Having recently spent 15+ hours on a plane to Hong Kong and back, there were a few things I learned that I thought I’d share with you.
9 tips for really long flights:
1. Pack a small essentials bag to keep in your seat with you.
Personally I hate having to get up into the overhead bins, but I also don’t like to have too much down at my feet. So the smallest bag/tote/pouch you can get away with having in/under your seat will make the flight seem less hectic. If all you have are the essentials and you keep a bag of everything else up above, then you won’t be worried about losing anything. I used the black PAK by Blair Ritchey.
On my recent trip to China, I was lucky that no one was sitting next to me on any of my flights so I could use that seat to hold my book, magazine, computer, water bottle, and my essentials pouch.
2. Get a neck pillow.
Trust me. Do it. I didn’t have one on my flight from NYC to Hong Kong, and man did I regret it. I didn’t realize they’d have the lights off almost the entire time, making it a lot easier to doze off (for someone who almost never sleeps on planes). I slept about half the flight, but I was constantly adjusting my pillow and scarf and I woke up with a crick in my neck.
For my flight home, I went ahead and bought a neck pillow in the Hong Kong airport and I am SO GLAD I did. I slept probably 2/3 of the flight back, and my neck didn’t hurt at all. I bought this neck pillow and it is the bomb. Seriously, if you sleep on flights, you need to get one. A good one. They are worth every inch of space they take up if you are going on a long flight. I recommend this neck pillow.
3. Wear something comfortable.
You are going to be cramped up for hours, you don’t want to be wearing your tight, uncomfortable jeans that you tug at the entire flight. Compression tights were recommended to me, but I ended up just wearing my lululemon leggings and I think they might be just the exact same thing. They were comfortable for 15+ hours.
4. Bring a cozy sweater or blanket/scarf.
Usually flights can be chilly. Some airlines don’t provide the blankets in a bag (on Cathay Pacific they did provide blankets in sealed bags, which I used each flight). But I also wore my big cozy Joie sweater. It kept me super warm, so I only needed a blanket on my legs. I also brought a giant scarf that can double as a blanket. Being someone who is always cold, I have several of them in my wardrobe. I also rolled it up and used it to support my neck before I bought my neck pillow, so really it’s multi-functional.
5. Bring water if you can.
If you can buy water in the airport after you pass through security and take it on the flight, I suggest doing that. Cathay Pacific gave me a water bottle each time I asked for one, but I recommend bring a few on your own or a giant one. Long flights are very dehydrating and you will need to drink water.
On my flight back to NYC from Hong Kong, I had grabbed an extra water bottle from the Cathay Pacific Lounge for the flight, and they put us through an additional security (after we had gone through regular security) right before we got on the flight. They looked through all of my carry-ons and threw away my water bottles. The brand new, unopened water bottle I had just gotten, and the half-way full one I was chugging before the flight. Ugh the waste makes me sad.
6. Do not book a seat near the restroom.
I repeat, do not book a seat near the restroom. Especially in coach. Unless you constantly want people walking around you and constantly want to hear the door slamming. Avoid this at all cost. Luckily this was not a problem for me.
7. Use the restroom right before you get on the plane.
Seems obvious, but when you need to drink a lot of water during a long flight you also have to use the restroom a lot. Which is good in the way that it’s good to get up and stand and walk around a little, but I mean, I don’t love using the restroom on an airplane, ever really.
8. If you can afford to upgrade, do.
On my Cathay Pacific flight from Newark to Hong Kong I was in Premium Economy. Let me explain what Premium Economy is. On this flight Cathay Pacific had four sections: first, business, premium economy, and economy. First is well, first. Business is the pod you see above (I got upgraded to business on my flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and it was a dream). For the other three flights (the two 15+ hour ones) I was in premium economy. It’s basically like first class on most domestic flights in the US. Larger seats that recline further with a lot more leg room. On Cathay Pacific premium economy is it’s own little section of the plane separated with curtains and it’s own overhead bins — no fighting with the masses in economy for your bag. You do share bathrooms with economy which was the only downside I could tell — just because there is almost always a line for the bathroom, but everything else was great. I’m not sure I could handle a 15+ hour flight in anything less roomy than premium economy. For tall people especially it really is totally worth it.
On all of my flights premium economy was only half full, so I also had a seat open next to me, which made it feel even more spacious and was handy to keep anything I wanted near me in the seat.
Every time I went back into economy to use the restroom, I thought, many I’m so glad I’m in premium economy! Economy was 100% full and I was just chillin in my row all by myself for 15 hours. It was great.
They say they try to simulate the timing of where you are going, but I find traveling so exhausting and jet lag a bitch that I think sleeping at least some of the flight is a good idea. I probably slept 8 out of 15 hours (on and off) on my way to Hong Kong, and then after I bought the neck pillow, I slept the majority of the flight home. I watched a movie during both meals, and for the rest of the flight I comfortably slept with my neck pillow. Made the flight go by a lot faster.
What tips do you have for really long flights?
Photo by Meg Biram
This post was inspired by my recent trip to China done in collaboration with Cathay Pacific Airways and iambassador. MegBiram.com retains all editorial control of what is published. All opinions are my own — and you know, I tell it like it is. Check out #CXploreAsia on twitter and Instagram to see my, Matt & Rachelle’s travel experiences throughout Asia.