How to survive a long haul flight

Tips to surviving a long haul flight

Although I’m very priviledegd to be living in Australia, it means that unless I’m travelling interstate or to New Zealand, every flight is long. Naturally after all these years, I have learnt a few strategies to deal with them step by step so they are as least painful as posible, and dare I say sometimes enjoyable.

When you’re at home

1. Check in on-line.

You can do this with most airlines and usually up to 48 hours before the flight. This gives you a good seat allocation before everyone arrives at counter check in. It can also save you considerable time as you only need to go to bag drop instead of lining up for hours to check in, as a lot of people still don’t utilise online check in. If you’re not checking in baggage (one of those people who can compress everything into a carry on), this will definitely save you at least an hour, as you go straight to security.

2. Check if your flight is delayed

Download the Flightstats app and it will tell you if your flight is having any delays. You can usually also access this information via the departure airport’s website, or by calling the airline (but prepare to be on hold forever). Check this before you leave for the airport, as there are plenty of better places you could be if you had a few spare hours.

When you’re at the airport 

3. Have all your documents in one folder

This makes it a hell of a lot easier than scrounging around for a loose passport or immigration card in your bag. Keep it all together, as it will be checked on quite a few occasions before you board.

4. Check you don’t have anything questionable in your luggage

This can be an easy one to forget, especially if you usually carry a lighter or something on you . Having things like this, a water bottle, nail scissors etc will get you pulled up by customs and can be stressful even if it’s totally innocent. Do yourself a solid and avoid it all together.

5. Pack earplugs!!

These will be a god send when trying to sleep, especially with babies and loud coughs distracting you by the minute.

6. Bring refreshments on the plane

Bring some toilettres like deoderant, toothbrush, wipes and powder (for girls). When you get off the plane and go to meet your friend whose picking you up, or start sightseeing, you won’t smell and feel repulsive.

7. Take a spare departure card

When going through immigration, take a few spare departure cards for your next trips. It saves you time filling it out before you line up, especially if you don’t have a pen! (Which if you read my guide to packing you would know this is essential)

8. Find the gate before you need to

When you first go through security and immigration, have a stroll and find where your gate will be. Some can be a 5 minute walk away, others can be on the other side of the terminal, or even a train ride away to a different terminal. Figure out how long it’ll take you to get there and then continue your shopping and wandering. It’s better you find this out before you need to be there to avoid last minute rushing.

9. Buy duty free for when you get home

We’re allowed to bring back 2.25L back into Australia, and you can save almost half on price buying it here. Purchase what you want and then the staff store it for you until  you get back. They have your flight details, and as you leave immigration upon landing there will be a desk with everyone’s duty free waiting for collection- just don’t forget your receipt!

10. Find a comfy area to pass the wait time

Walk around and find the cheapest and most comfy cafe to chill out and use wifi. This makes you feel like you’re just having a coffee chilling out, as opposed to in an uncomfortable airport. In Melbourne you can get a good coffee at the Pizza Bar near duty free for $3.80 and have a view of the planes outside.

If you don’t want to splash out for a drink, find a comfy lounge area. But trust me, anywhere is better to wait than the gate, so go there only when you have to- when the information screens say it’s boarding (often later than on your boarding pass)

11. Make a friend

If you’re travelling solo, you will notice just how many other people are too. When you’re in line for something, start up a sly conversation with the person next to you (if they look cool and receptive). This new banter will often be well received (they’re as bored as you are) and will make the time fly by. Who knows, you might get lucky and meet someone cool (or even luckier someone cute) and plan to meet up with them at the destination.

This also applies to whoever you’re sitting next to on the flight. It makes it a lot less awkward to push past them intimately to get to the toilet if you already know each other to some extent.

12. Go to the toilet before you board

This sounds obvious, but from the time you board to take off can be over an hour (more if you’re unlucky) so there is time to freshen up beforehand!

When you’re on the plane

13. Abuse the inflight entertainment

These days there is an array of TV series, movies and games. It always gets me excited to see reruns of my favourite shows (Friends and How I Met Your Mother usually always make the cut). Even better, take this opportunity to start a new series, or watch a movie you missed out seeing at the cinema. There will always be more things you want to watch than length of the flight, which is always a good feeling.

I personally prefer watching TV shows, as they are usually only 20-40minutes, so you don’t feel restless. However they are totally addictive and you usually watch all those available, passing more time than a movie.

14. Make the most of free food and drink

If it’s a decent airline your drinks and extra snacks will be included, so have a few G&Ts to take the edge off! If not to help you doze off, because it’s free and you may as well get your monies worth! Also if you’re still hungry or thirsty after what they’ve brought around, don’t hesitate to politely pop into the kichen and ask for a snack or drink. This is also a good excuse to get up and stretch your legs.

There are always spare snacks and they will be happy to give you whatever. For example on my last flight I got an extra 3 packets of mini Oreos (win).

15. If you’re keen, learn a language!

Most in flight entertainment has language learning programs in several different languages based on the airline origin and destination. If you’re not too knackered, it can be helpful to learn a few words like please and thank you before you land!

16. Tactically sleep

Stay up as long as you can- you need to be especially exhausted to fall asleep sitting upright with loud noises around you (this is where earplugs come in). Try to get as much sleep as you can and sync up with the local time of where you’re arriving, so you can slip right into the holiday and not spend the afternoon sleeping.

Obviously there are always events out of your control that can make the flight worse; it’s delayed, the food sucks or you’re next to an obese farting machine. However, for those things you can control, follow these tips and your flight should be noticeably easier- happy flying!

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