How to Survive a Long Flight

To my fellow travelers out there, we know that in many cases the “traveling” itself is actually the worst part. Some locations more than others can have excruciatingly long travel times while you wait in cramped anticipation to land at your final destination. Sorry to break it to you, but Floo Powder still only exists in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
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When I first left for Zambia I had 30+ hours of travel time ahead of me. During one of the three flights it took to get there, I remember thinking to myself that I was crazy and wondering what I got myself into. Over a days worth of traveling?! I was for sure going bonkers. The good news is that my sanity returned after finally arriving in Livingstone, and I had a terrific experience that was totally worth the travel time. How did I survive? That is exactly what I am here to tell you today.

Flight to Zambia

My ultimate flying necessity: Dramamine. I won’t fly without it. It cures my motion sickness like a charm, even allowing me to comfortably read on the plane. It also helps put me to sleep when I need to catch some zzz’s. Sleep is critical, especially on those long overnight flights. It could mean using a neck pillow or eye mask, having a drink, taking sleeping pills, or listening to music. Whatever it takes, do what you need to so you are able to get some rest and feel somewhat refreshed when you arrive.

Make sure you take advantage of long layovers! If you have the time, get out and see a new (or familiar) city. It will beat sitting around in an airport any day! (Well, maybe not for much longer with the crazy cool airports that are developing, like the growing Dubai International Airport or Singapore’s Changi Airport). For now, do some research on where you have a layover. See if it is feasible or even a good idea to leave the airport behind for a while and check out what the city has to offer. There are always forums (check TripAdvisor!) where people give advice on things to do in the city where you have a layover, the best transportation to take from the airport, how much time you will need, etc.

Zurich, Switzerland

On the way to Zambia, my sister and I spent a day in Frankfurt, Germany and on the way back home we spent a day in Zurich, Switzerland. I got to explore two new cities just because of layovers! Had we not stopped in Zurich on the way home I would have missed out on enjoying the beauty of the spectacular sunrise over Lake Zurich. I’d say that definitely beats spending long hours in an airport.

Sunrise in Zurich, Switzerland

They key with layovers is to make sure you pack a change of clothes in your carry on. I would not walk around in Germany or Switzerland in yoga pants, but I also do not want to wear jeans on a long flight. Packing a change of clothes to have with you is good to do anyway, just to be prepared for that worst case scenario where your luggage could get lost.

Just want to kill some time? I enjoy reading on flights. I can knock out a whole lot of reading with long flight times. The in flight movies are also a great option. They usually have quite a few choices of TV shows or movies to watch on most flights. The SkyMall magazine is another good choice that is always a winner. It is amazing some of the items that they sell in there! And finally… snacks! Eating is always a fun time-killer, right? You will be glad you have something to much on when you start to get hungry in between those lovely in-flight meals.

Have more long flight survival tips? Share in the comments!


Comments

  1. Dramamine is my saving grace as well. I loathe long flights and am often nervous to begin with, so I have to knock myself out. Unfortunately I’ve never had a layover long enough to explore, but hopefully I’ll make it happen someday. Great tips!

  2. I’ve never heard of Dramamine, but maybe I’ll look into that. I always have trouble sleeping on flights, and it’s not fun on a long travel day with multiple layovers! And yes, I definitely agree with snacks! For some reason, the airplane food made me really sick last time, so for tomorrow’s long flight, I’m bringing all my own snacks!

    • Definitely check out Dramamine- I have not seen it in other countries besides the US, but I also haven’t looked very hard since I usually stock up before leaving home. Airplane food can always be a little iffy, and having snacks always help, especially in between meals! Thanks for reading!

  3. Van @ On the Road again Says: July 6, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Wow, that definitely is a hell of journey! I don’t know if I would be up for that…..don’t exactly enjoy flying but I’ve heard of Dramamine before and really need to check whether or not they’re selling it in Europe too. Seems to be a magic pill 😉

    • Yes it sure was! I have not seen Dramamine outside of the US, but I also haven’t looked very hard since I usually stock up before I leave home. But it really does make those long flights a lot less uncomfortable!

  4. I am actually always surprised how the airlines have thought well the crew activities during the flight to help break the flight time into smalker bits. Snacks, drinks, coffee, meal, movie, repeat, etc… But waiting at the airport between the flights is terrible. Great tips! I’ve never thought about bringing another set of clothes. It definitely makes sense. Thanks for sharing!

    • Long waiting times can really increase the anticipation of arriving at the final destination. That flight to and from Zambia was pretty brutal, but it was definitely worth it! Thanks for reading!

  5. I actually enjoy long-haul flights because they seem to be the only time I get uninterrupted reading time, and if there’s not in-flight wifi I don’t have to feel guilty about not working. 🙂 I’ll have my first long layover in Toronto, Canada coming up and I will definitely take advantage of it!

    • Ah yes, reading is for sure one of the major perks of long flights. It is rare that I ever get that much reading done, especially in one sitting! Have fun in Toronto, there should be plenty to do there during your layover!

  6. I just like to sleep, sleep, sleep through a long flight! Great article!

  7. Great post! I am going to Zambia(Zambian checkin’ in) this September although I am glad my glad to Zambia is only about 16 hours I will be taking advantage of the layover in Amsterdam! Will be checking out the rest of your blog on your trip to Zambia.

    Visual Diary | Discover Hong Kong

  8. I’ve never experienced a long flight before – I guess 45 minutes from London to Glasgow doesn’t count 😛 – but the tips will come in useful for the future!

  9. I’m going on a long flight this week so these tips will be coming in really useful – I’m a big fan of stocking up on snacks as if the plane food is bad and you’re stuck in a small airport or with long delays, it can be rather problematic!

  10. I’ve never experienced a long flight like that before! Usually I like to read, watch movies, eat, or look out the window and take photos 🙂 That is an incredibly long flight and I’m glad you got to experience those cities on your layovers!

  11. Great tips. I can never be bothered to take extra clothes, unless we get to use the airport lounge. Which makes for another tip – pay to use the lounges, they make a MASSIVE difference when waiting. Thanks a bunch for joining us for #SundayTraveler this week.

  12. Ergh. Long flights. I have not-so-fond memories of a 14 hour direct flight to Singapore. The free wine helped. I’m afraid to try an ambien because I’m 90% sure I’d end up re-enacting that scene from Bridesmaids. I’ll have to think more about trying more stop-over locations.

  13. Having a change of clothes in your carry-on is such a good idea. Handy if you’re going to explore a city during a layover or if the guy next to you spills red wine on you during the flight.

  14. My first long flight was from Miami to London, and even though it was a red eye, I was so excited I didn’t sleep one wink. I ended up watching about 5 movies, two television episodes, played a game of Solitare, and began making a music playlist by the time we were touching down. So I’m not sure if in-flight televisions were my best friend, or worst enemy, but it definitely helped the time go by!

  15. Some good tips. Ah, we are coming up on a similarly long flight next week to Kenya and then later a 30+ set of connecting flights back to SFO. I really become bored and uncomfortable on flights over 4 or 5 hours, and I try to do everything to distract myself but sleep is really the only thing that generally can make them really pass by quickly. Problem is I am a horrible sleeper on planes (cars, trains, etc.) so I take earplugs, eyemask, a blanket, etc. to try to help sleep.

    • Plane sleep is definitely not the most comfortable, I usually try to alternate between reading and sleep. The reading makes me sleepy and when I can’t sleep, I wake up and read! Good luck with your long flight!

  16. All good tips! I always take a toothbrush and toothpaste with me wherever I go. I find that a quick brush of the teeth makes me feel SO much better. I also take face wipes. Damn those long flights… they are always worth it in the end!

  17. stopping over via #SundayTraveler.
    these are good tips, I’ve never had a long layover to go out and explore a city. but I definitely would if I had the opportunity.

  18. 30 hours is terrible! I really despise long flights. The longest journey I had was about 24 hours but only because my flight was cancelled and then I had to rebook. Everything was delayed which just made it worse.

  19. […] To my fellow travelers out there, we know that in many cases the “traveling” itself is actually the worst part. Some locations more than others can have excruciatingly long travel times while you wait in cramped anticipation to land at your final destination. Sorry to break it to you, but Floo Powder still only exists in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  When I first left for Zambia I had 30+ hours of travel time ahead…(read more) […]

  20. I’ve had my share of 36 hour routes from one side of the world to another. I am so thankfully that I’m not in the least prone to motion sickness. Books and snacks are good entertainment, and now that more and more planes have movies on demand, the long flights are much more bearable! I have a 10 hour flight tomorrow…

    • It definitely is becoming easier to stay entertained now with more and more options that are added. SO lucky that you do not get motion sickness! Hope you have a great flight!

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