No matter how much you love to travel, flying is rarely a highlight. Long flights, in particular, can be gruelling, and arriving at your destination feeling tired, stiff, and irritable is unfortunately a pretty common experience. From cramped seats to dry cabin air, aeroplanes simply aren’t built for comfort, and that’s without factoring in screaming babies, iffy meals, and time zone changes.

Travelling at 30,000 feet for long periods might not be anyone’s idea of fun, but there are lots of things we can do to make flights both more comfortable and enjoyable. Long-haul travel (flights over eight hours) may never be a joy, but they don’t need to be a pain. And, with some preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t arrive feeling rested, relaxed, and ready for your next adventure.

So, here are our top 10 tips for making sure long flights are that bit more pleasurable.

If you’re looking to book a holiday to a far-flung location, why not browse hundreds of exciting and exotic holiday deals on Rest Less?

1. Reserve a good seat

Reserve a good seat

One of the most important tips for long-haul travel success is sitting in the right place, and if you purchase your plane ticket early, you can usually reserve a good seat.

According to Skyscanner, there’s a science to the perfect seat (it’s 6A, apparently!), but where you want to hole up for the next eight to 19 hours will depend on your personal preferences. If extra legroom is important, try to reserve exit rows. If you want easy access to the loos, pick an aisle seat. If you want to while away the hours staring at the clouds, choose a window seat.

Do bear in mind that some airlines don’t allow passengers to reserve seats when booking – only when checking in. If that’s the case, be sure to check in as early as you can; usually, this is 72 hours before departure.

2. Dress comfortably

Dress comfortably

Dressing in comfy clothes is also essential when you’re flying for hours, so try to take some time to think about your outfit. Layers are always a good idea, as planes can be hot when you’re boarding, but once the aircon is turned on, they get chilly quickly. Loose-fitting layers are your best bet – things like tracksuit bottoms, cosy leggings, lightweight shirts, and warm jumpers and sweatshirts.

Closed-toe shoes are better than flip-flops or sandals, both for emergencies and keeping your feet warm. Although, do remember that feet can swell at high altitudes – so try to make sure they’re not too snug! A pair of warm socks is always smart – although why not go one better, and wear compression socks, which can reduce swelling and decrease the risk of blood clots on long flights?

A pashmina or scarf is another great idea, as this doubles up as a blanket as well as an extra pillow if you roll it up. And, if you’d like privacy on your flight, a hoodie makes sense, as it’s warm and cosy, but also shields the ears and eyes (so less noise and light!), and creates a cocooned environment. If you want to arrive looking smart, just pack an outfit in your carry-on and change when you land.

3. Get your beauty sleep

Get your beauty sleep

Prioritising sleep is also super important, so remember to pack accessories that help you drop off. The eye masks and earplugs airlines give out are rarely decent quality, so it’s better to bring your own. Silicone ear plugs are the best for staying in your ear, and travel pillows can support your neck while sleeping in an upright position to minimise the chances of arriving with a stiff, sore neck.

If you’d like to sleep through meals, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ eye mask can be helpful – and if you like wrapping up in a blanket, remember to buckle your seatbelt over it to avoid being disturbed. You might want to think about mapping out your sleep schedule in advance; for example, if you have a shorter connecting flight, you could stay awake to make sure you’re tired for the longer flight.

Timing your sleep to the destination’s time zone is always a good idea too. Most airlines serve meals that sync with the time of the destination, so this shouldn’t be difficult to work out. If you struggle to fall asleep on planes, you could consider other things that may help you nod off: melatonin, sleep supplements, relaxing oil roll-ons, etc. If you like listening to music, noise-cancelling headphones are also wise.

From £1,299pp - Athens, Paros and Santorini* >

Save up to 45% on this 10 day tour of Greece, including the main historical sights, combined with a relaxing getaway to the idyllic Greek islands of Paros and Santorini.

All flights and accommodation are included in this summer adventure, with availability from June 2024.

Price and availability accurate as of 9:00am 17th May 2024.

Book now with Exoticca

4. Pack snacks

Pack snacks

While food is served on long-haul flights, it isn’t always particularly fresh or tasty. Plus, when you’re travelling across time zones, airlines tend to time meals to your arrival destination, which means you might be hungry before a meal comes. It’s also frustrating when hunger pangs kick in when all the lights are off, the people beside you are sleeping, and there are no flight attendants in sight.

So it’s always smart to bring some snacks with you. Slow-release energy snacks like dried fruit, nuts, or cereal bars are portable and easy to eat, plus they’ll keep you going for a long time. Try to go easy on salty snacks, as these can cause dehydration and swelling. To find out more about the best things to eat before, during, and after a flight, have a read of this article by Vogue.

5. Stay hydrated

Stay hydrated

Aeroplane cabins are notoriously dry places, with levels of humidity comparable to deserts. Flying dehydrates your body, so it’s important to drink even more than you would on the ground. Once you’ve gone through security, you might want to buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up – then you can keep it topped up with water on the plane so you always have something to drink.

While alcohol can be relaxing, it only dehydrates you further, as does caffeine – and both make it more difficult to get good sleep. A herbal tea is an infinitely smarter choice when you’re in the air. The dryness in the air can affect your skin, too, so it’s best to avoid wearing makeup and bring some moisturiser to apply. If you’re prone to dry eyes, you might want to bring some eye drops too.

For more information and advice on this, check out our article; 11 tips for staying hydrated and why it’s important.

6. Pack smart

Pack smart

Most of us have checked luggage on long-haul flights, but we also have carry-on bags – usually a large case that goes in the overhead lockers and/or a bag that goes under the seat. Keep this latter bag as small as you can; remember that every inch of legroom is sacred on long flights! However, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve packed all your flight essentials in this bag, so they’re within easy reach at all times.

Things like liquids, snacks, moisturiser, books, tablets, or iPads should be stowed in your underseat bag, as should sleep accessories like eye masks and ear plugs. It’s always a good idea to pack some toothpaste and a toothbrush in here too. Not only will this go a long way in making you feel fresh on arrival, but following your normal bedtime routines can make it easier to nod off too.

Get a great deal on your next holiday

Looking to book your next getaway? Here’s a selection of the best travel deals on Rest Less today.

From£2,999 £5,459 – From Machu Picchu to Iguazu* >

Peru, Argentina and Brazil | 16 Nights | Flights & Transfers Included | Book with Exoticca

From £1,299pp £2,369 – Ancient Ruins, Paros and Santorini* >

10 Nights | Flights and Accommodation Included | Book with Exoticca

From £1,799 £3,279 – Malaysia and Borneo Adventure* >

12 Days | All Flights and Accommodation Included | Book with Exoticca

Prices and availability accurate as of 9:00am 9th April 2024.

Or see all travel deals

7. Plan your entertainment

Plan your entertainment

Time flies when you’re having fun, so make sure you have enough to keep you occupied. Few things are more frustrating than watching the back of a seat for 12 hours or having nothing to read but the in-flight magazine. Most airlines have details of the available in-flight entertainment on their website, so have a look in advance and make sure there are films or shows you want to watch.

If there’s nothing you’re keen to watch on the in-flight entertainment system, you can watch your own stuff; just make sure TV shows, films, and podcasts are downloaded onto your devices before you get to the airport. You also don’t want your electronics to die mid-flight, so be sure they’re fully charged before boarding, and bring a portable charger and charging cable, too; many airlines have outlets and USB ports.

It’s also a good idea to bring a book or magazine, even if you’re planning on watching films or TV shows – just in case the entertainment system isn’t working, or something goes wrong with your devices. If you’re travelling for professional reasons, you might want to bring your laptop and do a bit of work in the air, just so you arrive feeling prepared. If you know you won’t have WiFi access on your flight, you could preload the pages you need and do some reading.

8. Stretch your legs

Stretch your legs

Sitting in a small seat for hours on end isn’t only uncomfortable, it can also be risky. Pressurised cabins mean there’s less oxygen in the air, and, on long flights, this can lead to lower blood oxygen levels, which can cause headaches, fatigue, swollen limbs, and dehydration. The solution is to stretch your legs – and luckily, this also helps avoid the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

If you’re planning to get up and walk around semi-regularly, you might want to reserve an aisle seat, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing the person next to you. Walking up and down the aisle (during quiet times, of course!) and doing some simple stretching is a great way to work your muscles and keep your blood pumping.

There are even gentle exercises you can do in your seat: try rolling your shoulders, rotating your ankles, twisting your torso, stretching your neck, and wrapping your arms around yourself.

9. Talk to your neighbours

Talk to your neighbours

You’ll need to use your intuition for this one, but flights are far more enjoyable when you’re sitting next to someone you like and having a good chat. While some travellers make it clear they’d rather keep themselves to themselves on the flight (and you may be one of them!), others are up for making conversation, so have a look at your seat neighbours and see if you think you’ll get on.

If nothing else, a short chat at the start of the flight is often enough to make you feel comfortable asking your neighbour to let you pass when you need the loo, and you never know…you might get some great travel tips or film recommendations from your seatmate. Remember that plenty of travel plans, business deals, friendships, and even romances stared at 30,000 feet!

Search over 2,000 holiday deals

Whether you’re looking for a last-minute getaway, city break or the trip of a lifetime – our travel section has over two-thousand deals from top providers, with options to suit all budget levels.

Find my next holiday

10. Reframe your thinking

Reframe your thinking

And, finally, one of the best ways not just to survive a long flight, but to actually enjoy it, is to try to reframe the way you think about it. Rather than viewing it through a negative lens, and seeing it as a long period of time in a confined space, try to view it as a positive.

For many of us, it’s rare to have a long stretch of uninterrupted time where not only are you not contactable, but you have no real responsibilities, either. Long flights are the ultimate chance to relax and switch off: someone else is at the wheel, crew members are waiting on you, and there’s nothing to do but lose yourself in a good book, film, or TV show.

Final thoughts…

With a bit of planning and smart packing, there’s no reason to dread a long flight. Time passes more quickly when you’re entertained, and getting some sleep, staying hydrated, and feeling cosy and comfortable will go a long way in helping you arrive feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

If you still feel apprehensive about long-haul travel, try to view the hours stretching ahead of you as a treat – a chance to relax, abandon your cares, and enjoy some well-earned me-time. With the right mindset, long-haul travel can easily be a positive experience rather than a necessary evil.

For further travel tips, check out the travel section of our website. 

How do you feel about long flights? Do you have any travel tips you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.