view out of a plane window; long haul flight essentials and tips

12 Long Haul Flight Essentials and Tips (2023)

Nobody likes long-haul flights but sometimes they’re necessary to get to some extraordinary places! Instead of giving you a long list of long haul flight essentials you should buy, I’m gonna give you a list of practical tips and useful things to pack in your carry-on luggage. Most of these long haul flight essentials you probably already have, you just need to bring them on your flight.

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There’s no item out there you can buy that will make a long haul flight the highlight of your trip. International flights in business class always suck but I hope with these tips and long haul flight essentials your next long flight will be as pleasant as possible.

This list of long haul flight essentials and tips is focused on things that will make your journey more enjoyable. It’s not focused on the things without which you shouldn’t do a trip at all, like prescription medication or important documents.

Things to do before your flight

You can already start making your long trip as comfortable as possible with a few organisational things before you even head to the airport.

If your start and final destination are in completely different time zones, it’s best to arrive at your destination in the evening. So you can go to bed as soon as you arrive at your hotel and after a long hour flight you’re gonna be tired no matter the time. The next day you can start fresh into your holiday.

Book your meal preference in advance

The first step for a smooth long haul flight is to get your meal sorted. Most long haul flight airlines still offer a free meal and you have to give them notice at least 24 hours in advance about your meal preferences.

on flight meal on a long haul flight
The vegan meal on my last long haul flight

If you booked through a third party you have to get in contact with the airline directly to choose your meal. The easiest way to do this is usually in the app of the airline.

Flight attendants usually hand out the special meals first, so even if you’re not vegan consider getting a vegan meal. You will get your food before anyone else.

Check-in online

It’s a good idea to check in online so you can choose your seat (with most big airlines it’s still free). Just remember that with most international flights you still need to go to the check in counter to make sure everything is in order with your passport.

Bring Snacks anyway 

Even though I place my meal preference beforehand, I still bring snacks anyway. In my opinion it’s better to be prepared than to end up super hungry on a long haul flight. Especially for vegans snacks are long haul flight essentials. You never know, your meal preference might have gotten lost. After all one of the worst things that can happen on a long flight is that you don’t get any food.

Get your entertainment sorted

Most long-haul flights have an onboard entertainment system, but not all. And even if there is onboard entertainment, they might not have what you’re in the mood for. So it’s best to be prepared and bring your own.

Bring a good book, or download a good book on your ebook reader, download some music, podcasts, tv shows or movies on your phone or tablet in case you bring one. And don’t forget your headphones.

Charge all your devices before the flight and bring a portable power bank as well in case you need to charge it during your long journey.

Eat healthy the day of your flight

During a flight, you’re exposed to radiation, the higher the altitude the higher the radiation. The radiation level is nothing drastic, it’s comparable to the radiation of an X-ray. But I found an article by Dr. Greger that you can counter the radiation effect by eating healthy. He especially mentions dark leafy greens, broccoli and nuts and seeds.

No matter if eating healthy on the day of your long haul flight actually has any positive medical effects, it definitely won’t do any harm. So might as well have a healthy meal before you board the plane.

Don’t forget travel insurance

I feel like an insurance salesperson but travel insurance is important. Believe me, I speak from experience, I once spent 2 weeks in a hospital in Thailand. But that’s a story for another day.

A good travel insurance doesn’t just cover medical expenses though but also lost luggage and travel delay as SafetyWing does. Check the image below for everything covered by SafetyWing in their Nomad Insurance.

Info-graphic about SafetyWing Nomad Insurance

List of long flight essentials to bring

Now let’s talk about the essential items to bring in your carry on luggage. In case you check in a bag make sure these items are in your hand luggage and in case you only travel with carry on luggage make sure these long haul flight essentials are easily accessible.

I actually only bring a carry-on bag so I always have all my travel essentials with me as well as everything else I bring for my trip. Minimalist packing makes travelling so much easier. Check out my minimalist packing tips and give it a try yourself.

Wear comfortable clothes

Being on a plane for hours and hours is not comfortable, one way to make it as comfortable as possible is to wear comfortable clothes. I recommend long loose pants, a T-shirt and a hoodie. It can get quite chilly on a plane so a hoodie is one of the long haul flight essentials.

In general, I would also recommend comfortable shoes, but I actually always wear my bulkiest shoes during a flight because I only travel with hand luggage and bulky shoes would take up too much space in my bag. Whatever shoes I wear, however, I usually take them off anyway during the flight, it’s just more comfortable that way.

Reusable water bottle to stay hydrated

A reusable water bottle is one of the most important long-haul flight essentials. You have to make sure it’s empty when you go through security but as soon as you passed the security check you should fill it up again. Almost every airport has free drinkable water fountains or even special water bottle refill stations.

During the flight, you get drinks from the airline but their cups are tiny so it’s best to have some water with you on the flight. It’s always important to stay hydrated.

And don’t worry about having to go to the toilet more often if you drink more. The positive side of going to the toilet more often during the flight and even having to queue up for it is that you get your blood circulation going in your legs which makes deep vein thrombosis less likely. But if you’re at high risk for blood clots you should also wear a pair of compression socks.

Earplugs for a good sleep

Bring ear plugs in case fellow passengers are snoring and you want to sleep. There’s nothing worse than you wanting to sleep and someone else keeps snoring.

While I think that earplugs are one of the long haul flight essentials, I don’t think a sleep mask is. I personally don’t mind a low light when I’m trying to sleep. But if complete darkness is very important for your sleep you should add an eye mask to your long haul flight essentials as well.

Toothpaste and a toothbrush to stay fresh

A toothbrush and toothpaste are two carry-on essentials. In case you check in some luggage, make sure that you have a toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry-on luggage. You can brush your teeth on the plane or during a layover. And with freshly brushed teeth you’ll feel really refreshed again.

Change of clothes for the worst case

In a worst-case scenario, the airline loses your checked-in luggage and you’re left with the clothes on your back. So the best thing is to have a change of clothes with you. Or you can start to travel like a minimalist with only carry-on luggage, then you eradicate the chance of your luggage getting lost.

Minimalist Packing Checklist

Don’t bring a pillow and blanket

Unless you’re flying with a really cheap budget airline the airline usually provides a blanket and a pillow. But even if the airline doesn’t provide those things it’s not worth bringing them. Instead of a travel blanket, you can just use your towel and instead of a travel pillow, you can just crunch up a spare hoodie.

A travel blanket, pillow and neck pillow take up a lot of space and you’ll have to carry them around for the rest of your holiday. So I just don’t think that’s worth it.

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