Traveling to a foreign country for the first time is exhilarating. There’s a lot to look forward to and many things to be excited about. However, the excitement normally dies down 30 minutes into the flight. 

Long haul flights where you are strapped to a seat for hours and hours could easily suck the life out of you, not to mention sitting beside inconsiderate passengers who hug all the elbow space or when there’s a crying tot nearby. 

The good news is that boredom is a state of mind, and you can fight it off by keeping your brain busy. So how do you do it? Learn how to survive a long flight with these ten practical tips

Before the flight

To survive long flights, preparation is key. How?

1. Get a good seat

When checking in, choose the most comfortable seat for you. Most first-time flyers prefer the window seat to catch amazing views outside. Others love sitting by the aisle for more elbow room and for the ease of standing up to go to the loo.

The least favorite is the middle seat because it could get very cramped and uncomfortable, although some enjoy being in the middle when traveling with family members.

Try to arrange or change your seat in advance. Once you’re seated, most airlines wouldn’t allow you to change seats. You’re in luck when you happen to be assigned beside two empty spots.

If you’re a frequent traveler and have saved miles, get an upgrade. Building up miles can win you certain privileges, and one of them is receiving VIP treatment. Board early, redeem your miles and ask for an upgrade. If you’re really lucky, you could just get bumped up to First Class.

2. Wear comfortable clothes

Wear comfy clothes to make sure you are comfortable enough to catch a good sleep on the flight. As much as possible, put on some loose-fitting shirts, comfortable jeans, flats or tennis shoes, plus a hoodie to keep you warm. 

When on a business trip, avoid wearing business clothes on the flight unless your company instructs you to dress formally. Otherwise, choose casual and comfortable. Your business meetings or conference will happen hours or a day after you arrive at your destination anyway.

Don’t forget to wear socks and have an extra pair to keep your feet warm and cozy. And make sure they are loose enough to keep your feet relaxed.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

3. Escape from the noise

The goal is to get some good rest or sleep when on the plane. To help you achieve this, consider noise-canceling headphones and a sleeping mask as part of your carry-on essentials.

For long flights, your noise-canceling headphones are the best thing to have, unless you’re a movie buff and plan to watch several movies. Once you place the headphones, you’re in your own private world, free from the plane engine noise and the many people talking (some snoring) in a confined area. If you don’t have noise-canceling headphones, earplugs will do.

A sleeping mask to cover the light, on the other hand, can mentally prepare you to sleep during the flight. This is a big help when sitting by the window. If you’re a light sleeper, a neck pillow also helps.

When traveling for more than 10 hours, if you can sleep soundly for at least 5-6 hours, you’ve made it halfway through. That’s not bad at all. When you’re comfy, it won’t be difficult trying to doze off for a couple more hours.

4. Don’t carry too much stuff

Having so many carry-on items with you will take up much of your sleeping space. Bring only a few flying essentials – money, valuables, books, headphones, neck pillow– to give yourself more legroom and elbow space. You don’t want to cramp yourself for 15 or 16 hours.

Bring a small bag that you can keep by your side and won’t worry about losing it while you’re asleep. 

At the most, bring two carry-ons: one you can place on the overhead bin, and the other stays with you on your seat.

5. Get hydrated

Staying put for 15-16 hours inside a contained space with machine-produced oxygen can be exhausting, if not dangerous to your health. Add to this the fear of flying or being in a confined space, especially for first-time travelers. Flying can really be physically draining. 

Also, stay clear of alcohol and tea or coffee. They could keep you awake for hours and cause you to dehydrate. Grab a large bottle of water after airport security and drink before departing. Continue to stay hydrated during the flight.

Photo by Elizabeth French on Unsplash
Photo by Camila Perez on Unsplash

Surviving in-flight boredom

Now that you’ve boarded and taken your seat, what do you do inside the plane? Preparing for the trip is just the first part of the battle. As your plane departs and leaves the tarmac, here are some long-haul flight tips to help you survive the ‘ordeal’.

6. Read

Reading is still the best way to escape and embark on a journey to places and times that can only exist in your mind. If you’re into it, you can read for the entire flight without even noticing the passage of time. Load up your Kindle, E-reader, or tablet with your favorite mystery or romance novel. You can always bring a paperback; however, it’s not ideal if you want to save more space in your carry-on luggage. 

When traveling with children, bring along some adventure books that are fused with a paired activity. Coloring books can be fun too.

7. Play Games

Airplanes now have Wi-Fi, but most are unreliable when you are 35,000 feet in the air. You might as well bring some games you can enjoy offline. When flying, take out some old-fashioned games you enjoy. How about chess, backgammon, or paper games like Hangman and Tic Tac Toe, or even puzzles, crosswords, and word searches? These games will definitely help you fight off boredom.

8. Write

Traveling is an excellent time to reflect on life. When flying, you are detached from your usual busy life, and so you can use this time away by writing.

When flying, the silence and lack of distractions provide the perfect scenario for you to grab a pen or start banging on the keyboard and let your creative juices flow.

If you’re not one of those who dream of writing their first novel, just catch up on your diary or pen down some blog posts. Look out the window; the silver clouds and golden sunset might just offer some inspiration.

9. Learn a language

When traveling to a foreign land, why not kill some time on the plane by learning a new language. Download a language app and teach yourself some common phrases and greetings in the language of your destination.

The language will not be a problem when travelling to Amsterdam since the Dutch speak good English. Why not surprise them by saying some Dutch phrases and win some new local friends?

Still, take advantage of the time you have on the plane and learn helpful, practical, and even humorous phrases about the country you’re visiting.

10. Exercise

Believe it or not, you can exercise while sitting. When traveling for 12-16 hours on a plane, your muscles could easily tense up. It is advised that you do some stretching and stand up once in a while.

While remaining seated, stretch your neck, back, shoulders, and arms. Lift your knees and do some ankle rotations. Place your hands on the elbow rest and begin to lift your entire body. Be creative. If you really love yoga and don’t mind attracting attention, do some yoga stretches in the aisles. You’d be surprised as some people might just join you.

Long-haul flights can be grueling not just to your body but also to your mind. When traveling to the Netherlands, the flight from New York is 7 hours, from Los Angeles is 10 hours, from China 12 hours, and from Australia, a whopping 21 hours! You might feel confident and relaxed in the first hour or two but could go insane as you reach the 8th or 9th hour.

Stop fretting about the time lost in travel; often it’s only a matter of perspective. Look at your glass half-full. 

If you think about it, flying is a unique opportunity to enjoy the time you get for yourself. Get the best seat, wear the most comfortable clothes, read, play, exercise, and have fun flying. Keep in mind the ten best tips to make traveling hassle-free and learn how to survive long flights.

Want to know more travel tips? Read more here at Ask the Dutch Guy!