How to Handle a Long Haul Flight

Angela Griffin

Angela Griffin

So you’re off to the other side of the world. Filled with excitement, you’ve booked your tickets, stocked up on the sun cream and already devoured the guidebook from cover to cover, highlighting your favourite restaurants and must-drink-in bars. But then you remember: you have to get through a long, exhausting slog on the plane first. You’re flying through multiple time zones, there’s no shower and you’re booked in the middle seat in economy class; you’re going to be knackered.

So what’s the best thing to do? Follow our top tips and long haul will be a breeze.

Woman sleeping on a plane

Prebook your seats

Most long haul carriers allow you to prebook your seats. So before you go, chat to your Expert and reserve your spot. If you can, try for the extra legroom near the emergency exits (although you may have to pay extra), don’t sit too near the loo and avoid the dreaded last row, where the seats often don’t tilt back as far as the others. Window or aisle is up to you, depending on whether you wish to be the disturber or the disturbee, or if you’re fussed about checking out the view. Better yet, splash out on a premium economy or business class upgrade.

Adjusting a watch

Adjust your body clock

Try to get onto your destination’s time zone as soon as you can. If time allows, stay up late or sleep in before your flight, and make sure you are well rested. Having said that, don’t try to stay awake to make yourself sleep on the plane; you’ll just arrive frustrated and panda-eyed, and no one needs that. Set your watch to your destination time as soon as you board, but not before (otherwise you might get confused in your sleepy state and miss your flight). On arrival, get on board with the local time as soon as possible and keep napping to a minimum. Your body will thank you for it.

Airport check in

Check in with plenty of time

Avoid stress and set aside plenty of time to get to the airport, taking possible traffic jams into account. Being one of the first in the check-in queue also gives you a wider choice of seats (if you haven’t already prebooked) and with all the extra time you have at the airport, you can start your holidays early with a spot of shopping, a leisurely meal or by testing out the champagne and sushi bar.

Couple at the airport

Dress comfortably

You’re going to be wearing these clothes for a fair few hours, so there’s no point being uncomfortable. Despite what jet-setting celebrities think, this isn’t a fashion show and you’ll be far happier in comfy, loose-fitting tracksuit bottoms and soft, worn-in shoes than skyscraper heels and a figure hugging dress.

Man asleep on plane with neck pillow

Bring a pillow

Unless you’re in business class, sleeping sitting up is unavoidable on a plane, and it usually comes hand in hand with neck ache. Long haul carriers normally provide a half-size pillow, but if you bring your own you’ll be much comfier. Use a neck-supporting pillow to avoid stiffness, or take the pillow from your own bed to give you a little reminder of home.

Woman asleep on a plane

Bring noise-cancelling headphones

There’s nothing worse than trying to sleep only to be constantly disturbed by chatting passengers, loud coughing or crying babies. They might not be the cheapest option but bring noise-cancelling headphones and you’ll sleep in blissful silence, whatever’s going on around you. Alternatively, plug yourself into the airline’s entertainment system and drown out the din.

Woman reading on a plane

Bring a book

In this busy world it’s not often we get time to ourselves. But here you are with 12 hours or so with nothing to do - now’s your chance to catch up on all those novels you bought and never read! Choose a good title, immerse yourself in another world and the flight will fly by. Literally.

Aeroplane food

Drink lots of water

It’s important to keep hydrated in the dry aeroplane air. Drink water frequently – ask the attendant if you need some – and feel all the better for it. Alcohol is dehydrating, so four in-flight gin and tonics might help you sleep, but a few glasses of water will help you feel extra refreshed when you wake. Alternatively, sip a comforting herbal tea; perhaps try chamomile or lavender, known for their relaxing properties.

Aeroplane aisle


To avoid stiffness and the increased chance of DVT that comes with sitting still for hours on end, make sure you get regular exercise. We’re not talking running or weightlifting, but simple circling with your arms and ankles, or a short walk up and down the aisle to get the blood circulating, will help avoid any aches and pains.

Woman looking out of plane window

Don’t stress

If you can’t sleep, don’t stress. The more you worry, the less chance you have of sleeping. Instead, watch a film, read a book or look at the clouds, and you’ll soon drift off into slumberland. And even if sleep eludes you, at least you’ll feel calmer and relaxed on arrival, ready for your first night in a freshly-made hotel bed. Think of the soft fluffy towels…

To book your next long haul holiday, give our Experts a call today.

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