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Tips to Survive a Long Flight (What to Wear and Pack)

There is nothing quite like loading yourself into a single, poorly padded, seat for multiple hours that can soon lead to some major discomfort. But don’t let that stop you from exploring! You can survive a long-haul flight if you pack some airplane essentials and know a few tips for what to wear and what seat to pick!

What to Wear For a Long Flight

My go-to long haul flight outfit is pretty simple. This is one time when comfort is a priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to look frumpy. You can leave the pajama pants packed away and still survive a long flight in economy with a few little tricks.

  • Comfortable Pants
  • Top with Cardigan or Hoodie
  • Blanket Scarf or Travel Blanket
  • Compression Socks
  • Slip-On Shoes

First, let’s talk about pants. I love to wear solid black leggings. They can be paired with some cute tops and/or cardigans and look fashionable while still staying comfortable. I buy simple ones Amazon, but I also love prAna leggings.

If you’re not a legging person, or if you really need pockets, you can find some great travel pants that work well. Look for soft, quick-drying fabrics, and I personally prefer elastic waistbands, but I’ve really fallen in love with these Columbia pants. Men can wear jeans but might prefer athletic or travel pants.

I love to wear soft t-shirts when I fly. My favorites are from prAna. But any soft comfortable tee will work. I often pair my leggings and t-shirt with a long cardigan that has pockets. I wear one that I got from a Stitch Fix box, but my friend loves the SCOTTeVEST cardigan. Men might want to bring a hoodie for an added layer.

You might also want to wear a blanket scarf on the flight. While I have a travel blanket, I often pack, a cute blanket scarf will make your outfit look more put together. Plus, it can serve as a good travel item to wear during your trip. You can also pack a travel blanket that packs up small.

As I’ll mention below, consider packing a pair of compression socks, perhaps also a pair of cozy socks to keep your feet warm. And be sure to carefully chose what shoes to wear for your flight. I highly recommend slip-on shoes, I like these Dr. Scholl’s shoes.

Of course, if you’re packing light you might be wearing your bulkiest shoes, but if you can, wear slip-ons. They’ll help you breeze through security as well as make it easy to slip off your shoes for the long flight (just keep your feet under your seat space).

what to wear on a long flight
Best clothes to wear to stay comfortable on a long flight

Long Haul Flight Tips

Here are a few of my best travel tips for long flights, including what I think are the best seats for long flights.

Choosing the Right Seat

The first tip has to do with seat choice, and I have a few thoughts on that. First, if you have long legs, consider splurging for an extra legroom premium seat if available.

Just be sure that the premium seat includes extra legroom, some premium seats do not have more room and only offer early boarding or forward seat location perks.

If you’re not splurging for premium seats, then check the seat map and don’t be scared to pick a farther back row. People love to sit closer to the front, so those rows fill up faster.

However, sometimes on flights that aren’t full you’ll find the back rows have a lot of empty middle seats, sometimes you’ll even see someone with an entirely empty row. Do realize this is where families with young kids typically are assigned seats together so pack some earplugs!

airplane seats

My final tip about seat choice is to choose a window seat if you like to sleep. I often choose aisle seats to prevent claustrophobic feelings, however, I never sleep well with people constantly bumping my shoulder or elbow or grabbing my seat back as they walk past. You’ll also have to get up to let any of your row-mates out to use the restroom, which could interrupt your sleep.

Selecting a window seat allows you to lean against the wall/window and snooze away undisturbed. Window seats also have the perk of getting to look and photograph any beautiful landscapes that you might fly over.

Just be sure to use the restroom right when you board. After meal service can be a good time to use the lavatory too since people are often awake and tray tables aren’t full of meals and drinks.

Stay Hydrated

One thing you’ll notice on long flights is that the flight crew will often walk by with cups of water. There is a reason for that! The airplane cabin has very low humidity and you can quickly become dehydrated.

Dehydration can lead to skin discomfort, fatigue, muscle cramping, and headaches. So, when you see an attendant walk by with a tray or bottle of water, take a cup. Your body will thank you!

Another tip is to pack your own reusable water bottle and to fill it up at the airport once you’ve cleared security. If you have lounge access, they often have chilled, flavored water in a dispenser. Many airports often have water bottle filling stations near the drinking fountains.

Get Up and Move

First and foremost, obey the seat belt light. But if the pilot has given the all-clear to move about the cabin, feel free to take a bit of a walk. I like to regularly head to the bathroom just to stretch my legs and wash my hands.

There are a lot of germs are on airplanes, so keeping your hands washed is a good idea, plus you’ll stretch those legs and that’ll help you stay comfortable.

Long Flight Essentials

The other major tip for surviving a long flight is to pack a few essential travel items that will help you stay comfortable. I always pack a little bag of go-to comfort items for the flight and then have them easily accessible at my feet.

You’re going to want to pack things like gum, hand sanitizer, charging cables, reading material, wipes, eye drops, ibuprofen, and an eye mask just to name a few.

Read my carry on packing list post for my full list and product recommendations of what I pack for a long flight.

Sign up below to get the printable list delivered to your email.

Hopefully, now you’re ready to relax on your next flight. Picking the perfect long haul flight outfit, packing a few travel essentials in your carry on, and knowing a few of my favorite flight tips should help you survive your next long flight.

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Kathryn R

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

I was pulled out for an extensive swab test recently at security. As I pulled up my slacks legs to show my ugly compression socks, I joked about my"old lady socks" . The TSA agent said you'd be surprised how many even young people wear them. Glad to hear there are prettier ones available without paying an arm and a leg! LoL

Kimberly

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

Haha, that's funny and sad! Those TSA checks can really put a damper on your trip. I love how they have cute ones and ones that are a little less intense. I get claustrophobic and tight medical-grade compression socks stress me out!

Heather

Friday 14th of June 2019

As all before me have said, these are great tips! I especially appreciate them as reminders, as my amazing husband and I will be flying to Alexandria, VA next week. I got my first pair of compression socks at Marshall's (solid medium blue made in Italy under $9.00.) and there are great deals on travel items and luggage there and at TJMaxx. I also found a six pack of fun striped compression socks for around $20.00.

Kimberly

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

That's fabulous! I love TJMaxx and I'll have to check out their compression socks when I'm shopping there next. I've heard many rave about getting great suitcase deals there. I often get aromatherapy, purses, and sunglasses!

Kathy

Sunday 1st of July 2018

Going to Canada next weekend from uk. I always get off the plane on arrival with a headache and have it for at least two days accompanied by vomiting ...I’m 68 any tips?

Kimberly

Tuesday 3rd of July 2018

I'd consult your physician before you travel! I know dehydration can cause headaches for me, so perhaps you need to be sure to drink more water before, during, and after your flight.

Donna W

Friday 21st of July 2017

I am a flight attendant and this information is very helpful for those long transatlantic flights. Water, water, and more water is the key to feeling less jet-lagged upon arrival. Too many people indulge in coffee, alcohol and diet coke which are all dieuretics. Good info!

Kimberly

Tuesday 25th of July 2017

Hey Donna, thanks for commenting! I'm amazed at how much better I can feel if I just keep sipping on water.

Christina

Monday 13th of June 2016

I agree with all the tips. I definitely try to get up and move especially for long flights. It really helps to get the circulation going again and allows for some nice deep breaths.

Kimberly

Monday 13th of June 2016

Thanks, Christina -- definitely need to keep those legs moving!

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