As a full time travel blogger, I do a lot of flying. It’s part of the gig. Except unlike my old corporate job, I don’t have the luxury of a corporate card, priority anything, or any other amenities. Every time I fly, I’m stuck back in economy with all the rest of the plebes, silently praying to the almighty flight gods that my legs don’t go to sleep before I do. And honestly, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: long haul flights suck. They just do. Fact.
Unfortunately, they’re also a fact of my job … and my life. Whether it’s a 24 trip to Bali or a 17 hour journey to Prague or a 46 hour haul to Italy (truly the worst series of terrible layovers of my life) living on the West Coast means that no matter which direction I go, I’m gonna be in the air for a long time if I want to leave the country.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few survival tips to help make the inevitably miserable journey a little bit less awful. I’ve tested countless gadgets and gizmos in my quest to find the best travel accessories for long flights. And I’m here to pass along all of my wisdom!
Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned in my years of flying to help survive long-haul flights (or short ones, whatever. I hate all flights equally, tbh).
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Psst: Looking for more tips for your next trip? Here are some of our favorite travel tips posts!
- Travel Safety Tips: How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Theft while Traveling
- How to Be a More Responsible Tourist
- How to Plan a Trip: The Ultimate Practical Travel Planning Guide
- How to Save Money for Travel (& How We Saved $30,000 for a Year-Long Trip)
Preparing for Your Trip
The preparations for your flight begin before you even step foot in the airport. I’m not gonna lecture you about splurging for an exit row or Economy Plus or whatever, because that’s taking the easy way out and let’s face it, whenever I’m faced with the option to upgrade for 3 inches of extra legroom for $100 or force my future self to suffer, I always choose the option of future suffering. And like, who has an extra $100 lying around just for 3″ of extra leg room!? What am I, Jeff Bezos?!
So, back in reality land where we’re sucking it up and dealing with our choices (and our bank accounts), here’s how to prep in advance to minimize your long haul flight misery.
Bring Carry-On Luggage
Look, here’s the deal with flying economy: you’ve gotta cram your stuff into a carry-on. You just do. Unless you happen to be flying a luxury airline disguised as a budget airline, like Southwest (bless Southwest for all that they do, I love them so) and then you can check a bag fo’ free (and then look down your nose at all of the other peons shlubbing their suitcases around).
But let’s face it: most of the time you’re cramming your knees into a 28″ seat on one of those budget airlines that charges for things like “3 lbs of pasta weight” or “reading material” or “please sir, I’m so dehydrated, may I just have a single sip of water without paying $20 for it” – y’all know the ones I mean, right? So, if you want that European vacation on a student loan debt budget, you gotta pack a carry-on.
Luckily, there are several really good bags that I highly recommend. Here’s the thing, though: a good bag isn’t cheap. It’s an investment.
Put it this way: I carried around my stuff in a crappy, flimsy suitcase that I got from the Target kid’s section for YEARS before I actually upgraded to a real bag, thinking “why do I need something fancier? This was $30, and it has polka dots.”
Every time the damn thing flipped over while I was rolling it, or fell over when it was sitting perfectly still, or took an hour just to zip up (because an expandable zipper is a grown-up feature for people that don’t know how to pack their stuff in a carry-on, I reasoned like an idiot) I knew, deep down, that I needed a real bag.
But I waited for LITERALLY 8 YEARS.
But then I upgraded. And let me tell you: it is worth it. If you travel frequently, invest in your shoulders/back/mental state and upgrade. Bite the bullet and be a grown-up, and do it. Trust me: it’s very nice here on the other side. Let’s carry on, shall we? Ba-dum-ssh.
- PacSafe Carry-On Backpack:This is by far my favorite carry-on backpack for heavy duty travel. We’re talking like, legit (travel) backpacking – except carry-on sized! When you need to schlep your belongings around on cobblestones or up stairs or between multiple countries and don’t want to be hauling a big suitcase, you gotta have a backpack. This PacSafe bag ticks all of my boxes: plenty of space, extremely theft resistant (that’s like, the whole PacSafe thing), incredibly comfortable to carry (it’s got all the comfort and ease of a bigger pack, with loads of adjustable straps) and with enough pockets and sections to keep you well organized on your trip. I’ve brought this bag along with me on trips to Bali, Italy, Colombia, and pretty much everywhere abroad, and it’s one of the most comfortable bags I’ve ever carried around on my back for long distances! I literally think I could go (hiking) backpacking in it, that’s how comfy it is.
- Tortuga Carry-On Backpack: This nifty bag carries like a backpack but opens like a suitcase, making it the perfect in-between for when you’re not quite a backpacker, not quite a suitcase….er? The bag is basically like a big rectangle that opens exactly the way a suitcase does, allowing for A TON of space. When we bring this bag, Jeremy and I can actually combine our stuff together, making this our favorite weekend trip or short getaway carry-on bag!
- Away Carry-On Suitcase: This beautiful carry-on suitcase is not only stunning, but it’s incredibly high-tech. It’s got two compartments: one for soft clothing, and one for hard stuff, like shoes and toiletries and 18 hair tools even though you swore you were going to try not to be extra this trip. It includes a built-in portable charger, which means no more fighting over outlets or digging around for your charger. It’s got a built-in laundry bag, with a built-in compressor, so that you can ditch the wadded up plastic bag and actually have room in your suitcase after you’ve put off doing laundry for a solid 2 weeks. It’s incredibly damage resistant and won’t crack under the pressure of everyone else’s stuff, keeping whatever’s inside safe too. And of course, it does lock things and wheel things and all the other stuff that grown-up suitcases do.
Pack a Flight Essentials Kit
I almost called this an “Airplane Survival Kit” but then I googled that and the results triggered all of my post-LOST flight panic, so we’re gonna go with “Flight Essentials Kit” (and just don’t google “Airplane Survival Kit” and don’t think about it and let’s all remember the statistics, which CLEARLY STATE that we are way more in danger of dying in a car wreck than a plane wreck. Does that … like, help?)
Anyway. What I mean is: pack yourself a nice little bag full of things to make your life more pleasant during your flight. Here’s what goes in mine:
- Baby Wipes: To give myself sort of like a sponge bath and clear that grimy plane grease off my face (anyone else get that icky plane film?) I use these.
- Deodorant: Honestly, this is more for whoever’s sitting next to you. This is my fave – no chemicals, all natural, smells like honey and lasts for a very long time.
- Lip Balm & Moisturizer: Because somehow plane air is always like the f**king Sahara desert.
- Cuticle Scissors & a Nail File: Because I pick at my nails when I’m nervous, and I’m always nervous on planes (THINK OF THE STATISTICS)
- Snacks: Just in case. Don’t be a victim to hanger. I usually bring a little pack of almonds and a protein bar (these are objectively the yummiest).
- Collapsible Travel Cup: Because if I use those disposable plastic cups just for like, a swallow of Seltzer water I feel guilty for the rest of the flight and can’t stop thinking about climate change and how the human race is doomed oh god
- Re-Usable Water Bottle: I can drink 18 of those stupid tiny little cups and STILL be parched (plus feel guilty because of the plastic waste). So I bring my own bottle and fill it up after security. I love, love, love my Hydroflask water bottle: I fill it with ice from an airport starbucks pre-flight and that ice lasts literally the entire flight and then some – crisp.
- Hair Things: Your hair may have looked cute when you boarded the plane, but trust me, 10 hours from now you’re gonna want to tie that sh*t back. My go-to move is a high ponytail piled into a silk scrunchie, which somehow manages to make my curls look even better post-flight!
- Emergency Entertainment: Just in case you can’t sleep and the plane doesn’t have any good movies, pack yourself some back-up entertainment. I usually bring one of the 983 New Yorkers we have stacked up on the coffee table from the past year (my mom gifted us a subscription, which was very nice and also low-key overwhelming, because they just KEEP COMING and the only time I ever really read them all the way through is, apparently, on planes), download a Podcast or 3 on my phone, or if I’m especially on top of the game, bring an actual book or Kindle along. I also always keep my laptop handy – not because I’m fancy enough to shell out for expensive in-flight WiFi (that’s for first-class business fliers and ballers) but because I can use it to do things like watch downloaded shows and movies, write this blog post (hayyyy) or edit some of the thousands of photos I still haven’t gotten around to looking at.
- Gum: Both to help with your ears as you ascend and descend, and to help with your long flight stank breath.
Download the Trip-It App
Trip-It is an app, which means I didn’t hear about it until last month because I’m a luddite who’s still in denial about smartphones (I miss my Nokia brick phone, I miss playing Snake). I head to the airport after the TBEX travel conference, desperately trying to pull up my flight on my phone with absolutely no service at all, when Chris from Amateur Traveler was like, “do you … not use Trip-It?”
That’s when I realized I was probably the only travel blogger in the world not using apps when I travel. It was like a lightbulb went off above my head: OH YEAH! Technology can make my life EASIER! Anyway, if you’re still in the dark, let me clue you in so you, too, can be a 2018-savvy-modern-day sort of traveler and not a 2008-Nokia-Phone sort of traveler.
TripIt connects with your email and automatically pulls in all of your many, many flight itineraries and travel plans, so that you don’t have to frantically comb through your email trying to figure out what time your next flight leaves. It also pulls in things like your terminal, your gate, your confirmation number, the duration of your flight – all of those useful things that you actually want to know.
There are even maps of the airport you’ll be flying into and concourse lounge information, which will come in handy for one of the tips below 😉
You can also upload copies of your travel documents in case something happens to them, protected by a PIN (I’ve got mine uploaded on DropBox for that exact reason). Handy! The future is here, y’all.
You can download the Trip-It app wherever you download your apps usually. And yes, it works for Android phones, which is what I have.
Cover Yourself with Travel Insurance
Listen, I know nobody has ever checked that travel insurance checkbox they sneak in when you’re booking your plane ticket on purpose. But travel insurance, like REAL travel insurance, is a GODSEND and we can’t recommend it enough.
Here’s the thing: you might be able to get some help from your airline if they screw up royally, like if the plane breaks and you’re delayed for 12 hours and they lose your luggage or whatever.
But let’s say there’s a snowstorm and your flight is delayed for 12 hours: you’re screwed because weather isn’t a coverable issue for an airline. So it’s on you to book yourself a hotel and a taxi to get there, plus you’ll eat the cost of your missed hotel reservation at your actual destination – and that’s assuming you didn’t miss a flight connection. Throw a missed flight in there and this one stupid snowstorm is suddenly a thousand-dollar problem.
Unless, of course, you have travel insurance. Travel insurance covers a ton of stuff that airlines don’t: from all the stuff I just mentioned (like, World Nomads would have paid for your hotel, food, and anything else you couldn’t get reimbursed) to seeing a doctor on your trip, to lost or stolen baggage or personal belongings.
You may not even need to get something extra – some travel credit cards, including our favorite, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – will cover trip delays and cancellations, lost baggage, and more all while you’re earning points that you can redeem for more travel! Learn more in our travel credit card review.
We never fly internationally without a travel insurance policy to cover our trip. We’ve had to file several different claims with World Nomads – everything from lost and stolen stuff, to emergency trips to the hospital, to trips we had to cancel halfway through and return home – and each time, we were reimbursed for absolutely everything. With Chase, we’ve had to file rental insurance car claims – the Chase Sapphire card offers primary rental car liability insurance!) – and lost baggage claims. Overall, they’ve each saved us thousands of dollars.
We travel a LOT, but at this point, I think the amount we’ve spent on travel insurance has about broken even with the amount we’ve gotten back in claims money (and yet somehow they still let us book policies with them, bless).
We also love World Nomads because they cover a BUNCH of travel activities and adventure sports that most other insurance companies don’t. And when I say “adventure sports,” we’re talking like, snorkeling.
Yes: some travel insurance providers consider snorkeling to be an adventure sport.
World Nomads lays out EXACTLY what activities they cover when you book, and with 2 options to choose from – essentially, mildly adventurous and super adventurous – you’ll be totally covered whether you’re relaxing on the beach or base jumping off a cliff.
In the Airport
Let’s face it: we spend a LOT of time sitting in airports. Whether you’re the type who shows up 3 hours early out of fear and anxiety (us) or the type who doesn’t sweat it, misses their flight and ends up sitting around waiting for the next available flight out (…also us, on occasion) you’re gonna be getting REAL friendly with those uncomfortable plastic chairs, the 3 awful fast food restaurants within eyeball distance, and that one pole that has an outlet on it but is currently being hogged by an obnoxious couple who has like, 85 things they need to charge, apparently (do these people not charge things at home?!?!!? … Oh, I’m describing us again).
Here’s how to make things slightly less miserable while you’re waiting for your flight!
Opt for the Airport Lounge
As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport in Lisbon, 22 hours into a hellacious 46 hour trip. This particular journey involves 5 hours spent twiddling my thumbs at the Rochester Airport, 6 hours trying to drown out techno blasting from the speakers in JFK, 8 hours stuffing my face with egg tarts here in Lisbon, and another 8 hours overnight in Rome before journeying south to my final destination in southern Italy. Plus a solid 11 hours of actual flight time in-air.
As far as trips go, this one is particularly rough – chalk it up to the fact that someone else footed the bill for my flights (perks of my first EVER speaking gig at a travel conference – whee!) so I didn’t get to, ahem, choose.
And yet: I am serene. I am clean. My face and hair are washed, I’m moisturized, my legs don’t hurt, and for the next 8 hours, I have access to unlimited egg tarts and ravioli, so basically I’m in heaven.
What is this ballerdom? How did I land this? Did I not JUST say I was an economy class peon?
Well, friends, this luxury of luxuries is the TAP Portugal Lounge in the Lisbon Airport. Although TAP Portugal is a budget airline, they’re one of the last to actually serve real food on their flights (and it was pretty darn tasty, too!) and they’ve got a cushy lounge set up for their guests to enjoy … for €35! €35?! For a SHOWER (!!!!!!), unlimited food and drinks (including booze… and egg tarts), comfy chairs, and high quality Wi-Fi. Oh my GOD, I can’t even tell you how worth it this lounge is!
I always assumed lounges were for ballers – I figured they cost like, $400 a pop, and the only people able to actually use them were rich business travelers who say things like “I’ll have my secretary expense this for me” while casually pocketing tiny bottles of champagne and Nutella. But that’s not the case at all! This is my first time lounging it up, and honestly, I’ll never go back to the miserable, outlet-less waiting areas again.
How to Find Airport Lounges
You can access a bunch of lounges for free with certain travel credit cards, including the big brother of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, as well as our other favorite travel credit card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Both include a totally free membership to Priority Pass, which lets you access a huge network of airport lounges all over the world.
Because I fly so often and spend so much time rolling around on dirty airport floors, before I had those credit cards I’d been eye-balling getting a Priority Pass. For $99 a year, you get access to over 1,200 lounges with for a significantly reduced entry price of $32. If you travel frequently, I think it’s worth it: frankly, I can easily down $30 worth of free food and booze in the space of a few hours, and the luxury of being in a lounge is well worth what amounts to a measly $8 a month.
If you spring for a Priority Pass, you’re all set: your membership comes with a mobile app so you can find a lounge the minute your plane hits the tarmac.
Heads up! There’s a great sign-up bonus for our favorite travel credit card right now that’s worth $1,200 in travel rewards after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Why we love this card: 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance, and many more awesome travel benefits.
Where would you go with $1,200?? (We have some ideas…) Hurry up and snag one before this offer expires!
For the rest of us plebes, there’s Lounge Pass. The site lets you search through each airport for available lounges and lists out their amenities, so you can actually stake out and pick your lounge in advance using the terminal information on your plane ticket. In addition, you can also book lounge access on the site directly, so all you have to do is roll up and flash your ticket, VIP style.
I’ve found plenty of lounges in my economy-class price range on Lounge Pass, both internationally and domestically.
If you downloaded the TripIt app I mentioned above, another option is to pull up the app and browse the list of lounges – the app shows you what Terminal they’re in and the prices (you guys, they’re so much cheaper than you think they are).
As a last-ditch effort, try just going old school: next time you’ve got a long layover, head to the nearest desk or airport employee and ask where the lounge is. You’ll be glad you did!
Solve the Outlet Problem
What is the deal with airports never having enough outlets to go around?! It’s like The Amazing Race trying to get your phone and laptop hooked up to a couple of outlets – after testing out 18 others, all of which inexplicably didn’t f**king work – and then you have to camp out on the ground by like, a pole, all while other poor souls give you dirty looks and clutch their dying iPhones.
Obviously, you could like … charge your stuff before you go to the airport, I guess. But for those of us who aren’t that responsible (or, honestly, too cheap to upgrade our sh*tty batteries) here are a couple of solutions.
- Pack an Outlet Splitter: These are such a sneaky little travel hack I’m surprised airports haven’t caught on and made this sh*t illegal, but they haven’t yet, SO. My friends, welcome to 3 for 1 outlet land, where you only need to find 1 functioning outlet – and you can even share it with another traveler, if you don’t mind like, actually having a conversation with them to ask (*shudder*). Depending on how extra you are when you travel, you can turn a single outlet into 3 outlets or even 3 outlets & 2 USB ports. You’re actually ADDING OUTLETS to the airport. You’re a hero!
- Pack a Portable Charger: Just in case you can’t actually find a decent functioning outlet (JUST ONE, is that really too much to ask, oh cruel airport gods?!) it’s always a good idea to bring along a portable battery. At the very least, chances are you’ll end up needing it at some point on the plane or during your trip. I have this one and I’m full-on obsessed with it – it charges my phone about 5x before needing to be recharged, and it’s actually faster than plugging it into the wall. I often stick it in my pocket and charge on the go while I’m traveling. I never leave home without it!
Get the Gate Scoop
You know that feeling when you’re dragging your weary self and all of your heavy AF luggage to your gate, and you’re hungry, but you’re like, “meh, surely there’s something better than Quizno’s closer to my gate” but then you get to your gate and there’s a f**king NEWSPAPER STAND selling like, candy and $20 beef jerky, which is NOT REAL FOOD, but you’re tired and you don’t want to walk all the way back to the Quizno’s because the stupid Concourse didn’t have any f**king moving sidewalks?!
Yep. I know that feeling well.
This is why I downloaded GateGuru (... again, recently, because I am 10 years behind everyone else). The app includes a list of every major airport, complete with concourses, food, services, and reviews. It’s like an app that lets you carry a bunch of persnickety travel nerds (MY PEOPLE) around with you in your pocket to make helpful comments like “this place makes good pastrami” or “adequate breakfast burrito.”
Save yourself the hassle of using your actual feet to explore the airport (you’ll need that energy for like .. idk, sleeping on the plane, or actual exploring once you arrive, I guess) and download the GateGuru app for your phone instead.
On the Airplane
Let’s be honest: the most enjoyable long flight is one that you sleep through. If you can just fall asleep and sleep through the whole flight, you can magically wake up in a whole new destination feeling refreshed and alive, with that awesome “woah, travel is so amazing, can’t wait to go explore” feeling.
If you can’t fall asleep during a flight, you’re doomed to spend hours and hours watching and rewatching movies in the dark, stretching your poor legs under the seat in front of you and refreshing your screen to see if more than 10 minutes has passed since the last time you checked. It never has. It’s agony.
And if you’re on a budget airline which can’t even afford you the decency of some dumb, mindless movies, good luck: it’s just you and the inflight magazine for the next 11 hours. If they even provide that luxury.
Here are a few of my favorite tips and the best travel accessories for long flights to help make the whole thing slightly less miserable.
Bring a Travel Pillow
There are tons of travel pillows out there, and honestly, most of them look really dumb (which is why I included a whole section of ridiculous travel pillows in our ridiculous travel gifts post). For years I refused to pack a neck pillow, because 1) they take up a ton of bag space, and 2) they look f**king dumb. I accepted neck pain as an inevitable fact of flying.
I was an idiot.
It turns out that a comfy travel pillow is hands-down one of the best travel accessories for long flights. Thankfully, I’ve found a travel pillow that I actually really love! The TRTL travel pillow is small enough to stuff into my carry-on without driving me nuts or taking up tons of space, and provides the perfect amount of head-propping that I need to sleep on a long flight without waking up every 5 minutes from my own giant head falling over.
I’m a side sleeper, and I love having something to lean my head on. The TRTL pillow sort of props up your cheek and rests on your shoulder comfortably, wrapping around your neck with velcro to hold itself in place. It’s also nice and warm, like a fleece scarf.
That said, you look totally f**king stupid wearing it. But at this point in my life, I absolutely do not care.
Calm down, Desperate Housewives, put that Valium cocktail away! I’m not talking about anything heavy here.
I’ve got a few over the counter meds that help with some of my frequent flight discomforts, like having trouble falling asleep, getting an upset stomach because I was too cheap to buy airport food and begged the flight attendant to slip me 10 extra packets of Biscoff, and getting nauseous because I dared to look away from the window for 3 seconds to actually read something.
Those are my 3 biggest flight complaints, and I’ve got a little cocktail of meds to help.
- Dramamine: Before you take off, pop a Dramamine to keep you nausea-free for the duration of your flight. This stuff is magical and lasts for HOURS, and it’s the only thing that keeps me from turning green every time the plane passes through like, every tiny cloud. I buy this stuff in bulk and pop it like it’s candy – I love it so much.
- Sleeping Aids: These are crucial for overnight flights and red-eyes, because without them you’ll wake up feeling like you just got repeatedly punched in the head for 7 hours but it’s morning somehow and you’re expected to just like, function. Pop a pill as you hop on the plane so you’ll be all yawny and ready to turn in after the in-flight meal (or in-flight snack, if you’re flying one of the super budget airlines – you’ll REALLY need the sleep help then). I like to take Benadryl (actually, I take the off-brand knock-off version of Benadryl, which is cheaper), which puts me right to sleep. Jeremy prefers Melatonin, which is a more natural solution. Also, I live in California, so I can just like … pop over to the weed store and pick up some gummy bears that will knock me right out before I leave Californian soil (the future is wild), but if you don’t have that privilege, Melatonin and Benadryl should do the trick.
- Stomach Enzymes: I ALWAYS end up feeling bloated and gross on flights. The food is always worse for me than what I usually eat, and my stomach is so easily irritated as it is. I make sure to have a bottle of Stomach Enzymes handy to help me digest my airplane food.
Wear the Right Clothes
Everyone has their preferred flight outfit. Some people actually look cute on a plane, which I just like … cannot wrap my head around. Like, what? How?? Meanwhile, I’m always the girl in sweatpants and a hoodie with a messy bun (but like, not in a cute way, like in an “oh god, is your hair … just one giant dreadlock?” kinda way).
Put it this way: if you’ve ever seen me on a plane, you also know what I look like when I have the flu. Or my period.
Now that you’ve got THAT fun mental image, let’s talk specifics.
First and foremost, I only wear clothes that don’t restrict me or dig into my skin. Leggings or yoga pants are bae, jeans and anything with snaps or buttons are out. I prefer loose pants to tight leggings because I don’t shave my legs (f**k you, patriarchy!) and leggings and leg hair have a shelf life of about 10 hours before they start to get real pissy with one another.
I also prefer clothing that naturally reduces odor. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t get affected by plane stank, bless you and I hope your children are able to reproduce with your freak genetic code.
For the rest of us, stick to bacteria-resistant fibers like wool, hemp, silk, and linen. I love merino wool because it’s soft and cozy, keeps me warm (why are planes always SO COLD), it’s resilient, and it’s the most odor-resistant fiber I’ve ever worn. Wool is hands down my favorite travel textile – and no, it’s not scratchy or itchy. At least not performance wool or wool blends.
My 2nd favorite is hemp: it does everything wool does, plus it grows sustainably, using very little water and cleaning up toxins in the soil. Rad!
To keep your airplane stank to a minimum, wear wool blended socks, a wool shirt or hemp shirt, and wool/silk underwear. Congratulations, now your entire body is being hugged by sheep!
From the waist down, I love these amazing travel joggers. They’re like leggings on the bottom and cozy stretchy sweatpants up top and look awesome and feel amazing and have 3 roomy pockets and I’ve worn them on like 7 flights already! Annnnnd they’re ethically made. I’m obsessed. And they’re not even made from wool! Here’s more information about why I love them (and my other favorite pairs of travel pants). I also love these luxuriously soft slim-fit wool-blend sweatpants, which double as my PJ pants on winter trips. Both of them will keep you warm and cozy (and naturally odor-free).
Now let’s get to the LAYERS. If you’re a Great British Bake-Off fan, I want you to read that word in Mary Berry’s accent (sigh, that joke really doesn’t translate to blogging).
I always bring a warm layer for planes, because they crank that A/C up like we’re all going into cryogenic sleep and we’ll be unthawed when we get to our destination (ugh, I wish).
My favorite warm travel layering piece is the hoodie from the First Class Lounge Set made by Aviator (the same company who makes my favorite travel jeans!) It’s pretty cute, has a huge roomy zippered front pouch, thumbholes to keep your hands warm, and the hood is big enough to cover your face during a flight, Assassin’s Creed style. (Psst – there’s a men’s version too! They make great gifts, fwiw.)
Shut Out the World
The last thing you want on a flight is to hear a crying baby or get woken up by the hideous fluorescent lighting. In addition to pulling my hood way down over my face and wrapping myself up in a travel pillow cocoon, I also put on this luxurious silk eye mask.
Yes, that’s the exact one I have, and yes, it’s pink, like you’re a freakin’ princess. But it is so nice. I’ve never been an eye mask person – the straps dig into my head, the polyester irritates my delicate eye skin or whatever – but this big, cozy silk one has made me a changed person. Keep it on hand for when you’re having trouble getting to sleep on the plane – it weighs nothing at all.
Your next task is to block out the plane noise. Chattering, babies, flight announcements, all of it needs to go away. Some people just pop in headphones and turn on music, but I have sensitive ears (everything about me is extra AF, you guys) so I picked up a pair of Bluetooth SleepPhones and quickly fell in love with them.
They’re like a soft headband with earphones embedded in the headband, so that you don’t actually have anything in your ears. If you can’t use headphones because you get woken up by things poking your ears (me) or finding yourself tangled in headphone wires (also me), this is the perfect solution. You can pick up a pair directly from their website – use the code PW10 for $10 off your first purchase – or from Amazon.
Just be sure to pre-download some music or podcasts to listen to on your flight! Like, oh, hey for example … THE PRACTICAL WANDERLUST PODCAST!!!!! Was my self-promo subtle, or should I put that in big, flashing neon lights for you?
Another solution for noise-blocking is plain old foam earplugs. I often use EarPlanes, which have the added bonus of regulating your internal ear pressure during a flight – I’m extremely ear infection-prone, so I leave these in during a flight anytime I feel even SLIGHTLY stuffy or like I might have a cold coming on.
The whole screwing-into-your-ear thing is kinda weird, so I’m also planning to test out these alternative pressure-relieving ear plugs which have a much softer … uh … ear thingie.
Whew! I hope you picked up some new tips for minimizing the misery of long-haul flights. I also hope you saw that blatant self-promotion for the best way to entertain yourself on a flight, but just in case, here it is again: download a few episodes of the Practical Wanderlust Podcast! Go on, you know you’re a LITTLE curious to hear how annoying our California accented voices are in gloriously high definition sound, right???
I want to hear your tips too! What’s in your airplane survival kit? Wait no, that sounds too life or death, let me rephrase. What’s in your flight essentials kit? Do you have any tips for long haul flights that we can try? And what are your favorite travel accessories for long flights? Drop us a comment below!
Psst: Looking for more tips for your next vacation? Here are some of our favorite travel tips posts!
- The Ultimate Packing List: 43 Must-Have Travel Items
- 25 Things No One Tells You About Being a Full-Time Travel Blogger
- The Best Women’s Travel Shoes: Lightweight, Field-Tested, & Cute
- What to Pack for a Beach Vacation: the Curvy Girl’s Beach Vacation Packing List
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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
- Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
- Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they've got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we're not fans of Airbnb's unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
- Travel Insurance: We always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY recommend it - visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like no foreign transaction fees, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Read our complete review.
- Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor's office or a walk-in pharmacy.
- Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local's perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
- Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. For rental cars, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal. To save money, we also book with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which includes primary rental car insurance coverage.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever we're checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we're running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
- What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!
You feel guilty for drinking out of a plastic cup but you fly all over the world in airplanes burning fossil fuel? Which do you seriously think leaves a bigger carbon footprint?
Very Nice! Thanks For Sharing..
You don’t mention compression stockings/socks. I’m 65 and planning [???] to fly to Spain in October 2022 If Covid, Putin and airlines cooperate. Have never worn them before, but at my age, who knows.
Great tips, Lia. I will never forget my neck pillow when I’m on travel.
Lia Garcia says
I’m sure your neck will thank you for that over the years 😀
This post was fabulous, thank you. Lisbon’s airport is downright amazing (and I spend far too much money in FNAC…curse you, decent sales even in the airport…) and they do actually have decent outlets spread throughout.
I would definitely add compression socks to the carry on/personal item list. I work as a nurse and these are a lifesaver on a daily basis. Never leave home without them. Even better on a long flight, because you don’t land with already tired and achy legs from being crammed into economy like a bunch of sardines. And you can find so many fun patterns (seriously, Amazon is phenomenal for super cute compression socks) online and in local medical supply/uniform stores.
Only other suggestion, if you travel with medications, is to make sure you print the little TSA card from their website and have it handy for security. It makes the process go a bit faster, I think anyway, when they are kind of prepared ahead of time to know that you travel with your own little mini pharmacy. 😉 Aaaaannndddd….if you are diabetic and travel with glucose LIQUID (Like I do, along with the glucose tablets), most TSA agents don’t freak out and want to open it. Just make sure your seal on the bottle is still intact, and let them know you’d prefer it remain that way until you need to use it. (Never had any issues with this. Maybe I’ve gotten super lucky?) And do not pack your medications in anything other than your personal item!! Carry that ish with you all the time so there’s no worry of it being lost!
And remember, TSA is simply doing their job to keep you (and all your fellow travellers) safe. They get treated like crap all the time and yes there are a few bad seeds out there (like anywhere else) but most of them are very nice…treat them kindly, maybe even smile at them (I know, awkward!) and make their day. 😉
Lia Garcia says
These are fantastic tips, thank you Amber!
I love your style of blogging
I’m 32 and I’ve been getting ready for my first international trip. it’s yourself and a couple of similar writers who are putting me at ease about the whole longhaul flight thing. Thank you!
Lia Garcia says
It’s going to be great! And if not … you’re gonna watch a bunch of movies and then have an exciting adventure 😉
Those SleepPhones sound great! I do find my earbuds hurt my ears if I wear them for more than a couple hours and I also find that my travel pillow interferes with the proper angle of my earbuds… might be time to upgrade! Also appreciated the app suggestions- always on the look-out for useful apps! Great post!
Lia Garcia says
Yessss those are the exact 2 issues I always have with headphones and my Sleepphones resolved both of them! Highly recommend trying out a pair.
Rahul Yadav says
Thank you so much for sharing valuable post.
I like your information, but its buried in too much copy! I’d say its 40% info and 60% sidebars. People are reading this kind of article to get info, not to be entertained or for you to feel you have to show off your writing style. Write a novel if you want to expound upon things endlessly. Thank you.
Lia Garcia says
Hey Remy, actually our blog is purposefully designed to show off our writing style and personality, and long-winded, entertaining posts are kinda our thing (we’re very long-winded and we like to think we’re funny). If you want writing that contains only information without distracting entertainment, I suggest hitting the local library or reading a news site rather than a blog.
I loved reading this not just for the tips but you are hilarious! Like seriously I have been binge reading travel blogs as I have a trip to Israel on April 26th and yours is by far the most entertaining and real to read. I have never flown internationally so I want to be as prepared as possible. One thing I added to my list was compression socks. I am a heavier woman and have no desire to tempt fate. Thanks for the awesome blog and I will be sure to keep coming back!
Lia Garcia says
Thank you for the kind words, Nicole, that makes us SO happy 🙂 Compression socks are definitely a good call! I’ve never tried them but I know a lot of people who swear by them. Have an awesome trip!
Monica VanBuskirk says
Yes! I keep my compression socks in my carry-on when I’m at home so I remember to wear them on the plane! I don’t have a favorite brand, but they come in wicked fun styles so you can feel slightly more fashionable (read: crazy looking).
Also, while on the plane, I have a list of tiny exercises I can do (think Jack Lalane’s chair workout) to keep the blood flowing. Keeps me from being quite so achey in my hips and knees when I get to where I’m going.
Practical Wanderlust says
Great tips! Also living for looking more ‘crazy looking’!
Thanks for the great tips. I totally agree with you…on a long-haul-flight you should definitely wear comfortable clothes. I love wearing my sport pants and a sweater. I really can’t understand how some girls can fly with a skirt and high heels (yeah, I saw this many times) for a few hours. You should not care how you look…the only thing you should care about is a comfortable trip 🙂
Lia Garcia says
I’m not one to judge, so I don’t much care what other people are wearing on flights tbh. But high heels and skirts are definitely not my personal first choice for comfort!
While I don’t wear a skirt and heels on flights, I see their merits: if you need to bring heels but they’re bulky, wearing them onto the plane (and then immediately switching into socks) seems like a decent idea (I don’t want to think about the TSA line, unless they have Precheck). And some skirts are so comfortable! They can have an elastic waistband like leggings, are flowy, and keep you warm (think mittens vs gloves).
Lia Garcia says
That’s an excellent point! I do love a nice long flowy skirt – it’s like wearing a blanket wrapped around my legs. At this point in my life though, my bulky items are more likely to be hiking boots rather than a pair of heels – but yes, wearing your bulkiest items is definitely an economy flier pro tip!
Ian McAllister says
In your printable version you mention “Our sneaky trick when we have a lot of stuff is to bring 2 carry-on bags.”
I’ve seen hints of that in several websites, but when I enquired from Air New Zealand I was told that I could have two carry-on bags as long as the TOTAL weight was less than 7 Kg
Is there an extra trick to it that I haven’t considered? It seems to mee that my laptop and camera and electric chargers will weigh so much that I can’t pack any clothes. Perhaps when I get my laptop I’ll be surprised.
Lia Garcia says
Wow, that is STRICT! Even the European airlines we often fly haven’t been that strict. I don’t think our carry-on trick would work with a 7kg limit! That said, the lightest laptop we have is our travel Chromebook, which weighs around 1lb, and our Canon Powershot isn’t very heavy either!
Rebecca Kilde says
Amsterdam is a great airport for layovers. Lots of public (read FREE) lounges with reclining snooze chairs and tons of places to charge stuff, both USB and electrical outlets. Plus, a public library, unfortunately all in Dutch, but still.
If you bring a charger that has USB option on one end, you don’t have to worry about a converter. Also, you can charge your phone on the back of most TV sets, a lifesaver when you realize the converter for Great Britain is not the same converter for Italy. Who needs advance planning when you have a perfectly good travel hack?
I always bring thick cozy socks that I can use like slippers. I don’t walk around in them, but then I can ditch my shoes and not freeze my toes.
Sometimes I pack a mug. It’s heavy and stupid, but there’s something really nice about cradling a mug of hot beverage at 6,000 feet. Also, tea bags of tea I like. I also travel with bamboo flatware: my version of saving the world one useless piece of plastic at a time. https://bambubatu.com/shop/to-go-ware-utensil-set/
Lia Garcia says
Fantastic tips! Thanks, Rebecca!
Rebecca | Maybe This Way says
This is such a comprehensive guide to layovers – there are a few tips in there that I hadn’t considered so thank you! Also, you’re totally right about outlet plugs in airports. Why do some airports not have any??? Not even one!! haha
Lia Garcia says
It’s like they WANT you to be miserable, like when a coffee shop doesn’t have WiFi. Except you can choose to leave a coffee shop, but you’ve got no choice but to suffer at an airport 🙁
I really flew from Chengdu -> Shanghai -> Tokyo -> Chicago -> Toronto. It took 2 fricken days. God I hate flying lol I must be the other travel blogger who don’t use TripIt oops! Thanks for the awesome tip. I better get on it haha
Heheh I feel your pain – I too feckin’ despise flying (despite being fascinated by the airline industry; how does that even work?), and so I’ve picked up so many good tips from this!! I’m going to be downloading Trip-it both for its useful features and my unfortunate app addiction; I want to try out those airport lounges!
Feeling an urge to go and book flights, don’t stop me. 😉
Krista Staudinger says
This is so thorough and I can relate to so many of your tips (and not paying extra for literally everything so I end up in the same boat, or I guess back row of economy in this case, with you). Love your humor in your writing! You are a legend and now I really need to invest in a reusable cup for the plane (why hadn’t I thought of that before)?
Lia Garcia says
You’re so sweet, Krista! I’d sit in the back row of the airplane with you anyday 😉
I always want to bring a travel pillow, but never do because it’s so big, and then I get on the plane and instantly regret it!
Airport lounges are the best! I use priority pass and when cities have multiple airports, I always try to fly out of one with a lounge I have access too! It amazing when your flight is delayed and you can go enjoy some free food, drinks, outlets, and extra space!
Lia Garcia says
I’m the same way! The one I linked above is the only one I’ve found that’s small enough to actually carry along. I need to check out priority pass and see if it’s actually worth it for me 😛
Haha, this was so fun to read! A lot of great tips. I hate flying too, so much so that I promise myself I will never fly again on almost every flight. Then, of course, I end up booking another trip a couple of days later
Lia Garcia says
OH YES, that’s my life. I get anxious if I don’t have multiple trips coming up 😛