How I Get Through Really Long Flights


Exploring new countries is fun, but having to get through long flights to get there sometimes sucks.

I’ve had a whirlwind year that has had me on incredibly long-haul flights almost ten times in the past four months. Here’s just a few of the passes I had to make:

New York—UAE (12 hours) Kathmandu—New York (19 hours) Manila—New York (18 hours) New York—Malaysia (23 hours) New York –Uzbekistan (23 hours)

BUT, it’s worth it to me to be able to chase my dreams and live my passion in traveling the world.

A friend of mine recently asked how I get through long flights, and I realized, I’ve developed a few tricks in this department. Here are a few of them:

Plug in and stay entertained to help you get through long flights.

Stay Entertained

I hardly ever feel the need to go see movies in the theaters now, because I’ve seen every single Oscar-winning movie from the last few years on a plane. My typical routine is to watch 2 or 3 movies and then try to sleep. Then I’ll wake up, and watch one or two more.

But once on a flight from the Philippines (that’s an 18-hour beast) our in-flight entertainment system was down, which meant no movies, no TV shows, no audio, no nothing.

So in that situation, I read a book, wrote in my journal and slept as much as I could. I also kicked myself for not having a back-up of my favorite Netflix shows downloaded on my phone.

Did you know you can download movies to watch offline on your Netflix app?? GAME CHANGER.

Get Your Head Right

A lot of travelers have anxiety about flying and really dread doing long flights. I think it’s all about settling into the mentality that you’re just going to be on a long flight, and there’s nothing you can do about it except settle in and get as comfortable as possible. Sometimes this mental click of “oh, right, I just sit here” has to happen before you can enjoy yourself on a plane and not feel anxious and ready for it to be over. Remember: flying is super safe! If all else fails, there’s free wine. 😉

Choose a Comfortable Seat and Make It Your Space

When it comes to enjoying a long flight, seating is CRUCIAL.

I personally always opt for a window seat (on the right side of the plane, but that’s just me) because I can sleep comfortably with a small travel pillow in the window seat more than anywhere else.

You’ll also want to sit mid-section or towards the back of the plane if you can, to avoid screaming babies that almost always take up the first rows of each section.

I find those around-the-neck pillows to be incredibly uncomfortable, so I travel with a small portable travel pillow like this one–it rolls up into itself when you’re not using it!

I also make sure to bring a comfortable set of ear plugs like these pressure-reducing pair—if you don’t do this now, trust me, they’ll change everything for you.

Dress Comfortably, But Not Horribly

The key here is to be comfortable without looking too shabby. I typically rock black leggings and a long over-size tank or t-shirt, as well as a comfortable but loose sweater and boots.

Bringing a long scarf can come in handy too—use it as a pillow, a blanket or an eye-mask when the lights are turned on.

Beat Leg Swelling and Dry Skin

I’ve also discovered the best way to keep your legs from swelling: don’t take your shoes off. I now always keep my shoes on even on the longest flights, and I feel much better when I arrive in a new place. Other travelers I know wear compression socks—but I find my boots act as more or less the same thing.

I suggest you to browse this site to learn why compression socks should be worn before you feel discomfort and the benefits of wearing them.

I also make sure to visit the lavatory often (no UTIs for me, thanks) and while I’m there, I’ll throw some moisturizer on my face to keep my skin from drying out.

Say No to Extra Food and Alcohol

On most long flights I find that I’m being fed too often—I’m not really moving my body, after all, so when another meal comes I’m usually not hungry.

Traveling as much as I have means I have gained unwanted weight this year, so to combat that, I try to say no when I’m not actually hungry. Instead, I bring light snacks with me to hold me over.

I don’t personally drink on flights, just because I want to arrive feeling excited to explore and not tired from the booze. But that’s a personal call.

Find a Routine That Works

Ultimately, getting through a flight is all about finding what works. For me that means distracting myself, catching some sleep, eating, and distracting myself some more. But I find I enjoy flying most of the time.

Having awesome adventures sometimes involves making long-distance journeys.

What’s your strategy for getting through long flights?


About Author

Kelly Lewis is the founder of Go! Girl Guides, the Women's Travel Fest and Damesly. She's an optimist, an adventurer, an author and works to help women travel the world.


  1. Great advice. I find trying to switch as soon as possible to the destination time also really helps combat jetlag. Try to see the sunrise and sunsets as you travel and as soon as possible when you reach your destination – it helps your circadian rhythm and being outside after a long haul flight is good for your body and soul too!

    • Those are great tips! I find I almost never work on a plane–it’s the one time no one can get a hold of me and I try to take advantage of it! 🙂

  2. Hi Kelly, great tips. I’ll try it out. My problem is I stay awake all the time when I fly so I arrive tired. Am looking at some upcoming trips anxiously now.
    Any good tips for dropping off to sleep without taking medications?

  3. Yes! I think silence is key. Get some ear plugs, an eye mask and make yourself as comfy as possible. I try to sleep whenever I feel the urge– for me it’s usually during or after take off.

  4. The longest flight I`ve been on was 15 hours and in flight entertainment was the key – whether playing games or watching movies. Like you, I don`t often go to movies so this is time to catch up! I was lucky to be dead tired after the holiday and was able to sleep for most of my return trip.

    I have sound cancelling ear buds. In my opinion, a must have as it really cancels out the rumble of the airplane.

    And take advantage of the time to do an enjoyable activity. For me it is an adult colouring book.

    The colouring book, ear buds, and your own entertainment on a tablet is also great when stuck at airports due to long stops, flight delays, weather, etc. And since I can`t always rely on power to recharge my ‘stuff’ I now take a portable battery for my electronics.

    Lastly when on a long haul and arriving at a new city, I pre-arrange the trip to my hotel and, for the first night, stay at a nice hotel – this is my little indulgence.

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