How To Prepare For A 16 Hour Flight Or Any Long Haul Flight

How To Prepare For A 16 Hour Flight Or Any Long Haul Flight

I have been on many long haul flights in my life, the longest being on my way to India, but even those on the short side of the long-haul scale (like 6 hours long) need some preparing.

In my upcoming trip to India, I will be taking a 16-hour flight, and that is not a typo. Mumbai – Newark. To be exact it will be 14 hrs 55 min on the way there and 15 hrs 50 min on the way back (it’s always longer when you travel East to West). Plus I have to take two more (2+ and 3+ hour) short flights across the USA to get to my current home airport PDX. To make the 24+ hour journey bearable I have a few tips in mind.

prepare long haul flight

This is not my first time taking this long a** flight, so I know what I’m in for and know how to prepare for it.

These tips will help you for any long flight.

How to Prepare For a Long Haul Flight

1. Comfort

prepare for a long haul flight

Being comfortable is one of the biggest challenges stuck in an airplane. It seems that planes have become more and more cramped as time goes. To achieve the most comfort possible I bring:

A neck pillow (like this one)
Compression socks (like these) to help blood circulation, and prevent swollen ankles, tired legs and DVT (deep vain thrombosis).
Long scarf or pashmina which can double as a blanket or an extra pillow.
Comfortable outfit. Soft cottons and wool are the most comfortable, so are clothes without seams. Pockets are helpful.
Earplugs. God forbid you are seated next to a crying baby.

If you can afford it, pay a little extra to get an Economy Plus seat (United) or equivalent in other airlines which gives you extra legroom and a seat closer to the front of the cabin which allows you to exit the plane faster. It is worth it on such long flights.

2. Food

airplane food

You are always provided with at least one complimentary meal in long flights but sometimes you get hungry before and after these, and airlines have become skimpy with snacks, so bring your own! Think healthy snacks that will keep you satiated like nuts, granola or snack bars like these, and dark chocolate.

3. Entertainment

zentangle airplane

Nowadays, long flights come with an individual tv screen for each passenger with a variety of movies, tv shows and games like backgammon. This usually keeps me pretty entertained but if/when you get tired of this the next best thing is reading.

I used to bring physical books with me, but I recently got a Kindle which I love and will definitely bring (I recommend this book). Finally, try Zentangle, a nice artistic and meditative activity that anyone can do with just pen and paper.

Note: Headphones are provided but it’s best to bring your own for better quality and noise isolation.

4. Health and Beauty

airplane window view

People think that airplanes make you sick because of the air being shared by so many people, but the truth is that this air is being circulated and filtered the whole time. What really can get you is the germs and bacteria on surfaces like your seat tray, the restroom, and your seat armrests. Bring antibacterial/sanitizing wipes to wipe these surfaces before your flight starts and you should be good to go.

Also helpful: toothbrush, toothpaste (travel size), face wipes (like these refreshing ones), chapstick (I love this one), ibuprofen, kleenex, and eye drops.

travel bag

Most importantly: hydrate! My favorite tip is to bring an empty water bottle with you through security and fill it up at the water fountains after security. If you can, try to skip the sugary, caffeinated and carbonated drinks in flight which aid in dehydration and will keep you awake. This brings me to my next point…

Sleep! The more you can sleep the better your flight will be as it will make it shorter. Melatonin may help. You could also bring a few tea bags of calming tea like chamomile and simply ask for hot water in flight.

Tip: I love planning my sleep in terms of the time zone of my destination. This helps greatly with jetlag.

5. In case your luggage doesn’t make it

dallas airport dfw

We are always aware of the possibility of our luggage getting lost in the journey. Although they usually find it pretty quick and can send it to wherever you are,  you might want to have a few things on hand in case this happens like a spare change of underwear and maybe a lightweight extra outfit suitable for your destination.

I will also be bringing my laptop and my camera with me.

6. Essentials

passport travel

Of course don’t forget your travel essentials like your passport, printed itinerary, emergency contacts, and an always useful pen and notebook.

What’s the longest flight you’ve been in? What are the most important things you bring?

Top image photo credit: Spreng Ben
[Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that if you purchase something I get a small commission.]

29 Comments

  1. Bringing some wipes to clean arm rests and tray table is a good idea. I haven’t done it previously, but recently saw a article on how dirty these are. Definitely bringing some the next time!!

    Reply
  2. Longest was from Cairo back to New Zealand, Cairo to Heathrow, Heathrow to LAX, LAX to Auckland, Auckland to Christchurch – it was over 48 hours all up with the layovers at each airport.

    We are going to Orlando next month – its over 27 hours from start to finish… with 3 children.

    Reply
    • Wow that is quite a haul! My upcoming trip is also about 28 hours long including the 16 hr flight. Technically it’s about 34 hours because once our plane connections are over we still have to take a 6 hour drive to our final destination in India. 3 children I bet definitely adds to the challenge.

      Reply
  3. Great tips, Mani! My longest flight was 16 hours, from Bangkok to LA. (Going in the reverse direction would’ve been 18 hours!) I also bring a hoodie, as it can get cold on the flight, and they can be crumpled up and used as pillow. Chapstick. You mentioned eyedrops, which to me are indispensable. And my camera – I never check that.

    Reply
  4. Great tips, Mani! My longest flight was 16 hours, from Bangkok to LA. (Going in the reverse direction would’ve been 18 hours!) I also bring a hoodie, as it can get cold on the flight, and they can be crumpled up and used as pillow. Chapstick. You mentioned eyedrops, which to me are indispensable. And my camera – I never check that.

    Reply
  5. Very nice guide. There’s rarely anything that’s more important than good preparation for such a long flight. I’d die without my noise cancelling headphones for example. Thanks for the guide! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Very nice guide. There’s rarely anything that’s more important than good preparation for such a long flight. I’d die without my noise cancelling headphones for example. Thanks for the guide! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Thanks for those suggestions, Mani! I’ve taken quite a few long-hauls over the past few years and have noticed that they are more bearable when I practice patience, indulge in people-watching (in airports), start up conversation with other travelers… and basically go with the flow because so much is out of my hands. Bon voyage 😉

    Reply
  8. All good points! I’ll be making the long trip to Pakistan (about 13 hrs) in a few months as well but the difference is I’ll have a 2yr old with me to entertain >.< I'm dreading it already..

    Reply
  9. Excellent tips. I always have the best of intentions to work and write and stay hydrated on my long flights, but instead I watch TV and drink way too much wine! 🙂

    My sis would make the 16 hours from Dubai to Houston with her three kids ! Whoohooo…fun times! 🙂

    Reply
  10. Excellent tips. I always have the best of intentions to work and write and stay hydrated on my long flights, but instead I watch TV and drink way too much wine! 🙂

    My sis would make the 16 hours from Dubai to Houston with her three kids ! Whoohooo…fun times! 🙂

    Reply

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