Your First Long-Distance Flight: A Guide to Surviving The Long Haul


Your first long distance flight can be unnerving. To make sure everything goes smoothly, I’ve learned from experience that meticulous organization is key.

For a little context, my family is ‘bi-continental’. I have made many trips over the Atlantic, to the point where packing my carry-on has become an art.

Every airport, airline, and travel conditions bring their own little quirks. After your first flight you will learn a lot about your travel persona. But, for the first-timer, who hasn’t discovered their “travel mantra” yet, the most daunting problem is “where to start?”

So I’m here to offer you my many year’s worth of tips and tricks on how to feel confident, relaxed and prepared for your first long haul flight.

How to prepare for a long haul flight
Choose your bag carefully and pack wisely.

I always take a backpack because it’s easier on my body to carry for many hours. Be very selective of what you pack since you have to lug this bag, your suitcase, and your purse everywhere. Being saddled with a bunch of heavy luggage is the worst!

Layer your bag

Bring a thin blanket, for a more cozy flight nap. Fold or roll the blanket and place in the bottom of your bag. Then make sure to pack things to keep yourself entertained. For me, it’s an epic book, my journal, and noise-cancelling headphones to listen to music or a podcast in peace.

Follow it all up with a spare scarf, which also doubles in a pinch as a handy pillow, and then make-up bag and toiletries. (This is one of our favorite travel scarves here at Go! Girl Guides!)

I also like to leave a little room at the top of my bag to stash my purse for those times when two bags gets to be too cumbersome.

Keep your make-up bag small

Stick to the essentials here. I only bring hand sanitizer, make-up wipes, earplugs, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. Keep make-up to a minimum; for me, it’s concealer, blush, and mascara. And remember – all tubes, gels, and bottles must be under 100 mL.

Buy a backpack with a padded section for your laptop

That way it’s accessible to quickly pull out during security checks without messing up the rest of the bag. I keep my folder of important papers in this section too.

Bring a refillable water bottle

I usually take a metal one with a screw-on top. The metal bottles can take a beating and are super easy to empty and refill in a hurry.

No valuables in the front pockets of your backpack

I used to keep my most used objects in the extra pockets and then one day I lost my iPod. A silly, but common, mistake.

Dress comfortably and in layers

Do try to avoid wearing a belt or many accessories because you will have to take it all off to go through the metal detector.

Feeling anxious?

Try over-the-counter melatonin or anti-histamine pills.

While in the aircraft, it’s so important to remember to get up and stretch as well. Your body and your brain will thank you.

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your neighbor at the beginning of the flight. Now you have established some decorum with your seatmate, it will make it easier to pester them later to move of their seat so you can to go to the bathroom.

Don’t eat a lot of sugary or salty snacks.

In my experience, jet lag + dehydration + sugar hangover = The Worst Arrival Ever.

On arrival, I jump into the nearest bathroom for a chance to freshen up. You have time before your bags will be on the carousal; use that moment to gather yourself and get your bearings straight. It helps to jump into your usual morning routine in order to wake-up from airplane grogginess.

How do you prepare for long flights?


About Author

Meredith was bit by travel bug in 2009 and has been on the move since then. Her adventures started in Finland where she visited a Sami reindeer farm in Lapland, dogsled and ran in the forests of Finland, and then backpacked around western Europe. Later, she moved to Kenya for a Communications internship. She took advantage of her good fortune and went on safari in the Maasai Mara as well as explored beach paradise on a motorcycle. No matter where she goes, she never forgets about her home in Canada and greatly enjoys road trips across the Rocky Mountains and along coast of British Columbia. She is currently living in Canada working as a freelance writer and a communications specialist. You can follow her adventures and discoveries on curiousmeredith or get your tweet on with her @MeredithBratlan

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