How to survive your next long haul flight

how to survive long haul flight

Long. Haul. Flights.


Yup, we all hate them, but unfortunately for people like us with the travel bug, they’re a necessity. Being from New Zealand, it means that going almost anywhere in the world requires a long haul flight. 12 hours to the west coast of North America? 11 hours to Southeast Asia? 24 hours to Europe? Yuck.

During our travels we’ve fine-tuned the long haul flight experience to make it as pleasant as possible. Yeah, it still sucks having to be on a plane for that long, but with these tips you’ll hopefully be a bit more comfortable and feel refreshed upon arrival at your destination!

1. Sleeping pills

We take sleeping pills on long haul night-time flights, and they have been a godsend. Yeah, they make you feel a bit weird and groggy but it’s better than not sleeping and being grumpy and jetlagged in your destination! You’ll probably need to get a prescription for the strong ones from your doctor.

2. Neck pillow

I swear by neck pillows but Shaun hates them! If you’re like me and tend to get the head lolling action going on when you eventually fall asleep on a flight, you’ll be grateful for the neck pillow to keep your head off your neighbour’s shoulder! (and also to avoid stabbing pain when you wake up and realise you’ve been bent at funny angles). They’re also handy on long bus and train journeys.

Buy Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow from Amazon.

3. Noise cancelling headphones

Don’t you hate the roar of a plane’s engines, especially if you’re seated behind the wing? Never fear, the solution is here! Invest in some quality noise-cancelling headphones which will drown out most of the noise. You don’t need to play anything through them in order for them to work, so you can try to sleep in relative peace! Nowadays, you don’t need to buy big bulky noise-cancelling headphones – you can get in-ear ones or collapsible ones that are perfect for travel like these ones from Sennheiser.

4. Comfy pants (= no wedgie!)

This is an absolute must. The first time I went on a long haul flight I made the HUGE mistake of wearing jeans. God knows why! I was so uncomfortable and ended up with a constant wedgie (sorry, TMI!). From then on, I swore never to wear jeans on a plane again (unless it’s on a short domestic flight) – now I wear sports leggings or tracksuit pants, and the wedgies are gone forever.

5. Fly at night (if you can)

The good thing about long haul flights is that they go a hell of a lot quicker when you’re sleeping. And when do you usually sleep? During the night! So… the best time to book a flight for? Yup, night-time! Unfortunately, many routes just aren’t offered during the night, and there’s not a lot you can do about that.

6. Try to get an aisle seat

Window seats are great for short hops and flights during the day, but do you really care whether you’re next to the window on a night-time flight? And it’s also a pain in the ass if you need to get out of your seat and climb over that sleeping granny next to you! Try to reserve your seats ahead of time (many flight booking sites offer this during the booking process) and you’ll be grateful for the easy escape to the bathroom!

We’ll be implementing these tips when we head back to New Zealand from Vancouver in a few weeks’ time. Fortunately, our Air New Zealand flight (14 hours long, ugh) flies through the night and we have reserved our seats already!

Do you have any more suggestions to make a long-haul flight more bearable? We’d love to know!

P&S xx

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  1. I absolutely swear by my neck pillow on long-haul flights. And totally don’t understand people who can survive long haul flights in jeans/heels/other uncomfy items. Track pants or leggings are where its at!

    • Petra

      Yeah I know right?! I can’t do without it. And I can’t believe I was so silly to wear jeans that one time – definitely learned my lesson though. 🙂

  2. Ugh, long flights suck. I complain about my 8 hour flight home to NY from Madrid, but yours are so much longer!! Love these tips too!! Sleeping pills and comfy pants are a must. I’ve also learned to dress in layers and brind a big scarf that can ultimately double as a blanket. The temperature on airplanes always fluctuates so much! I also always bring a sandwich or something to eat. That way if I sleep through the meal or for some reason am hungry at another time, I always have a back up!

    • Petra

      Hey Lauren, 8 hours is pretty long! Oh yes, I completely forgot about the scarf/blanket – great tip! And taking a sandwich is a fantastic idea too, especially if the plane food is average… 🙂

  3. Melanie from US

    reading this whilst packing for our trip to auckland in 2 days! We upgraded for a bit more legroom, and a row with just our 2 seats, close to the restroom …..but I know I’ll be jealous of the lucky ones who could afford the SkyCouch! Luxury!

    Hubby and I sprung for J pillows for our upcoming 17hrs in flight. It has an additional appendage that cradles your chin. can’t say if it works well yet, or not, but will certainly give a review once it gets a workout!

    I also will be wearing: the baggiest pair of harem pants you ever did see, as well as a pair of *stylish* compression sox.

    after flying to Spain a year and a half ago, my legs felt all gross and “pooly”.

    I’ll update if the socks helped or not!

    • Petra

      Hey Melanie, good call to upgrade! It’s always nice to have more room, especially on that long flight from the US to NZ. I’ve never heard of J pillows – will be interested to hear how they go! I find compression socks are good but my legs get really hot! Safe travels 🙂

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