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How to survive a long haul flight and make it more comfortable, sabbatical meaning, career break

How to survive a long haul flight?

When you decide to travel, it usually involves flying on a plane but flying long haul can be quite uncomfortable (if you are unprepared). After a long haul flight to Thailand in 2015 and I got off the plane feeling groggy and drained. Three days into the trip, I came down with a horrible cold, which then turned into a chest and ear infection and I am adamant that I caught the cold from the flight. I now prepare for long haul flights and here are my tips for feeling fresh when you reach the next destination. Obviously, the best way to make your journey more comfortable would be to fly in business or first class, but for me and most of us, that is not an option.

If you are heading off around the world on your career break or sabbatical then its likely that you will be flying a lot and these simple tips will hopefully make your travel days a little more comfortable.

Here are my top tips for surviving long haul flights:

1. Wear the right clothes

Wearing comfortable clothes is vital on a long haul flight. Yes, your skinny jeans may look sexy but 5 hours into a 15-hour flight, you may start to regret your choice of outfit. I'm not the most fashion conscious, so I always go for comfort on long haul flights. A comfy pair of leggings, a t-shirt and a baggy hoody is a good bet. I also take a scarf in my carry on, which turns into a blanket if I fancy a nap or to wear if the air con is too cold. It is also a good idea to take some clothes which you can layer so you can prepare for feeling hot or cold.

2.  Try taking an antihistamine

If you suffer from allergies, take an antihistamine before the flight and keep some in your bag. However, be aware that antihistamine they can dry the oral and nasal membranes which can lead to dehydration. If you need to take these, then ensure to increase your hydration. I do find taking an antihistamine just before a flight helps me avoid getting an itchy nose and eyes. I am by no means a doctor, this is just something that works well for me.

How to survive a long haul flights and make it more comfortable, sabbatical meaning, career break


3.   Prepare a Survival Pack

I always prepare a survival pack for a long haul flight in a small bag, which I can quickly pull out of my carry on when I get on the plane. In mine I have painkillers, vaseline, eye mask, earplugs, kindle, puzzle book, phone, iPod, passport (just because I like to have it near to me), antibacterial wipes, face wipes and a cereal bar. The survival pack has the necessities to keep you comfortable and entertained throughout a flight and saves you having to go through all of your carry on bag to find your earplugs. 

4.   Keep Hydrated

It is very tempting to reduce your water intake so you don't have to keep going to the toilet, but keeping hydrated is very important. It is very tempting to take advantage of the free beer and wine, but the alcohol can add to dehydration. 

I use a Camelbak Chute bottle which I fill up before getting on the plane, as most airports now have free water dispensers. My Camelbak has travelled to over 20 countries and is still going strong.

How to survive a long haul flights and make it more comfortable, sabbatical meaning, career break

5.  Buy Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray

Vicks First Defence is a nasal spray which catches and kills any nasty bacteria in your nose to prevent cold and flu. If you spray it when you first get on the plane and then after the flight, it can help avoid catching a common cold. It is worth giving it a go and nothing is lost if it doesn't work. I swear by this stuff and only had one cold in 9 months on my last backpacking trip!

6.  Find a good book

Finding a good read can make the time pass a lot quicker, is there anything better than getting lost in a good book or two. It is quite rare in normal day to day life you find yourself with 12 hours to spare. I brought a kindle for my backpacking trip after refusing to buy one for years because I liked the feel of a real book, but I was quickly converted and I don't go anywhere without it now. 

7.  Bring healthy snacks

Plane food and the treats on offer are usually full of salt, which can reduce to dehydration and there is usually little or non-nutritional value in them. I like to take some healthy snacks to eat on the flight, such as cereal or granola bars and a few bits of fruit...just maybe not a banana as I found out the hard way on a flight a few years ago. I think that backpack still stinks of squished banana to this day. 

How to survive a long haul flights and make it more comfortable, sabbatical meaning, career break

8.  Keep your valuables close to you

There have been horror stories that fellow passengers wait for you to fall into a deep sleep and they then go through your bag to see what goodies they can find. I appreciate you would have to be unlucky for this to happen, but I rest better knowing that my valuables are close to me. If I have space I will put my bag under the seat, or I will make sure I have my passport, money and electronics on me.

9.  Invest in a head pillow

I find it really hard to fall asleep anywhere, whereas my partner, Rob, could fall asleep on a cactus. I invested in a Cabeau Evolution Pillow. The pillow had good reviews online and it definitely helps me catch a few zzzzzz'd. Neck pillows really help prevent you from waking up with an achy neck and they can be used on the beach, hostels, trains and buses, well worth the money if you ask me. 

10.  Sleep

As you have got your neck pillow, try and get as much sleep as possible. I used to try and keep myself awake to attempt to get myself in a different time zone, but I think ultimately this made me feel more tired. Now, if I feel tired when I'm flying, I sleep.

11.  Walk around

If possible try and walk around as much as possible, this is good for your joints and your muscles but also to try and reduce deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a formation of bloody cots in deep veins which can occur during long flights. You could also wear sexy flight socks which help reduce the chance of DVT.

12.  Keep entertained

Pre-load your laptop/phone/tablet full of your favourite series, podcasts and movies. It is so easy to binge-watch a series and suddenly three hours have disappeared.

How to survive a long haul flights and make it more comfortable, sabbatical meaning, career break

So there are my tips on how to survive a long haul flight. I am not a doctor, so my tips are purely based on my opinions, but I hope they help!

Do you have any other tips which help you survive a long haul flight?


If you are considering taking a career break or sabbatical, here are some helpful posts:


If you have taken a career break or sabbatical and have a story to tell, drop me an email at to be a part of the interview series.


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How to survive a long haul flights and make it more comfortable , sabbatical meaning


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