If you truly want to see the world, you're going to have to endure some lengthy flights in order to do it. While shrinking seat size and the general discomfort many people report while flying might give you pause, there are steps you can take to make sure that your long-haul flight is as comfortable, enjoyable, and pleasant as possible.
Choosing Your Flight
The first thing you can do to prepare for your long-haul flight is to choose carefully. Not all airlines are created equally. While there are times when jumping on a bargain flight to get to your next destination is worth some slight discomfort, a 15-hour flight is not one of them. Even if you are used to forgoing some amenities on domestic flights in order to get a lower price, you are likely to miss them much more once you cross the 4-hour mark.
Pick an airline that is going to offer you some real amenities.
- Look for great in-flight entertainment. Some airlines offer games, critically-acclaimed movies, and other options to keep guests entertained and happy. Take the time to see what options you'll have available as you make your choice.
- Consider how entertainment is delivered. You don't want to be watching an overhead screen that will have you sitting in an uncomfortable position or, perhaps worse, forced to watch whatever in-flight movie the crew has chosen for the duration of the trip. The best option is a flight with built-in seatback screens, allowing you a customized experience. Be sure to check your options before booking your flight, though. Many airlines are doing away with the seatback screens. If you have a laptop, bring it, seeing as how some airlines now offer on-demand entertainment on your personal device.
- Check out the food situation. Most long-haul flights are going to offer regular meals, but the quality and variety of that food can vary. If you want to make sure that you're going to enjoy the food you eat, you'll want to take some time and check out what's typically offered. The website Airline Meals offers real pictures from guests to give you an honest view (and it's also really interesting to see the differences between first class and economy and in different cultures).
- Consider travel insurance. If you typically only take short domestic flights, you may wisely be in the habit of foregoing travel insurance. However, a longer, more costly flight might be worth it. Research your options to make the smartest choice.
Packing Your Bags
No matter what airline you choose or how good their amenities are, a long-haul flight is going to take some extra prep on your behalf to be as comfortable as possible. There are some considerations you need to make when packing your carry-on.
- Plan to sleep. Even if you don't normally sleep on planes, a flight of this length will go a little smoother if you use part of it to get some shuteye. Ideally, you'll bring a travel pillow, an eye mask, and noise-canceling headphones to make catching some Z's as easy as possible.
- Bring snacks. Yes, all the long-haul flights offer meals, but there is no guarantee that their schedule or offerings are going to align with your cravings. Dried fruit, jerky, and trail mix are all popular options for their easy portability.
- Download your own entertainment. Even if the airline has great offerings, you're going to want some variety over the course of such a long flight. Download at least a few movies, books in different genres, podcasts that fit different moods, and music you haven't heard in a while. Giving your mind some novel entertainment is a good way to distract yourself from the most monotonous stretch of the flight. A good strategy is to have a nonfiction book that's serious, a fiction book that's light and fun, a book that's truly gripping, and movies in different genres — like one comedy and one thriller. You can't accurately predict what you're going to feel like hearing or watching, so just make sure that you've given yourself plenty of options ahead of time.
- Bring backup power banks. All of those downloaded books, songs, and movies aren't going to do you any good on a 15-hour flight if your tablet dies before you're half way to your destination. Pack a backup power bank to keep the fun going.
Now that we've looked at what you can do before you book your flight and as you pack your bag, it's time to consider what you can do to make your flight more comfortable.
- Wear comfortable clothes. You will be sitting most of the time for a long stretch of hours. You don't want to be wearing clothes that pinch, poke, or scratch. Pick comfortable clothes that are loose-fitting and don't roll or ride up as you move around. Save your fashion statements for your destination — the flight is a time to put comfort first.
- Wear the right shoes. In addition to picking comfortable clothes, you should put some extra thought into the shoes you'll wear. Ideally, your shoes will be well cushioned and easy to slip on and off without having to reach down to tie or untie them.
- Get up and walk around. This can be an odd addition for people who are not used to long-haul flights. Most people stay seated on short flights (and some are so short there isn't really a window of time to move around). For a long-haul flight, though, you're going to want to move around. You're obviously going to have to get up and use the restroom at some point, but don't make that your only movement. Experts recommend getting up and moving about every two hours to reduce the risk of blood clots, and that advice also keeps you from sitting too long in one uncomfortable position, which can lead to aches and pains when you deboard.