You’ve booked your dream trip. The voyage will be 17 million hours long (okay, I’m exaggerating a little!), and now you’re wondering about long haul flight essentials. Don’t worry — we’ve all been there. We’ve taken many international and marathon flights, and we’ve got you covered!
If you’re looking for long haul flight essentials, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we will discuss what to wear, cover the travel essentials for the plane, and share the best long haul travel accessories. You’ll have an easy packing list along with tips and tricks to make your next vacation fantastic!
Let’s be honest, though. This site is about anxious travelers and long haul flights can be ROUGH for people with health issues or anxiety. My obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is definitely one of my biggest challenges on any flight, and it’s even more pronounced on a long haul journey. As soon as someone is coughing, sniffling (or worse), I’m wondering if I could survive opening the exit doors and jumping. If you feel the same way, we’ve got travel anxiety tips at the bottom for you!
We totally understand that the last thing you want to do is get buckled in for a 12-hour trek, only to realize that you’ve forgotten something important. That’s why we’ve created this quick review of what to take on your long haul flight. All you’ll need to do is sit back and daydream about all the amazing things you’ll do when you reach your destination!
How to Prevent Jet Lag
Okay, first things first — let’s talk about jet lag. If you’re unfamiliar, this temporary sleep disorder can hit you hard when you cross multiple time zones. The first time I went to Japan, our group fell asleep at the dinner table in a restaurant. Literally, my oldest daughter was a toddler at the time and she just laid on the table. That’s how rough jet lag can be!
Your internal clock, also called the circadian rhythm, usually tells you when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to go to bed. When you’ve got jet lag, you’re all mixed up. You might be ready to explore in an entirely new time zone, but if your body hasn’t caught up, you ain’t goin’ nowhere…except to lie down.
So what does jet lag feel like? Honestly, I get all clammy and sweaty feeling. It’s yucky, y’all. You definitely want to skip this experience if you can. You’ll know that you’ve got jet lag if you experience the following annoying problems:
- Sleep problems (insomnia, early waking, excessive sleepiness)
- General fatigue or malaise
- Trouble concentrating
- Digestive problems (constipation or diarrhea)
Jet Lag Prevention Tips
With each time zone you cross, your chances of dealing with this nightmare go up. It’s also worse when you’re flying east. It really is a good idea to plan ahead to try to get ahead of this mess. Here are some tips inspired by the Mayo Clinic for avoiding jet lag:
- Adjust your schedule before your trip. Start synching up your routine with the time zone in your destination in the days before your departure. When we’re heading to Japan, we gradually move our bedtime and meal times to what we’ll be doing when we get to Osaka or Tokyo.
- Rest before your flight. Please don’t try to do a long-haul flight on no sleep. It will only make your jet lag symptoms worse.
- Sleep on the plane under the right conditions. Will you be in the air while it’s nighttime at your destination? If so, sleep on the plane. That way, you’ll arrive in the daytime refreshed and rested. Not sure you can sleep? We take melatonin to help us drift off! It also helps to have a travel pillow, eye mask, and noise-canceling headphones.
- Hydrate! Counteract the drying effect a long flight can have on your body by drinking 8oz of water for every hour you’re on the plane. If you get dehydrated, you’ll feel even more sluggish than you have to.
- Regulate bright light exposure. Our circadian rhythm is heavily influenced by bright lights, so use that to your advantage. If you’re traveling west, being exposed to bright light in the evening can help you prepare for the later time zone. If you’re traveling east, exposure to light in the morning could help you adapt to the earlier time zone faster.
- Take “No Jet-Lag” pills. We don’t know how these magical beans work (okay, they’re not really beans), but they really made a difference on our last long-haul flight. Just follow the directions and you’ll be golden!
What to Wear on a Long-Haul Flight
Here’s an important piece of advice — put a lot of thought into what to wear when flying long distances. You’ll be in those clothes for a while, so you better choose wisely. No pressure, of course. We’re just saying that things can get pretty funky very quickly.
Even If you’ve only taken shorter flights, you might be looking for guidance on what to expect. Without question, we can say that the clothing you wear is very important in these situations. Here are our travel tips for what to wear when flying long haul.
Check Airline Policies
Before you start planning your long trek outfit, check with your airline to make sure there are no policies about what you can and cannot wear on a flight. This might be especially important if you’re traveling in First Class, Business Class, or with an unfamiliar airline.
It sounds archaic, but the last thing you want is to get removed from a flight because you’re violating the dress code. You see those stories on the internet all the time these days! Those types of situations are awful for travel anxiety. No one wants to have their trip derailed or delayed for a preventable reason. It’s just best to check before you board!
You never know what’s going to happen on a flight, which is part of why it’s a little scary, right? You could get extra stinky, spill food all over yourself, or even have a toileting accident (I know…). On one trip the flight attendants accidentally dropped a carafe of coffee on me (thank goodness it didn’t spill!). It’s always a good idea, therefore, to pack some extra clothes in your carry-on bag.
Of course, you should also think about comfort. The temperature can change quickly on a flight, which is why I love packing a baggy cardigan. It’s the perfect way to stay nice and cozy, but it’s easy to take off if you get too warm. Plus, you can throw it on as you land and look effortlessly stylish (but casual!) when you arrive at your destination!
Full Zip Hoodie
While this could be a cardigan, pullover or anything else, I personally prefer to wear a full zip hoodie on flights. They are extremely easy to put on and take off, which is great when the plane gets too hot or cool. When we travel, a good hoodie is considered my standard uniform.
The hood is also great for pulling over your head to shield from lights, sound, and your seatmate, if you’re trying to avoid conversation. Of course, a zip-up hoodie comes in handy when you’re fighting travel anxiety. It’s like a cocoon that can shut out the world (and block coughs haha). Plus, it just feels snuggly and cozy!
Layers are important when you’re traveling so that, if you have to remove your sweater or hoodie, you’ve got something on underneath. This isn’t the time to wear something heavy. Instead, choose a light shirt that fits comfortably.
If you’re running through an airport and handling luggage, you’ll probably work up a sweat. I like to wear shirts that are moisture-wicking and cool to keep body funk under control.
When I board a long-haul flight, I’m in my stretchiest, most comfortable pair of pants. More than any other article of clothing, what you wear as a bottom will matter most on a lengthy flight. You don’t want to be stuck in anything that’s too tight or constricting, especially if you need to use the icky bathroom.
Again, double-check the airline policy, but I’ve always worn some type of yoga pants for long-haul travel, while track pants are a good option for Josh. Avoid shorts because it can get cold and you’ll be stuck freezing for hours!
Any time you fly, you’re at added risk of developing a blood clot in your legs. It’s especially important to get up and move around the cabin, if possible, to promote healthy circulation during a long-haul flight. Another simple, but great, strategy is to wear compression socks!
We absolutely love the ones from Dr. Motion! They provided good support without being uncomfortable. In fact, I forgot I was wearing them at all and my legs felt great after my 12-hour flight!
We have TSA PreCheck, but that isn’t necessarily going to be recognized at international airports. Regardless, you could be searched anywhere at any time and it’s more convenient to be wearing slip-on shoes that are easy to remove. While I prefer wearing sneakers, these eliminate a layer of travel anxiety for me to be able to put my shoes back on without having to touch them.
On our most recent flight to Japan, we were upgraded to United Premium Plus. Being able to slip off our shoes easily and slide on their plush slippers made the flight much more pleasant!
It might not seem the most space-efficient, but it’s a good idea to pack extra clothing in your carry-on back. This bit of planning really helps with my pre-travel anxiety. With such a lengthy voyage ahead, you could end up needing to change at some point.
You could spill food on your clothes, have a toileting accident (it happens, trust me!) or face some other gross situation. The airline could even lose your checked bag! Having some spares at your fingertips can make a huge difference. Chances are you won’t need them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
A Word of Caution:
- Skip the jewelry. Not only does it put you at risk for theft, but you might be bloated after being in the air for so long. Pack your must-have jewelry in your checked luggage or leave it at home.
- Avoid walking into the bathroom without shoes. Really. It’s gross.
- Dress for your destination. Don’t land in snowy Canada wearing flip flops from Thailand!
- Don’t underdress. You don’t want to be freezing on an airplane for 10 hours. Trust us.
Long Flight Travel Essentials
Once you’ve done one of these long treks, you gain some experience for the next time. If you’ve never done a marathon flight, though, you might need a little guidance. We’ve already talked about what to wear, so here’s a list of long haul flight essentials you should pack for your next trip.
Noise Canceling Headphones
The white noise inside of an airplane is so loud it’s almost deafening. On top of that, you’ll hear the seatbelt sign chime, kids crying, and everything in between. Plus, when I hear someone coughing, sneezing (or worse), it just enhances my fear that I’ll get sick while traveling. After 10 hours of these sounds, your travel anxiety might reach its limit.
Investing in a good pair of noise canceling headphones can make a huge difference. Not only will you block out sounds so you can relax in peace and quiet, but if you choose to watch a movie, you’ll actually be able to hear the dialogue. Really, these are a must-have!
Even though we haven’t used a neck pillow on a long-haul flight, I’m including it because a lot of people swear by them. They look comfortable, and when I’ve tried one at home, I could see why they would be beneficial. This is definitely a common item to pack for a long-haul flight.
The main reason why I can’t bring myself to use one is germaphobia. Personally, I don’t want to rest my face against fabric that has been dragged around an airport. Maybe one day I’ll get over it, or maybe I’ll try those little pillow cases that help keep things clean! Nevertheless, many travelers swear by them, so you might want to check one out, too!
Unless you’re flying in an upgraded seat, you probably won’t be given any type of toiletries on your flight. For that reason, it’s best to pack these items in your carry-on bag. We have our own essentials that we travel with, including things like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Other items you might wish to consider include deodorant, mouthwash (your breath will get funky!), and lip balm. It’s amazing how dry your mouth and lips can get after a few hours on a plane! We also like to carry some baby wipes to freshen up our faces after a nap or just before landing (they work on sweaty armpits, too!). Look for a whole travel toiletry kit to save money!
Years ago, travelers were treated pretty well when it came to meals and snacks on flights. Nowadays, I’ll admit that most carriers do a decent job of keeping passengers fed on long-haul flights, but I’ve also gone hungry. You could accidentally drop your food or the meal you want could be all gone by the time they get to your row. It’s best to pack a few things of your own in case you need them.
Be respectful of your fellow fliers when you pack your treats, though. Don’t bring anything that has a really strong odor or that will make you feel gassy. Stick to dry, protein-dense foods. A tasty treat can make all the difference when you’re only halfway into a 12-hour flight! My personal favorites are pistachios (get the ones with no shells so you don’t make a mess on your flight!), Stroopwafels (free on some United flights!), and Slim Jims. Eating keto? These are my favorite low carb travel snacks!
Stress. Lack of sleep. Dehydration. Hunger. Being hit by a suitcase that someone is trying to stow in the overhead compartment. These are all things that can contribute to a nasty headache. While you can try to drink water, do some deep breathing, or even take a nap, there might be times when that’s not enough.
You may want to make sure that pain reliever is among the things you pack for a long-haul flight. Do your best to keep it within arm’s reach, too! The last thing you want is to disturb other passengers trying to find your travel size Tylenol or Advil in your carry-on bag. It’s much better to take something rather than endure a headache for hours and land at your destination feeling terrible.
Many long-haul flights now offer power outlets so that you can charge your devices during your trip. The catch? You usually need to bring your own charger wire, of course! I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, so I always try to leave reminders for myself while I’m packing. Bring one (or even two) so that you can keep your phone’s battery at optimal levels.
One of the worst things that can happen is to land with a dead phone battery. Most of us store our booking information on our devices and you want to have access to that upon arrival. Don’t forget to pack your charger! Of course, another great option is to pack a portable power bank. We can’t even explain how often we’ve been saved by ours!
Jet Lag Pills
This might sound ridiculous, but we took these No Jet Lag pills (which we’ve already described as “magical beans”) on our way to Japan. We didn’t have any problems. It was actually pretty insane! The only indication that we were in a different time zone was that we woke up really early (around 6 am). Without any symptoms of jet lag, we were able to hit the ground running in Japan!
On the way home, however, we took this for granted. Despite all the warnings we’d seen on message boards, we failed to take the pills diligently on our return flight. Boy, did we ever regret that! After such a lovely trip, it was terrible to be overcome with jet lag. Worst of all, it took me days to recover — maybe even a week. I won’t make that mistake again!
You need to bring practical items on your long-haul flight, but you don’t want to take up a lot of space. That can be a tall order. Fortunately, there are some great products out there that make traveling a lot easier. For example, we love the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack. It looks just like a little pouch but then it opens up into a fairly roomy backpack!
You want everything you need to be accessible without taking up precious legroom. This absolutely does the trick! We can fit multiple water bottles, snacks, toiletries, boarding passes, etc… inside of this. I’m always amazed by how much will fit in there! Then, when it’s empty, I just fold it back up and tuck it away. It’s perfect!
Airlines tend to provide a variety of options for keeping passengers entertained on long-haul flights, but we’ve also seen the WiFi and in-flight entertainment services fail. That’s why we like to have a backup. Who wants to be sitting there twiddling their thumbs for 10 hours straight? Then again, we’d probably just go to sleep!
Books and magazines don’t require technology to enjoy. We find them to be a great low-tech way to keep your mind from turning to mush. Eyes get tired in that dim cabin light? You can also download movies and television shows to your devices so that you can watch them even without WiFi!
Long-haul flights can be pretty grueling. After a few hours, you just want to be off the plane! The best thing you can do is plan ahead to make sure you feel comfortable and prepared. We hope these suggestions help you enjoy your flight so that you can arrive at your destination ready for adventure!
How to Stay Healthy on a Long Haul Flight
If you’re concerned about getting sick on a flight, know that you’re not alone. The longer you sit on an airplane with other passengers, the longer you’re exposed to whatever illness they may be carrying. It’s not the most pleasant thought, but it’s good to be practical and prepared.
Researchers have discovered that there are three main ways you can catch a cold or flu on an airplane:
- Sitting next to the sick person
- Walking by them/having them walk by your seat
- Touching contaminated surfaces
We’ve written a detailed post about how we stay healthy while traveling, but there are a few quick tips that are easy to implement. Here are some ways to guard against infection on your next flight:
- Keep your hands clean (use sanitizer!)
- Use a disinfectant wipe on your tray table, seat belt, seat back, and armrests
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with dirty hands
- Clean your hands before eating
- Wear a face mask as a barrier
- Bring your own bottled water and stay hydrated
- If you take a drink from the flight attendant, skip the ice
- Sit in the window seat. It can help create a barrier (at least on one side!)
- Avoid the bathroom (and at least wear shoes is you really have to go!).
- Turn away from people who are coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose.
The researchers also said that the best way to avoid getting sick on your flight is to not get up more than you need to, sterilize the tray table, and avoid the nasty bathroom. Yes, this is difficult on longer flights, but it’s entirely possible.
Sometimes, natural remedies can help give our immune systems a little boost to fight off germs. Maybe it’s all mental, but we’ve found certain things very helpful. Here are some travel essentials for long haul flights that we don’t leave home without:
Dealing Long Haul Flight Anxiety
Being on a flight for hours can be mentally draining. A question I’ve heard is, “how can people with anxiety survive a long flight?” If you live with anxiety, you’ll know that being inside a plane can trigger your symptoms.
While we like to take a natural approach when possible if your symptoms are very intense it might be worth talking to your healthcare provider before the trip. They may be able to offer suggestions or even a prescription to help you be more comfortable on the airplane.
One of my must-haves is lavender essential oil. Be mindful of the fact that others around you may not like the smell. You can open the bottle and sniff if you’re feeling overwhelmed. The scent might be soothing. An alternative is to dab a few drops on your wrists or behind your ears. I’ve also got an aromatherapy necklace designed to gently diffuse essential oils.
Additionally, using some good deep breathing techniques can really help keep anxiety in check. We do diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, whenever we’re feeling tense. We’ve taught our kids to do the same. Here’s a quick overview of one of the techniques that we use:
- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest
- Allow your stomach to rise as you inhale through your nose to the count of three. The hand on your chest should not move
- Pause briefly before exhaling to the count of three, allowing your stomach to fall
- Continue breathing this way for as long as needed
Surviving a marathon trek can take some planning, but the right long haul flight essentials and a plan for managing jet lag, illness, and anxiety will make all the difference. We hope this guide will help you have the best trip of your life. Happy travels!