15 Travel Tips From An Airplane Native

As an international student, I take a lot of long flights home. The experience of waiting in long lines at confusing airports, worrying about losing important documents, and choosing out of the highly mediocre meal options available is not what I would call relaxing or ~fun~. But with the people I love spread around the world, it’s safe to say that 15-hour flights don’t scare me anymore. So here are 15 tips for your next flight, from a girl who spends a good amount of time in the air. 

#1: Bring moisturizer and lip balm!

A long flight means a lot of exposure to the drying air that keep that cabin cool. Combat any discomfort with dry skin and lips by bringing some moisturizer with you. Use it after every trip to the bathroom and also every few hours just to make sure your skin feels hydrated. 

hand holding pot of makeup glitter#2: Buy a neck pillow.

It seems a little bulky and awkward to carry around, but you’ll be desperately wishing you had one on your next long journey. Save yourself that stress and buy a neck pillow. A pro tip is not to buy it at the airport - they hike the prices up to prey on the unfortunate souls who don’t know better. But now you do, so buy yours in advance!

#3: Tie your hair in a braid or a low ponytail.

Trust me on this one - unless your hair is effortlessly tangle-free, tying it up will save you from so many knots that are agony to brush out later. Plus, the static-y feeling from your hair on the headrest for hours on end will be minimized by this hairstyle. If you want to up your hair game for when you land, maybe even try a hair scarf! 

#4: Download episodes/movies beforehand.

This one sounds obvious but is somehow always relegated to the morning of when I’m in a panic and still need to finish packing. My suggestion is to start the weekend before so you can download a few different things and delete whatever you watch during the week so they’re not taking up unnecessary space. Another pro tip for this is to look up the movies that will be on the flight - airlines generally have entertainment guides posted online so try to download different movies to the ones they have so you’ll have ~options~.

Person pointing a remote at a t.v. that reads Netflix#5: Keep a charging cable in your handbag/hand luggage.

Long flights always have an outlet to charge your phone and/or laptop so keep your charger(s) on hand! Believe me, you’ll want your phone fully charged for the long wait in line when you land. 

#6: Opt for minimal jewelry.

As cute as they are, don’t wear big hoops on the plane. Opt for studs if you must, but keep it small and non-obtrusive so it’s easier to sleep without the backs poking into you. 

#7: Layers!

Long flights can get very, very cold. I’m not the biggest fan of the provided blanket as it can be quite static-y and also a little scratchy. I recommend wearing several comfortable layers that you can take off and put on with minimal effort. Long socks and trainers/boots are great for keeping your feet warm and layering a thick hoodie with an oversized jacket is a great way to get some more coverage. 

#8: Keep snacks and a water bottle on hand.

Empty your water bottle before security so it doesn’t get taken away, and refill it on the other side so you’ll have water with you at all times. Snacks are also very important because aeroplane food is usually not the most appetizing or filling. To keep you comfortably full between mediocre aeroplane meals, pack some granola bars and dark chocolate and other snacks you enjoy.

#9: Change the time on your phone when you take off. 

This is probably my biggest tip for adjusting to time changes: change the time on your phone, watch and any other devices to the time at your destination. If you do this as soon as you take off (or even before) and try to live/eat/sleep according to that time, it should make the transition easier and lessen your jet lag. Even if you can’t adjust your routine entirely, try making small changes like when you go to the bathroom (even if you don’t need to) and when you eat your snacks. The bigger meals are less negotiable as they are served by the airline, but if you make some small adjustments like when you sleep and wake up, it will definitely make a difference. phone, headphones, and coffee with foam art#10: Go to the bathroom when people are asleep. 

This is harder if you don’t have a window seat, but even then, make the attempt. This means you shouldn’t be trying to get to the bathroom in the last couple of hours before the flight lands because this is when everyone will need to go. If you took my ninth tip, you should find that you’ll be awake at a time when a lot of others are asleep because the cabin generally operates closer to the origin time rather than the destination time. Take this time to walk around and stretch your legs, and to go to the bathroom. 

#11: Brush your teeth before you land.

Hopefully, you use my tenth tip and go to the bathroom while other people are asleep. When you do this, make sure to brush your teeth. Try to carry your travel toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry on and use it on the plane to feel more refreshed and ready to face immigration and whoever is waiting for you at the gate.  

#12: Turn your screen off if you’re not actively watching anything.

At least put it on map view if you’re not focused on the screen, but try to turn the screen off if you’re not actively watching something. This is because the light from the screen sends signals to your brain that make it harder for you to sleep - it mimics the effects of daylight so your brain assumes you should be awake and doesn’t release the required melatonin. The last thing you need after a long flight is the exhaustion of not getting enough sleep, so do yourself a favor and turn your screen off. 

#13: Use the side flaps by your head.

They’re there to help you sleep more comfortably so you may as well take advantage of them. Adjust the flaps when you want to sleep and they’ll (mostly) prevent you from waking up embarrassed on your neighbor’s shoulder. 

#14: Wear comfortable clothing.

This is another obvious one, but it’s important! Leggins and a hoodie are a popular option, but if you want a more put-together look, consider comfortable stretchy jeans, a soft t-shirt and sweater. Button-downs can get a little awkward with the holes between buttons letting in the cold air, but a sweater giving you the option of zipping it up if it gets cold or unzipping it if your destination is warm. Ultimately, try to wear clothing that is as non-restrictive as possible. 

person kneels to tie their running shoes. they are wearing a coat and a hat and appear to be on a bridge#15: If you’re not sure about the food, go vegetarian.

Food on an aeroplane is generally a little questionable - science says things taste different at that altitude! So if you’re not too sure about the options, the vegetarian meal is generally a safe bet. And if they run out of the vegetarian dish, they will generally have some back-ups as airlines try to accommodate for people with such diet restrictions. Even if they don’t have full meals for backups, you’ll probably get your selection of the snack menu for free, so don’t fret too much. 

Long journeys are always tiring, but hopefully, these tips will help make your next long flight a little better.