Long-Haul Travel: A Frequent Flyer’s Survival Guide. PART II


Travelling is something I plan to do for years to come and having a home base in Australia means long-haul flights are an inevitable part of getting from A to B. Finding ways to cope became a priority for me a long time ago.

So what do I do to survive?

I’m not saying any of this going to make things awesome, but it could help to take the edge off a little.


Fly First Class


You can’t afford it? Neither can I. Don’t worry, I have a back up plan!


Photo: Flickr creative commons


A quick tip: Check out your Air Miles / Frequent Flyer program and see how many points you need to purchase a class upgrade. You might be almost there!


Failing that…sweet talk / beg the airline rep for an upgrade when you check in.

(Yes, upgrades do happen occasionally. Read the article ‘Is Flying First Class Really Worth The Extra Money’ by Jade of Vagabond 3 about a recent upgrade.)


OR suck it up and resort to other, more realistic options below.




Choose a seat with Seat Guru

Do you really want to be stuck in the middle seats in a row of four people for 13+ hours? Uh, no I didn’t think so.


Make sure this doesn’t happen by pre-selecting your seat preferences. This can usually be done at the time of booking or by contacting the airline.


How do you know which is seats are good and which are crap? The website Seat Guru will tell you. Punch in your flight details and you will get a seat map and breakdown of your aircraft, seat by teeny, tiny seat. It’s brilliant.


Things to consider when choosing your seat:

  • Aisle or window? (I prefer aisle as you can get up and down without having to unnaturally contort yourself over three other passengers. It’s also the safest if you crash. Not that you will.)
  • Proximity to the toilets (distance is good)
  • Does the seat recline? Most airlines have a few seats with limited or no recline ability. Fine for a 3 hour flight. Not so much for a 13 hour flight. Picture this: The person in front of you decides to recline their chair back as far as it will go – your already precious space just halved. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Not good people, not good at all. Seat Guru is your new best friend.


airline seating

Photo: Flickr creative commons


Already booked your flight and didn’t choose your seats?
Don’t panic just quite yet. The first step would be to contact the airline you are flying with and request a seat allocation. You may even be able to do this online.


If you have a booked a code share flight this can sometimes prove difficult, even if you contact the airline directly. You can still try when you check in and if that fails, once you board the flight approach a flight attendant and see if they can arrange something. Don’t give up!!



Purchase an Emergency Exit / Extra Legroom Seat

Best. Invention. Ever.

Many airlines have this option now and it’s usually surprisingly reasonably priced. Contact the airline directly to arrange this.

(Bear in mind that most Emergency Exit seating is near the toilets, which can sometimes be annoying.)


Break up The Flight with a Stop-over

This is not for everyone.

Some people prefer to just keep going and get the whole nasty business over and done with. But on a long-haul flight you are likely to touch down somewhere.

(Unless you are flying Sydney/Melbourne to LA…then you are on that plane for 15 hours without a break. Sorry.)



So instead of just wandering around the airport for 4 or 5 hours why not stay overnight at an airport hotel. It’s not a budget option by any means, but this IS your sanity we are talking about. Singapore’s Changi Airport is my favourite place for a quick overnight stop. The hotel is in the airport itself so you don’t even need to clear customs.


Even better still…try to fly via a city you would actually like to visit and stay a couple of days.


A stopover would usually have to be arranged when booking your flights but doesn’t necessarily cost that much more. Sometimes it won’t cost any extra depending on who you are flying with and where you want to stop. Choose the ‘multi-flight’ option on the flight search engine you are using to book a stopover.


As someone who can’t sleep on flights, I find this takes the edge off the anxiety I feel towards my long-haul flights. I’ve only been doing this the last couple of years, but there’s not turning back now! I have a stop in Singapore on my flights to and from Europe in April.




Something to Help You Sleep

I always take some mild sleeping tablets with me when I fly. Sometimes they work for a couple of hours. Mostly they don’t. But I know people who swear by this! You can always go for a herbal remedy if you prefer. Have a chat with your pharmacist or GP for specific suggestions.


Whatever you use, test it out before you fly so you know how your body will react.


Headphones, earplugs, eyemasks and more…


Noise-reduction headphones: these are a godsend. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on them. Mine cost about $50 and work really well…unless there is some freakishly loud snoring and cackling going on.

(these come complimentary on many business class flights.)


Earplugs: I never fly without earplugs.

Both the headphones and/or earplugs are great for reducing the engine noise.


Neck pillow: I find the inflatable ones incredibly uncomfortable. The bean-filled, material neck pillows are much better, and kinder to your neck. You should be able to pick one up from most major airports for around $20.


do not disturb Eyemask

Photo: Flickr creative commons


Eye mask: Yes, some airlines still provide them. And yes, they are usually horribly uncomfortable.  Take your own.


Pressure stockings: Oh yes, they are super-sexy. But if you suffer from swelling or pain in your legs when you fly you aren’t going to be looking or feeling particularly sexy anyway. Remember to put them on before you fly.



Something to Read

There is a time and a place for masterpieces. If you’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity to read Irigaray‘s ‘The Forgetting of Air’ or some other work of literary genius that deserves (and requires) your undivided attention…this is not the time.


The popular fiction best sellers at airport newsstand will serve you much better: something light, easy and entertaining. Even an old favourite that you have read before.


There is a great NY Times article called Learning to Love Airport Lit about this very topic and is worth a read. (Recommended via Shevaun at it gives it thew and fires it and bloods it in)


Take your own snacks

FACT: the airline food could quite possibly kill you.

I’m serious.

All right, I’m not serious. But it will quite possibly gross you out and ruin your appetite forever. Not cool. And you don’t want to go hungry.

In case you missed the wonderful visual example of this in Part One of this post….


airline food

I told you it could kill you!


Take a few substantial snacks just in case the meal is really bad – museli bars, dried fruit and nut mix, cheese and biscuits, and even a sandwich are all good ideas.

Oh, and chocolate of course.


*   *   *   *   *   *

Hope some of these ideas help with your next long haul flight!

This is what works for me: what are some of your failsafe remedies for ensuring a good long-haul flight experience?


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Comments (12)
  • Avatar

    jade Feb 27 2012 - 9:41 pm Reply

    I used to always pick the window seat, but now I like the aisle. I like to be able to get up whenever I want and not feel like I’m bugging the other passengers. I also like to sit towards the front of the plane. Getting off first is so lovely, I hate to wait while everyone takes so long to get off.

    Thanks for including my first class piece. If I had my way, I would always fly first class!
    jade recently posted..Barcelona to Girona: A Perfect Weekend HolidayMy Profile

    • Avatar

      quietwanderings Mar 1 2012 - 7:15 am Reply

      Me too, Jade. First class makes all the difference to a long-haul flight. Funny, I used to like the window when I first started travelling too. I try to get up as much as possible and walk around (especially considering I don’t sleep) so aisle is great. It also feels less (slightly) claustrophobic to me.

  • Avatar

    Nicole Schuman Feb 29 2012 - 4:35 pm Reply

    My longest travel time experienced in plane was 5 hours and it’s not that really boring because the I’m seated on a business. So I watched a movie the whole time. Thank you for sharing this..
    Nicole Schuman recently posted..claiming back ppiMy Profile

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      quietwanderings Mar 1 2012 - 7:24 am Reply

      I’m pretty fine with 5 hour flights too, Nicole. Movies make that amount of time go so quick! Lucky you being in business class too – jealous!

  • Avatar

    EurotripTips Mar 5 2012 - 1:37 pm Reply

    Chocolate is always a good idea!

    Personnally, I don’t usually stand up very often when I fly so I usually stick to the window seat – no one bothers me there! I bring my iPod and my noise-canceling headphones and I’m good to go for 10 hours.

    • Avatar

      quietwanderings Mar 7 2012 - 11:06 pm Reply

      Yep, you can’t go wrong with chocolate! And aren’t noise-canceling headphones the best?!

  • Avatar

    Julia Mar 5 2012 - 2:01 pm Reply

    Though occasionally I worry that airport security is judging me, I NEVER fly without sleep aids! Not any flight over 3 hours, anyway. Delicious meds… also, seatguru is a MUST for finding a great seat!
    Julia recently posted..A sticky subjectMy Profile

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      quietwanderings Mar 7 2012 - 11:08 pm Reply

      Haha – let them judge, Julia. There’s no reason why you can’t take them with you. And so many people do it.

  • Avatar

    Stephanie - The Travel Chica Mar 6 2012 - 1:26 am Reply

    Completely agree about the airplane food. I always bring my own healthy snacks. It helps your body sleep better on the flight and recovery better afterwards.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Celebrating Summer in ValdiviaMy Profile

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      quietwanderings Mar 7 2012 - 11:13 pm Reply

      It’s always a blessing when you don’t cringe when you airline food is placed in front of you. But healthy snacks are such a good back up.

  • Avatar

    cheryl Mar 25 2012 - 7:28 pm Reply

    Some really great tips. I really like the idea behind seat guru and will use this when planning my future trips!
    cheryl recently posted..Street Art In Havana.My Profile

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    *Hawaii* Apr 28 2014 - 5:39 am Reply

    Thanks, it sounds like first class is the way to travel especially on a long flight.

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