Tips and tricks for how to survive long-haul flights — and arrive at your destination ready to be productive and/or have some fun.
There’s nothing worse than getting onto a flight that lasts 10-plus hours only to discover that you’ve forgotten something essential or made a critical booking mistake. Managing long-haul flights effectively is more important now as demand for flights of 4 hours or longer has started to spike.
If you’re wondering how to survive a long-haul flight, consider these 12 tips for making your trip both comfortable and productive.
1. Book as Early as Possible
When you get a bad seat for a flight from Chicago to Detroit, it’s no big deal. When you get a bad seat for a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, it’s a problem. Book as early as possible so that you can choose the seat you want on the flight that you want.
As you book, remember that long-haul flights are perfect for using air miles to upgrade or even paying a little bit extra for premium economy. Be sure to check your company’s travel policy as it relates to long-haul flights. It may allow you to book a seat in premium economy or business class, depending on the nature of your trip.
Finally, look for flights that arrive at your destination in the evening. It’s hard to be at your best when you arrive first thing in the morning and need to go straight to an event or meeting. When you arrive at night, you can get some rest and start acclimating to the local time zone immediately without the pressure of going to work.
2. Adapt Early to the Time Zone
Speaking of time zones, try to get acclimated to your destination’s time zone before your trip begins. For example, if you live in the United States and are traveling to Europe, start going to bed a little bit earlier each night leading up to the trip, and then wake up a little bit earlier. Even a little bit of progress can help you better align to the new time zone when you arrive.
3. Charge Your Devices
Your devices are your conduit to the world while in the air for 10-plus hours. Fully charge them before your trip begins, and double-check that your chargers are in your carry-on bag. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the air without the ability to watch a movie or check your email.
4. Dress Comfortably
This is another benefit to arriving at night: You can dress as comfortably and casually as you like without worrying about changing immediately and heading to an event or meeting.
Your No. 1 objective on a long-haul flight is to rest and prepare for the work ahead once you arrive. It’s harder to fully rest when you’re dressed in anything less than your most comfortable attire.
5. Download Some Entertainment
In-flight entertainment portals offered by airlines are notoriously unreliable. Come prepared by downloading shows, movies and music to your own devices before you leave. Almost all streaming platforms allow you to download a few selections so that you can enjoy them without an internet connection. The same is true of music streaming platforms. You can often download podcasts, songs or entire playlists for listening without internet access.
6. Carry On Toiletries
Skip the makeup on long-haul flights as it can block pores and lead to breakouts. That said, always take toiletries in your carry-on bag so that you can freshen up as needed during the flight or even at the airport once you arrive. Even brushing your teeth can feel nice after spending 10-plus hours on a flight. If your toiletries are in a checked bag, though, there’s nothing you can do until you claim your luggage.
7. Prepare for In-Flight Sleep
Again, rest is of the utmost importance during a long-haul business trip. Come prepared for in-flight rest by taking along a neck pillow and a sleep mask. Earplugs can be a good idea, too. Whether or not you’re able to fully align to the destination’s time zone, it’s far better to arrive over rested rather than under rested.
8. Bring Noise-Canceling Headphones
Noise-canceling headphones are essential. You never know when you might be near a crying baby during a long-haul flight, and simply blocking out the persistent sound of jet engines can be nice. Noise-canceling headphones also allow you to better enjoy any music, shows, movies or other in-flight entertainment you brought along.
We recently made recommendations for noise-canceling headphones and other travel gear that would come in handy on a long-haul flight.
9. Pack Snacks and Water
Airlines are good about feeding passengers on long-haul flights and keeping them hydrated. But you can take control of things by filling a reusable water bottle and packing a few healthy snacks for the trip. Bringing along your own snacks and water gives you options if you don’t like a meal offered on the flight, or if you wake up thirsty and have trouble flagging a flight attendant.
10. Treat Flight Attendants with Respect
Flight attendants can be your best friends on a long-haul flight. Start the relationship on a positive note by being friendly and respectful from the moment you step onto the plane. It’s likely that you will need assistance for something during the flight, and attendants are more likely to be responsive and helpful if they are being treated well.
11. Add a Few Days to Your Trip
Bleisure, which is blending business and leisure travel, is a trend that’s growing in popularity. If you’re going to spend 10 hours or more reaching a destination overseas, consider adding a few days to your trip so that you can see local attractions and learn more about a different culture. The work is important. But it’s also important that you can find time to rest, relax and make the most of your journey from a personal perspective.
12. Bring Something Special Home
When you travel to foreign countries, there are always opportunities to bring back souvenirs and other mementos for yourself or to give as gifts to family and friends. Don’t miss that opportunity when you travel long distances. Look for souvenirs during the trip rather than browsing at the airport gift shop before your trip home.
You can also buy now using JTB’s own ARTISAN store. This online store makes available more than 1,200 traditional Japanese craft items created by 30-plus different brands. Shopping before your trip helps you save time while you’re there — plus you don’t have to find space for gifts in your luggage.
Book the Right Long-Haul Flights for Your Trip
As mentioned above, getting the right seat on the flight at the right price is essential to the success of a long-haul trip. And JTB Business Travel can help. As a travel management company serving organizations large and small, we work with Travelers each day to ensure they enjoy trips that are both comfortable and productive.
Contact us to learn more about working with JTB Business Travel.