How to survive a long haul flight

Spending hours cramped in a stuffy plane isn’t most people’s idea of fun. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make the experience less stressful – even enjoyable. Follow our long-haul flight tips to help you stay relaxed, refreshed and raring to start your holiday.

Spending hours cramped in a stuffy plane isn’t most people’s idea of fun. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make the experience less stressful – even enjoyable. Follow our long-haul flight tips to help you stay relaxed, refreshed and raring to start your holiday.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
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Posted 9 OCTOBER 2020

What’s classed as a long haul flight?

First things first – how long is a long haul flight? There’s actually no definitive answer for this but assume somewhere over the six-hour mark.

Travelling long haul tends to mean anywhere outside Europe and North Africa. Flights to the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, India, Japan and Thailand and are all considered long haul.

With so much time to fill, how do you make the trip bearable? We’ve got a few ideas.


International travel is not currently permitted before 17 May 2021 at the earliest (date subject to further confirmation from the government). For single trip and long-stay trips, you won’t be able to get a travel insurance quote if you’re travelling before this date. 

You’re still able to purchase annual multi-trip policies. But if you choose to travel against the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice and current restrictions, you won’t be covered for your trip. 

While the majority of travel insurance providers don’t offer cover if you’re travelling for essential purposes before 17 May 2021, some are now able to offer cover. If you have any queries, you should check the policy wording or contact your chosen provider before you buy. 

Different rules may apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and it’s important that you follow all the rules that apply to you. 

For travel advice on your destination, check the FCDO for the latest information. 

Find out more here

Customers with more serious pre-existing medical conditions

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The Money and Pensions Service (MaPs) has launched a directory of insurance providers on its Money Advice Service website that may be able to provide quotes over the phone, if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at the Money Advice Service or by calling the British Insurance Brokers’ Association on 0370 950 1790.

Choose a good seat (away from the loos)

One of the best long flight tips is to bag the best seat you can get when you book. If you’re going to be sat in the same spot for several hours, you want to be as comfortable as possible – and preferably not too close to the toilets. Check out Seat Guru to see which seats are rated the best – and worst – on your plane.

If you’re willing to pay extra to upgrade, you can enjoy benefits like extra legroom, wider seats or even flat beds and onboard showers. It’s often worth seeing if you can snap up a last-minute deal or bid for an upgrade in an online auction to get luxury at a fraction of the normal price.

Layer up and dress for comfort

Forget glamour or dressing to impress – loose-fitting clothes will be a lot comfier. The air-conditioning can fluctuate on a long flight, so wear layers that you can take off or add depending on how hot or cold it is on board. Also, avoid tight-fitting shoes as being high up can make your feet swell.

It’s also a good idea to wear flight socks or compression stockings, which can help to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) on long-haul flights. Keep the circulation flowing in your legs by regularly making small circling movements with your ankles.

Add a survival kit to your long haul flight bag 

As you’ll be on the plane for most of the day or overnight, it’s a good idea to bring a few long haul flight essentials with you. Start with a good travel pillow and cosy blanket to help you nod off – and also to prevent neck agony when you stir from your slumber. An eye mask and ear plugs might also help you get some meaningful shuteye.

Other long-haul travel essentials could include painkillers and you may need other medication, as well as a travel-size toothbrush, toothpaste and face wipes. You’ll (almost) feel as fresh as a daisy when you land.

Remember – stick to the 100ml per item rule for liquids in your hand luggage, and put them in a clear, resealable plastic bag.

Don’t pack too much to stave off the boredom

Thinking about what to do on a long-haul flight to pass the time quicker can fill you with the urge to pack as many devices, games and books as possible. But try to travel as light as you can. Most airlines offer fantastic in-flight entertainment on long haul trips, with a range of films, TV shows, games and music to suit all ages, including families with kids.

Typically, food and drink will also be served on board regularly on a long-haul flight so you might find that the journey goes quicker than you think.

Stay well hydrated

One of the most crucial tips for long flights is to make sure you drink plenty – especially water – to avoid dehydration. You don’t want to be disturbing other passengers by dashing to the loo every hour, but it’s important to stay well hydrated.

Alcohol and snacks can be tempting, but it’s best not to go overboard if you don’t want to start your holiday with a fuzzy head and bloating. The low cabin pressure in planes means your body is working that bit harder to get enough oxygen so you’ll dehydrate faster.

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