel periods.