Surviving International Flights

International travel is thrilling except for one big part, the long flight there. Not only can long flights contribute to hard-to-kick jet lag, they can also give your trip a pretty rough start. Let me give you a little insight to this, on our flight to Osaka, Japan I got sick… I mean REALLY sick. Honestly… I was throwing up in the bathroom with multiple people knocking because they needed in. Do I suffer from motion sickness? No. But the turbulence on this flight definitely didn’t help out. So we thought of some helpful carry-on items and tips to help you survive your next long flight.

1. Snacks: But not just any snacks. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and salt content.

These are the snacks we usually bring on a long flight:

-Fruit: clementines, bananas, apples, and grapes are perfect choices for long flights because they have natural sugars, are refreshing, and easy to eat. We also love dried fruit because it is easy to keep fresh and won’t bruise in your bag. Plus many of these are high in vitamin C and will help keep you healthy on the flight as airplanes are breeding grounds for bacteria.
-Vegetables: opt for a sturdy veggie that is great raw. Celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are all great picks. Pair it up with a favorite nut butter or salsa but make sure it follows TSA guidelines.
-Nuts/seeds: Unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios, etc all make for a great snack and are high in protein.
-Cheese: High in protein and calcium.
-Jerky: Perky Jerky is our go to for high protein and lower fat jerky.
-If you are a chocoholic then check out the dark chocolate wedges from Trader Joes. These are perfect individual sizes to take on your flight.

2. Drink water, A LOT of water. It seems like a given but once you board your international flight it’s easy to start taking advantage of the free soft drinks, coffee, wine and beer, but keeping up with your water intake is the most important. One way to make sure you are drinking enough is to bring your own empty water bottle through security and fill it up once on the other side. You can also purchase a large one in the airport but prepare to pay about $5 for it.

3. Snag an airline toothbrush. On every international flight we’ve taken these go fast! You can also pack your personal one in your carry on but I always like being able to throw this toothbrush away after using it a few times on the flight.

4. Check the airline menu prior to leaving. If you’re a picky eater or have dietary restrictions it’s best to visit your airline’s website and check the menu for the month of your flight. You can even make requests for specific meals (i.e. vegetarian, hindu, gluten free etc).

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Example of ANA’s international flight menu for July 2016
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Example of ANA’s vegetarian meal choices for those who have dietary restrictions or personal preference.

5. Pack an extra travel pillow. You are provided with one from the airline but to make the flight more comfortable you could buy a blow-up one that will easily fight in any size carry on.

6. Take motion sickness medicine. The original formula of dramamine will not only keep you from getting motion sickness, it will also help you sleep on the plane and that’s a win-win! Even if you’ve never had motion sickness it doesn’t hurt to take one of these for turbulence (it got me last time)!

7. Avoid an airplane cold. Airplane seats definitely aren’t cleaned as often as one would hope. Avoid getting sick from the flight by packing some lysol wipes to clean the seat back tray, remote, and arm rests. Also keep your hands clean with antibacterial hand gel.

8. Try compression socks and wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. Compression socks are used to help increase circulation and prevent blood clots in your legs. When sitting for multiple hours on end, these socks are really important! When thinking about what shoes to wear on your flight, we suggest wearing something that is easy to slip on and off so you can get comfy while seated but also be able get up and move when needed more easily.

9. Get up, stretch, and walk around often. Similar to our last item, in order to keep yourself from feeling cooped up and to help circulation, get up and move! While awake try to walk in the cabin every hour or two. After sleeping take extra time to stretch your legs, back, and arms to avoid feeling stiff. Check out this helpful article from The Week for some simple stretches you can do on an airplane.

10. Grab a good book. International Flights can be a real snooze fest if you can’t sleep or run out of movie options. I carry my Amazon Kindle while Logan uses the Kindle App on his iPad Air. Another perk? If you have a public library card you can often download eBooks for free before you leave!

11. If you can afford it, upgrade your flight. While economy seats aren’t bad for domestic travel, they can get fairly crowded during an international flight. Typically there are four levels of seating on international flights, economy, premium economy, business, and first class. Some of the main differences include: seat space, seat style, meals, and different amenities. Check out your preferred airline’s website in order to find specific details regarding their upgrades.

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Here is an example we found to show the price differences in each of the upgrade options. As you can see, there can be a significant price difference between each of them. This example features a round-trip flight from New York to London in September 2016.
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Here is the fare comparison for each of the upgrade options.

Any other tips and tricks that have made your long flights more comfortable?

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14 Comments

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  1. very informative tips indeed. Would like to add, although rest all is fine with me, I get a good dose of ear pain every time the plane descends even few thousand feet . The more quickly it descends, the sharper is the pain. Even earbuds didnt help. Offlate I realized, snacking does. If I am continuously chewing, particularly during the descend, it becomes almost like a breeze 🙂

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    • So interesting! I have actually heard of people that get terrible ear pain from flying. A friend of mine buys these ear plugs that look like a screw and he swears by them. Chewing and snacking always seems to help my ears pop as well!

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  2. We always use http://www.seatguru.com to select our seats for long haul flights. There is so much helpful info like which seats do not recline, which ones have a little extra legroom, etc. Also a warning on bringing fresh fruit on a flight, many countries will not let you enter with any fresh fruits or vegetables so plan to eat or throw away anything you bring before you get off the plane. This does not apply to unopened and sealed processed food.

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    • Christina, thank you for the suggestion! We have used Seat Guru a few times and it has been really helpful! Wish it also could tell you if you’d have a pesky passenger that will be kicking the back of your seat! 😉

      Definitely should have included that warning about the fruit. We typically always eat our snacks before arrival unless it is prepackaged! Once I had sunflower seeds confiscated at customs in Australia.

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  3. Very informative post! I think I wrote a similar one sometime ago. I don’t like long flights (my worst nightmare is always flying back to Asia from any points in the Americas) — I agree that it is important to keep oneself hydrated. Avoid alcohol at all cost. I always try to split my super long flights into transit (so I can walk around the airport for a bit). Plus nowadays airlines are always offering free stopover in between, which is great too!

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    • Hanani, I will have to go take a look at yours and see if I can learn from your tips! Flying to Japan I was extremely sick from the turbulence but the flight back wasn’t as bad.

      You’re so right about alcohol! The gentleman next to me on our Japan flight kept chugging the free beer and talking about how it was his first lengthy international flight. I tried to bite my tongue but eventually I had to say “hey man… might wanna drink some water.” Not long after that he spent the rest of the flight (about 8 hours) throwing up in the bathroom. So unpleasant and not at all worth it!

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  4. Long haul flights are my own personal form of torture, despite the fact it seems I’ve spent half my life on a plane. Totally agree with the jerky though. Over the course of a transatlantic, I can easily work my way through three jumbo bags of Jack Links!

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    • Gareth, definitely laughed out loud a this one! It seems like all of my international and domestic flights lately have been riddled with rude passengers that spill on me or lay down their seat for the whole duration of the flight. Typically I bite my tongue for fear of being rude myself, but there comes a point where you must say something, right!? Logan always brings jerky on our flights and when we are hiking too. Great for protein!

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  5. I actually love flying, the longer the better! It forces me to relax & watch movies! My problem is that I usually choose the cheapest flights so I don’t get any free food or drinks or even entertainment sometimes… so I can vouch for the excellent snack suggestions listed!

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    • I can agree with you there! I enjoy the flights too, especially for the movies. But I get a little restless and don’t typically sleep well which can make for a loooooong trip! What airline do you typically fly?

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  6. Solid advice! We always pack an absurd amount of snacks (pb&j’s, trail mix, protein bars). The toothbrush tip should be a requirement. Nothing worse than your seatmate breathing fire on you at the end of the flight. The plane smells bad enough without adding halitosis to the mix!

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  7. great travel tips here! definitely agree with walking over time to keep the blood circulation. I tend to tie it up with going to the bathroom and stretching around. I don’t necessarily find I need to upgrade (if you can put up with the limited space), however saying that, economy at Lufthansa and Korean Air were great for leg and personal space.

    thanks for the heads up!

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