Dealing With Long Flights

Dealing With Long Flights

Being from Australia I’ve had to deal with my share of long flights. Singapore is around 9 hours away, Dubai about 14 hours and well if you want to see Europe or America then you can expect a good 24 hours+ of airports and planes to reach your destination. As I prepare for another trip home to Australia this week its got me thinking about how good would it have been if I could just book a private jet.

These days airlines get that sitting on a plane with nothing to it is very boring so they introduced inflight entertainment. That is of course unless your airline doesn’t offer it like a recent flight I took with Delta who seemed to have wheeled the plane out of a nearby museum but that’s a whole other post.

Inflight entertainment is a big part of me surviving a long flight. A movie can last 1-2 hours and there is always a big choice on offer so as long as you aren’t a cinema buff there is always going to be something to watch. The only problem with the system is the headphones many airlines offer you. Try drowning out the aeroplane/people/crying baby with something you’d find in the $2 bin.

Dealing With Long Flights - In Flight Entertainment
A tiny screen from a Royal Brunei Flight

It’s why I travel with some good quality noise cancelling earbuds. Sure there are better earbuds and bigger headphones that work but I like to travel light and the thought of misplacing expensive headphones isn’t fun. Along with the earbuds I carry a nifty little airline adapter to fit the sound system. Why they need to avoid using a standard 3.5mm jack is beyond me but as the adapter can be had for a couple of dollars in many electronic stores it’s a bargain.

With the ability to drown out the noise around you music is my next step, especially if I’m trying to get some sleep. I’ve always got some really relaxed music on my phone or iPod that I can put on to help me tune out. It doesn’t always work as I find it almost impossible to sleep in a cramped chair but its a welcome distraction from the noise.

While the above works really well for night flights (especially when I can’t sleep), if I’m flying during the day I like to try to stay busy to help pass the time. This is where I make sure I’ve packed a puzzle book (Sudoku is a regular), downloaded a book to read or charged up my Macbook to draft out content for the blog. I’ve even resorted to organising my photos as I never make time for that. By spending the daylight hours working, reading or finding level answers, I can then relax during the night section and hopefully sleep.

Dealing With Long Flights - Games
Puzzles are a great time distraction

Seat choice is the last thing to look at for long flights. Do you opt for the window and face having to crawl over people or take the aisle so can you escape anytime you like. For the longest time I’d always gone with a window seat because at least then you can lean on the side to try to sleep. I’ve since experimented with seating and come up with the following.

Aisle seats are great during the day. I can get up and down as much as I want to get things from my bag, be it for working on my mac, grabbing a book or just to stretch my legs. I’ll normally pick an aisle seat in the middle row of seats towards the back of the plane so there is less chance people need to step over me. I tend to find there are less kids at the back of planes but that could just be me.

Window seats are where I go for night flights. There is nothing worse than someone waking you up as they climb over you or worse still getting a hit on the arm as the airline staff wheel their god heavy carts up and down the aisles. I still prefer the back of the plane as I normally find the crying babies at the front in bassinets so the more distance between me and them at night-time the better.

And lastly I always make sure I’ve picked up the following at the airport or packed in my bag before leaving:

  • Pain Killers
  • Water/Soft Drink
  • Chocolate or other Snack
  • Pen(s)

You never know when you’ll get hungry or thirsty so having something on hand saves waiting on airline staff. Headaches are the devil on a plane so ALWAYS pack something for that. As for the pen well I always seem to be filling out entry forms for countries so having your own just saves time when you get to the customs line.

So that’s how I try to handle long flights, how do you deal with them?


23 Responses to Dealing With Long Flights

  1. NICO January 29, 2013 at 4:33 AM #

    I go between my kindle and inflight entertainment. For budget airlines with no entertainment it is a’s also just generally good for travel as I can go through a book in no time and well after you’ve read one what do you do with a book?

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 29, 2013 at 12:23 PM #

      Nico my ipad has been my saviour on budget airlines or just airlines without any entertainment systems. Lets me read books and also a movie if I feel the need.

  2. CHRIS January 29, 2013 at 1:50 PM #

    Wanted to ask how you found Royal Brunei? Thinking of flying MEL-LON with them and not sure about them as never heard of them…

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD January 29, 2013 at 1:55 PM #

      Chris Royal Brunei weren’t that bad if you take into account they are one of the cheapest airlines flying between Europe and Australia. As you can see from the video screen above the planes aren’t the newest but the video selection they had was fair. Just be careful if you need to change tickets as I got stuck a big hunk of change to change my return date.

      All flights make a stop in Brunei Airport which is tiny. There are a couple of shops and thats about it inside one big shed space area. You’ll also probably stop in Dubai if doing the Europe/Aus route.

      • JO December 30, 2013 at 5:22 PM #


        I am thinking of flying Royal Brunei and wondered if you could tell me what it cost to change your ticket and if you know how long the return leg is valid for.

        Many thanks


        • THE AUSSIE NOMAD December 30, 2013 at 11:24 PM #

          Hi Jo, I believe it depends on the ticket you buy but if you get one of their cheap tickets like I did then it will be valid for 3 months and costs $150 AUD to change the return date within that period.

  3. WIL @ WHERE'S WIL January 29, 2013 at 4:18 PM #

    I’ve been on a few long flights (US to Asia) and they can be pretty rough on your body. I try and sleep as much as possible by staying up before my flight. This also helps me with jetlag but I’m not sure if it works for everyone.

  4. RAUL (@ILIVETOTRAVEL IN TWITTER) February 9, 2013 at 3:31 AM #

    Good tips. I traveled to Chile from the US over 25 times in 2010 (9.5hrs each way) and I found similar things worked for me. Noise canceling earplugs was one. Aisle seat in the center group of seats (maximizing the change that the person in the middle would be traveling with the person on their other side) so I could get ease of access if I woke up during the night but also not be bothered too much (I won more on this than lost – by a good bit!). Also, on some flights that didn’t seem full, though I had the aisle seat, I sat in the middle seat when I boarded in case no one came to seat on the other 2 seats – then I would end up with a whole row to myself! Nice trick though I felt guilty at times πŸ™‚

  5. MICHAEL February 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM #

    For me it’s a pair of Bose noise canceling headphones, the iPad, lots of water, and maybe a book or two. Most of the times my flight seem to go by pretty fast with those items.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2013 at 1:34 AM #

      Michael you do well to read on the plane. I’ve always found the noise from the plane and people moving about to much of a distraction.

  6. CIARA (@TRIPTIDEAU) February 21, 2013 at 11:05 AM #

    Great seating tips, I once had a seat chosen for me on a long haul flight and it was the last in the row meaning that the toilet cubicle wall was behind me. Didn’t seem like a problem until the person in front decided it was time to put their seat back, cue internal rage at not being able to lean mine and then being stuck in the smallest space ever for the remainder of the flight!

    The politics of seating!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2013 at 1:38 AM #

      Ciara you must have got unlucky with your seat as I’ve had back seats like that before but all of them have reclined just as much as the rest. I will say however that people are extremely careless when reclining their seats. Nobody checks to make sure they won’t hit anything behind them and they always recline as far as possible. A couple of times I’ve had to watch my open macbook as the seat in front almost crushed it.

  7. CREATIVE NORMAD February 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM #

    depends very much on who you fly with doesnt it! I hav always flown with big airlines for long haul flihts and really enjoyed the 24+ of movies and free food πŸ˜› bet I wont be saying that flying with “Delta” as you say by the sounds of it… look forward to reading that post

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2013 at 1:44 AM #

      Rebecca I’ve since leant its worth paying a little more to fly with a better airline. The cheap ones are great for short haul but long haul flights are horrible.

  8. ANGELA RUTHERFORD February 27, 2013 at 9:07 PM #

    Great tips for surviving those long haul flights. I’d also recommend packing muscle relaxers. They do just what their name suggests – totally relax your muscles, even the ones that start cramping from assuming the pretzel position for 12+ hours. And I’d recommend a good moisturizer – especially for your hands, face, lips and the inside of your nose. The dry air on an airplane can be extremely unforgiving. Feeling relaxed and well hydrated/moisturized can make all the difference in the world.

  9. ANITA MAC March 8, 2013 at 4:35 PM #

    I don’t miss those Australia – Canada flights, although I do miss Australia terribly and am considering another trip and the 24+hrs journey! I believe I follow most of your tips (head ache tabs a must – you are right, it is just excruciating if you need them and don’t have!) I try and drink loads of water, and where possible, pick up my own bottle once in the airport.

    I have also taken to renting movies on the iPad – just in case their system is down, you have seen everything or just want something different! Also great for those long train rides (12 hours in Spain – while at least the train is less squished – 12 hours of sitting still hard!) With 30 days to watch the movie, I am sure I will get to it and it can be such a luxury when jet lagged and awake at 2 in the morning to have something to watch if it doesn’t get watched on board!

  10. LEAH May 13, 2013 at 3:14 PM #

    I would really advocate taking a bottle of water rather than softdrink onto the plane. The dry air in planes is very dehydrating, especially on long flights, and sugary softdrinks will dehydrate you faster. Water is the way to go πŸ™‚ Some softdrink is ok, but you want to have water handy for regular rehydration.

  11. CAJSA-STINA January 29, 2014 at 9:32 PM #

    I always bring a deck of cards. It’s mostly to keep me busy (shuffle, solitair, 1 2 3 etc.). Theres nothing worst then sitting still since I have ADHD… Your tips were great by the way, I loved the sodoku/ crossword thing, great tip, totally brining that with me the next time πŸ˜€

  12. ISABELLA February 17, 2014 at 10:13 PM #

    This is an incredible website for travel tips (eating/drinking)

    And to tackle jetlag (which is really dehydration)
    “For every hour you are flying, drink at least 500ml / 17oz. of water (I aim for double this). This sounds like a lot, but it helps more than anything else. Yes, you may have to pee a lot, but it’s good to get out of your seat anyway.”

  13. BEK94 February 24, 2014 at 5:49 AM #

    This is great! I’m flying to London via Singapore in July by myself and was thinking of ways to kill time. Every other time I have flown has been with family.

    We went to America last year and flew with ‘United Airways.’ As far as inflight entertainment went, these guys were shocking! Good thing I had my trusty iPad and some ‘rented’ movies from iTunes.

    Just wondering if anyone can help me, I have purchased a return flight from SYD-LHR as I was planning on returning after my Top Deck trip, however, now the plan is to stay for a year and become an Au Pair. I am wondering if anyone knows the rules with re-schduling your return flight?
    I am flying with British Airways.


    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 24, 2014 at 6:55 AM #

      Hi Bek, to change your flight you’ll need to speak with the travel agent or the airline directly depending on how you booked the flight. As long as your flight is eligible you can then re-schedule it quite easily (but sometimes for a fee).

      If your flight is one of the cheaper ones that are offered at times and has restrictions on it then you may not be able to change. The best bet is speak with the people you booked it with and get the details from them.

  14. YEVGENIY June 6, 2014 at 6:23 AM #

    Hi, thanks for great tips!
    I’m going to Sydney in november (coming from Kazakhstan) and it’s the first time I’ll take 24+ flight.
    Have you ever flown on Etihad Airways?
    Sadly I have only 2 options: Etihad and China Southern Airlines. But flying on China airlines is going to take 50+ hours and it’s too much πŸ™‚ So my choice is obvious πŸ™‚

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD June 6, 2014 at 8:15 AM #

      Hi Yevgeniy, I have flown with Etihad before, was a really great flight and I flew them from Australia to the UK so you should be fine.

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