Flight Survival Tips

Published Categorized as Travel

I’ve mentioned before that flying is almost always an arduous experience for me – aside from the general discomfort, I have very sensitive sinuses and almost always arrive at my destination a red-nosed, sniffly mess. More than one flight attendant has given me the whole box of tissues after I kept asking for more, that’s how bad it is. For that reason I was pretty terrified of my first long-haul flight at the beginning of our Eurotrip, which spanned almost 30 hours and four flights. But after surviving that journey and the one home, I think I have things figured out. Here’s what works for me:

  • Antihistamines – after an allergic reaction to our friends’ fluffy white cat, I ended up beginning the trip with antihistamines in my system and more in my bag. After miraculously making it halfway through our flights without breaking out the tissues, I realised that the drugs seemed to be combatting whatever reaction I have to aircraft conditions. I made sure to have some handy on the flights home, and it seemed to do the trick then too. No more will I begin my holidays with a drippy nose!
  • Choose your seat wisely – that is, if you get the option to choose beforehand. SeatGuru.com is great for this. In economy, the back of the plane usually has the toilets (and thus smells and a stream of people coming through and having conversations), whilst the front often has babies and children.
  • Hydration – this is on everyone’s flight tips list, but it bears repeating – keep hydrated! Some airlines are stingy with water or even charge for it, so I always fill up a big (BPA free) water bottle after passing through airport security to take with me. Moisturiser and lip balm (less than 100mL each of course) help with dry skin.
  • Stand up frequently and stretch – I’m one of those people who can quite happily sit for hours if I have something to amuse me (I spend all day at work sitting after all), so have to remind myself to stand up at least once every few hours. I feel a bit self-conscious stretching in the aisles, so usually go to the back of the planes near the bathrooms where I won’t disturb anyone
  • Bring food – plane food sucks (unless you are forking out for business class, although I wouldn’t know about that). Even if it’s a full-service airline that serves meals, I try to at least bring some dried fruit and nuts which will keep me going if I decide that the offered food isn’t very appetising.
  • Have a spare outfit handy – especially if the final destination has completely different weather to the origin. Also useful if connecting flights are significantly delayed or baggage is ‘misplaced’.
  • Bring (decent) headphones – often the provided airline headphones aren’t well-designed or powerful enough to hear sound properly over the drone of the engines. Lots of people swear by noise-cancelling headphones – personally I wouldn’t get enough use out of them to justify the expense, but even cheaper standard headphones that cover the ears significantly cut down on noise.
  • Reading materials – preferably of the paper variety, so you don’t have to put it away during takeoff and landing. Personally I feel to scattered to concentrate on anything that’s tough to read on a plane; young adult fiction is my guilty pleasure on long rides.
  • Don’t rely in the in-flight entertainment – I like to load my phone/tablet with movies and tv shows that I actually want to watch and bring a book, in case the IFE selection is awful or (in the case of some flights I’ve been on) completely defunct.
  • Bring a pen – I’m always the annoying person asking to borrow someone’s pen when filling out customs forms and landing cards. On my next trip I’m determined not be!
  • Take a phone photo of your passport – so you don’t have to dig around for it when you need to write down the document number and expiry date. Don’t be that person who has to take down their case from the overhead luggage and rifle through it. On that note:
  • Keep all the essentials handy – keep a smaller bag of in-flight essentials inside your main cabin bag if necessary, and remember to take it out to keep at your feet before sitting down. You’ll be glad if, like me, you feel an irrational guilt about asking the passenger sitting next to you to move whilst you open up the overhead luggage. Or if, like me, you need to stand on the seat to reach it.
  • Dress in layers – I’ve found it’s impossible to judge how warm or cold a plane will be, so it’s best to have a few options available. Personally I find knits and polar fleece much more comfortable than structured jackets – keep it in a bag and change once you get on the plane if you feel that’s too dorky to walk around the airport in.
  • Wear comfy underwear – especially if you want to try and sleep. An underwire bra is the most uncomfortable thing in the world to try and sleep in.
  • Earplugs and an eyemask – essential for me to get a bit of shuteye.
  • Toothbrush, (mini) toothpaste and roll-on deodorant – use ’em before attempting to sleep, and/or in transit to feel a million times better and avoid some powerfully bad bad breath.
  • Be kind – look, flying is uncomfortable for everyone. It doesn’t help to snap at the flight attendants or rudely shove the chair of the person in front of you when they try to lean back. A smile and a bit of kindness goes a long way to making it all a bit more tolerable.
Most of these tips also apply to long train, bus or boat journeys as well – and we’ve certainly done a lot of those over the past few months.

Do you have any helpful tips? I think it will be some time before I’ll be stepping on a plane again, but I’m always curious to see how others handle flying.


  1. 30 hours and four flights to get to Europe!? Which airline did you go with? I thought my 17 hour flights via Dubai were bad enough!

    Great tips by the way! I find long flights an exercise in endurance too, not added to by the fact that I can’t sleep sitting up. I’m flying to Europe again in 5 weeks, so this was a very helpful post, thank you!

    Extra tips:

    Audio books or meditation music on your phone/laptop to block out background noise and help you relax.

    Sitting near the galley means you often get first choice of meals and get your plates cleared away sooner.

    Don’t drink alcohol on the plane and do take melatonin to help with jet lag.

    I always bring a big comfy wool cardigan that can double as a blanket or pillow :)

  2. Skye – We were in Canberra for a wedding, so including that as a starting point it was something like 30 hours in transit! Canberra -> Sydney, Sydney -> Singapore, Singapore -> London and London -> Edinburgh. Crazy! I think the total flying time was something like 25 hours, it’s a bit longer from Sydney.

    Oh yeah! I found that going outside and getting some sunshine (even if it is cloudy Scottish sunshine) really helps with jetlag and getting into a normal routine.

    I hope you post lots about your trip! I’d really love to back to Scotland again :)

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