How to survive long haul flights

Australians know that if they want to travel to Europe, the first and last part of the trip can feel like slow and painful torture.  With nearly 24 hours in a plane…it just might seem like the longest day of your life.

What can we do to make our journey just that little bit better?

Well, this is stating the obvious – travel first class, or even business!  If this is just a dream  (and let’s face it, the price could be 3 or 4 times more) you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

If you are a frequent flyer  why not be a bit cheeky and on arrival at the airport, ask very sweetly and politely whether there might be any upgrades going?  You never know what can happen in a big city…  Make sure you are dressed as though you could afford this ticket, even if you can’t, as first impressions make a big difference.  If this fails here some tips to help you survive your flight…
Here are my tried and true suggestions to make your trip a little more bearable, and some items you just don’t want to forget.

Try to break the trip with a stopover – planes can’t even travel for 24 hours without refueling.  Depending on the airline, your stopover might be in Asia, or the middle east or….  A two day stopover would be a great idea as this gives you time to relax for the next leg.  Ideally the next leg should be at night so that when you arrive after sleeping for 7 or even 8 hours, you are refreshed and ready to start your adventure.

Ok, a stopover is not possible, your boss won’t give you extra time off and you’re in a hurry to start that European vacation.

On board essentials:

  • Small clear toiletries bag with bottles no more than 100ml (yes, they are still being quite strict on this)
  • Ear Plugs (for when that guy in the next seat really is annoying, or snoring, or both!)
  • Eye shades (they never seem to have those lights low enough)
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Make-up remover, refresh spray and moisturiser (use frequently) (one shot sizes are now available from places such as
  • Eye drops – stop that Bride of Dracula look on arrival in Rome – these should be used hourly, dehydration plays havoc with the eyes
  • Pressure socks – purchase these at pharmacies or even major supermarkets these days
  • A light pair of ballet slippers (jiffies to Australians) to slip over your socks – this stops those nasty surprises when using the bathroom at 3 in the morning and some sleepy guy has been in just before you (you know what I mean)
  • A seat on the aisle – I just hate the idea of having to walk over people if I need to get up and move around or go to the loo
  • Find the number of the relaxation channel
  • Take a light shawl, pashmina,  in case it becomes cool
  • Good book
  • Ipod
  • Ok, some might not like this…but a sleeping tablet.  There are even some herbal ones around that work a treat

Dehydration is your biggest enemy….

  • Drink lots of water – buy a large bottle after customs as they never seem to bring around those glasses quickly enough, especially in economy class
  • Try to limit alcohol – I know I should have said absolutely no alcohol, but I love a glass of wine with dinner

Walk and exercise..deep vein thrombosis can and does happen.

  • Don’t sit in the one spot for hours catching up on all of the movies you have missed for the past year –
  • walk around the cabin as often as possible or take note of the exercise recommendations on the channel selections

When you arrive at your destination, try to hit the road running – drop off your luggage at the hotel, pick up a map and phrase book and start being a tourist.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on your bed…not even for 5 minutes…this could be a tragedy.  You will wake up at 2 in the morning with no possibility of getting back to sleep and absolutely no way to find a cup of tea!

Long haul flights are bad..very bad but these suggestions just might make it a little easier.  And when you are out and about enjoying your cafe macchiato, and you happen to overhear some tourist tell of their nightmarish trip in the plane (all 11 hours of it) …sit them down and gently explain to them where Australia is in the world.

Buon Viaggio

Any other suggestions?


One thought on “How to survive long haul flights

  1. I fly from Perth to Rome quite regularly and I find I prefer the flights that leave Perth late afternoon and arrive into Rome at about 6/7am the next morning are the best for me. I try to get some sleep in the latter part of the first leg, pop a couple of over the counter sleeping pills about 5 hrs (if I’m flying direct to UAE) in and can get about 4hrs of broken sleep, if I fly via Singapore I hold off taking anything until I get on the second leg as it’s only 6hrs and then pop the sleeping tablets and sleep for the next leg. When I arrive in UAE or Singapore I normally have a few hrs to be able to grab a quick shower and a change of clothes and stretch my legs before my next 7-12hr leg. I’m normally feel a walking zombie by this stage (thankfully I don’t always look like it!) but it helps because I can usually fall asleep pretty easily for the next 4hrs so by the time I arrive in Rome I’m somewhat refreshed by the 6-8hrs of broken sleep I get but I can normally function well enough to go out sightseeing and do grocery shopping for my villa and get the blood moving in my legs to keep myself awake until about 7-8pm when it’s a reasonable time to fall asleep.

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