How to Survive (and Thrive) on Long Flights

Allison Bruns
May 9, 2018
Family trip to Hong Kong, December 2017.

Let's be honest here. Travelling is amazing and so much fun, but long flights are not. As someone who has taken more flights than they care to count (I once took 10 flights over the course of 14 days), I've learned a thing or two about how to have really good -- and really bad -- flights. Here's my list of top tips to leave airports feeling refreshed, awake, and actually alive.

1. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Don't get me wrong, getting chicken nuggets during layovers is tempting. The smell of French fries is so delicious, and it might be your first instinct to go and get some. Here's my advice: don't. There are usually little stores around the food court or near terminals that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, which is ALWAYS where I bulk up on food. It's only a couple of dollars more than the greasy fried food, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.

2. Walk around the airport during layovers.

In your layover, first find the gate where your next flight is leaving from, but then take a walk around your terminal or the airport. Stretching your legs and getting exercise where you can helps make those long hours on the plane a little bit more bearable. If I have the time, I try to take at least a 10-20 minute walk between flights and do some stretching at the gate before my long flights. I can promise you that it will make your flight so much better and you will leave feeling more awake.

3. If you get motion sickness, take anti-motion sickness medicine 20-30 minutes before takeoff.

To be 100% real, I don't actually get motion sick on planes. However, my well-travelled and overall professional flyer of a sister does. She believes that the hardest parts for motion sickness are takeoff and landing. If you take the medicine before the actual flight, it gives it enough time to be in your system before takeoff, dramatically reducing the chance of sickness.

4. Keep nuts and dried fruit in your carry on.

I took a 13-hour flight from Detroit, MI to Beijing, China. On this flight, they were serving pork stir fry for dinner. Upon opening it, I was overcome with regret. I have never seen food more closely resemble vomit in my life. I took one bite and decided I couldn't go through with eating it in the interest of my safety and overall well-being. This is why it is important to keep sources of protein on you during flights. I ended up eating a protein bar and some nuts for dinner instead, saving my day and flight. Having these things on hand in case of emergencies is always worth it. You'll be grateful you have it when presented with less-than-desirable food!

5. Drink water. And more water. And more water. And more water.

Airplane air is recycled over the course of the flight. What this means to us, the passengers, is that the air is very dry and dehydrating. After your flight, drink 3-4 bottles of water before you go to bed. This might seem excessive, but the more water you drink, the more energized you will feel. You probably won't feel thirsty during your flight, but you are very dehydrated after landing. The faster you replenish the water you lost, the better off you will be.

6. If you have long legs, consider buying an aisle seat instead of the always-popular window seat.

I am 5'8" (172cm), which isn't even that tall, but I have found that the aisle seat helps me out a ton on long flights. The seats on planes, especially coach, are very cramped, so the ability to extend your legs fully is valuable. There are pros and cons to both the window and the aisle, but I tend to find the aisle seat to be worth the cons it has.

7. Bring a toothbrush and toothpaste on the plane with you.

After those long, overnight flights, you leave the plane feeling groggy and tired. One of my tricks to aide that is to bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and sometimes even mouthwash in my carry on. As I am leaving the airport or heading to my next flight, I stop by the bathroom and brush my teeth. This might seem silly, but it genuinely helps you to wake up and feel refreshed and clean.

8. Put your phone inside your carry-on during security and customs.

I have seen this so many times, I feel it is my obligation to share why this is important. Not only is having a visible phone illegal when going through customs in many countries, it also is easier to steal in security. Put your phone away, pay attention, and be cooperative in security and customs. You will go through much easier, faster, and will probably have less trouble.

9. Wait to fall asleep until 8pm after your flight.

Adjusting to jet lag is hard. Something to help is immediately putting your body clock on the area around you. Take sleep medicine if you need. Doing this will help your body adjust faster and easier to your new time zone.


And my golden rule of flying:

10. Be kind to the staff and other passengers.

Every passenger wants to have a safe, easy flight to start their trips. The staff you encounter, whether it be the TSA agents, flight attendants, or the person who you buy food from during your layover, has probably helped a lot of rude people. Kindness goes a long way. Say thank you to your flight attendants, be respectful to security, and smile when ordering your food. Know that everyone is just as tired and frustrated as you are and treat people the way you would want to be treated. It makes for a much better experience for everyone if kindness and generosity is prioritized.

Allison Bruns

<p>Hello, I'm Allison! I am a Public Relations major and I am very passionate about travelling the world and learning about different cultures. I am a serious foodie, and one of my favorite parts of travelling is being able to experience culture through food in the place I'm in. I spent my Winter Break this year in China which was probably my favorite trip I've been on! When I am not flying or taking a road trip, I love all things history. Here's a fun fact about me: when I take study breaks, go on The History Channel website and read different articles about whatever is going on in the history world. I am so excited to be spending time in London and to learn about all of the history and culture there!</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2, 2019 Spring
Home University:
Indiana University
Cincinnati, OH
Public Relations
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