Having recently touched back down on U.S. soil after a 14-hour flight from New Zealand, I’ve learned some invaluable travel tips for future long flights. At the trip’s onset, I was quickly reminded of the lesson that travel will teach you: prepare as best you can for things to go awry, as they inevitably will.
Through multiple delays, missed connections, lost baggage, rebooked flights, comped hotel stays, and many bumpy van rides, I know more than ever before about how to survive some of the longest flights in the world.
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Carry a backpack
Finding a bag that suits your needs in-flight and in-country is difficult. My tip? Go with a backpack. My best pre-flight purchase was functional and reasonably priced from Amazon. Rather than stowing away the belongings I needed overhead (which become especially hard to access from the middle row of international flights), I opted to use a small pack that slid easily beneath the seat in front of me, giving me total access to all my things while in the air. The pack also functioned really well as a day bag during my excursions. Not only was I able to comfortably carry a bit more around with me, but I also operated hands-free without any concern for a shoulder bag.
Wear warm socks
Dressing for long flights is particularly challenging, especially when you’re switching seasons somewhere along the way. I’ve found that the best thing to do is dress for the conditions of the plane rather than the weather at your destination. You can accomplish both goals by layering. Try wearing breathable leggings, a long tunic, oversized cardigan and a scarf. I wore these items on my 14-hour flight, but the most valuable part of my outfit was the pair of thick, winter socks that I packed for the plane. Cabin air is notoriously chilly, and I was most glad that my toes stayed warm both in-flight and in preparation for landing.
Bring a reusable water bottle
Normally I’m so focused on not being detained at security that I don’t risk having any food or water bottles on me. For convenience and in the interest of cost on this long trip, I decided to bring my own water bottle, and it was one of the best packing decisions that I made. There are tons of benefits to traveling with a reusable bottle, and they apply both on the flight and in the airport. The most obvious value of toting your own container is having immediate access to water on every leg of your journey. An added benefit is avoiding the outrageous airport prices and not having to wait for an attendant to offer you refreshments in-flight.
Keep a toiletries kit on hand
I outfitted my toiletry kit with hand sanitizer, lip balm, Dramamine, makeup wipes, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Remember that you’ll still need to attend to your hygiene to mitigate the “body-confusion” that inevitably results from long flights spanning multiple time changes. Flying to New Zealand meant traveling through sixteen time zones in a matter of 24 hours. To regulate my body’s natural cycles and to help my brain adjust to seemingly suspended time in the air, I tried my best to brush my teeth and wash my face as often as I would in my regular life. My toiletry kit was a lifesaver — being able to freshen up every so often really made the difference between feeling drained versus being ready to start my adventure once I landed.
Download books and Netflix movies
Netflix has recently introduced the wonderful option to download some movies and shows onto your device for offline use. I decided to purchase the new Kindle Fire HD 8, which really held up on battery life and performance as both a tablet and reading device. I loaded my Kindle up with titles from Agatha Christie, Anthony Doerr, and Jessica Shattuck. Find your next adventure by checking out this Condé Nast Traveler “Summer Reads” list and also by staying tuned into the Indie Next List.
Whether you’re trekking to the Southern Hemisphere or popping over to Europe, having a few tricks for surviving flights of eight hours or more can make all the difference for enjoying your travels after landing. Fulfill your wanderlust and travel comfortably!
Emma Kinsey is a poet, editor, and bibliophile with passions for proper comma usage, Bikram yoga, and strongly brewed French presses. She is a full-time Technical Proposal Writer for a technology and management consulting firm located in Historic Downtown Frederick, Maryland. She also work as a bookseller, a Lead Sales Associate in the retail industry, and a freelance editor.