July 08, 2022

How to survive a long flight

By Jillian Stinson

Heading off on a lengthy flight? Extended air travel isn’t much fun, but here’s how to make your flight as pleasant as possible.

Long-haul flights can be intimidating if you don’t do them often. After a few years of international travel plans put on hold due to the pandemic – you might feel even more nervous about a long flight. To help, I asked my friends for suggestions and added them to a few of my own favourite tips. I’ll share them with you. Read on to get ready for a long flight.

How do you prepare your body for a long flight?

1. Get a pre-vacation massage 

If you have time, and your benefits cover it, consider getting a massage before your flight. Think about it as the official start of your vacation. Even if it’s the day, or week before you leave. Loosening any tension may help you feel more comfortable on the long flight. Do you have workplace benefits with Sun Life? Sign in to mysunlife.ca to get your coverage details.

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Use Lumino’s provider search to find one near you.

2. Detox and hydrate

I try to cut out caffeine and alcohol 24 to 48 hours before my flight. I find that doing this helps me: 

  • Sleep better on the plane and 
  • Shake the jet lag a bit faster. 

To stay hydrated on the flight, I load up on drinks after going through security. I buy: 

  • The biggest bottle of water I can find, and
  • Coconut water, loaded with natural electrolytes and vitamins for hydration.

The tea selection is non-existent in economy class. So, I pack my favourite sleepy-time tea to help me sleep on the plane. Just ask for a cup of hot water. 

3. Pack healthy snacks

Airplane menus are not always the healthiest. So it’s best to come prepared. I stock up on energy bars, homemade banana bread, and other snacks to enjoy on the plane. Instant oatmeal in a cup is another great choice. Just ask the flight attendant for hot water. If you already have protein or meal supplements as part of your regular diet, you can bring those along in your shaker cup. Just ask the flight attendant for water.

4. Get comfortable

I bring a pair of loose socks to change into and slip out of my shoes right away. Some of my friends say that they wear compression socks to help reduce swelling and water retention from altitudes. I wear my heaviest coat or an oversized scarf to use as a blanket. For better sleep, I pack an eye mask, ear plugs and bring my own airplane pillow. If it’s an extra-long flight, I’ll pack comfortable, loose pants to change into. I try to wear comfy, slip-on shoes for easier trips to the restroom. 

Don’t forget to pack any over-the-counter medications that might help you feel more comfortable. Lozenges for dry throat and natural Gravol or antacids for an upset stomach are usually in my bag for travel days.

5. Stretch during flight

I try to do a few ankle circles and leg stretches every hour or so. And I move about the cabin occasionally, to keep the blood flowing. You can also find an empty area near the restroom or exit row to do deeper stretches. This can help avoid blood clots and prevent your legs from falling asleep.

5 more tips to prepare for a long flight

1. Get travel insurance

Travel insurance has always been a great option. But pandemic-era travel has made it more important for travelers. It’s a safety net that’s helped save the day—and money—over the last few years for those forced to delay or cancel their trips due to: 

  • COVID-19-related illnesses, and 
  • Other hassles. 

It’s a good idea to get travel insurance after you buy your plane tickets. Because, despite all your precautions, a surprise illness or accident could derail your vacation. Travel insurance can: 

  • Help protect you from unexpected medical costs, and 
  • Help you find emergency assistance when you're far from home and don't speak the language.

A Sun Life advisor can help explain your travel insurance options. 

2. Book your seat before the flight

This is serious business for me. I like to be on the aisle (for easy bathroom access) and somewhat near the back of the plane. I find it less crowded. Make sure you either: 

  • Pick a choice seat when you book, or 
  • Check in 24 hours before your flight to see which new seats the airline released. 

Elite flyers start getting upgraded at this time, so it’s the best time to find a better seat. You can double-check your seat choice on a travellers’ advice site like Seatguru.com. It can help make sure you’re getting something decent. My partner is tall, so he calls to upgrade to a seat with more legroom when we can. 
You can also ask at the airport counter whether a paid upgrade to business class is available. 

  • Sometimes you’ll get a worthwhile discount. 
  • Other times, the economy section may be oversold and they will be looking to upgrade certain tickets. 

It just never hurts to ask.

3. Use anti-bacterial wipes before take-off

Pandemic or not, airplanes can be some of the most germ-filled places. Sure, they clean planes between uses. However, you may feel more comfortable knowing you sanitized the area you’ll be occupying for many hours. 

4. Bring entertainment

Come prepared with a variety of activities to avoid boredom. For a long-haul flight, I pack: 

  • A few new magazines 
  • A book – either paper or e-book, and 
  • My laptop or tablet 

I usually watch one or two movies, do some offline work on my computer and catch up on my reading. Load up your tablet or laptop with movies before you leave. You can download content on apps for offline use (i.e. Audible, Spotify, YouTube Music, Netflix, etc.). And bring your chargers on board, as you may have an outlet or USB plug at your seat.

5. Bring noise-cancelling earphones

A great set of noise-cancelling headphones can make a world of difference on a noisy airplane. It also cuts out the sound of crying babies and conversations to help enjoy the ride.

Do you need help saving for your next vacation?  

An advisor can help set up a tax-free savings account (TFSA) to save for your next vacation. They can also explain all of your health insurance (including travel insurance) and life insurance options. Find a Sun Life advisor today.  

Read more: 

This article is meant to provide general information only. It’s not professional medical advice, or a substitute for that advice.

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