9 Must-Know Long-Haul Travel Tips If You're Flying Internationally For The First Time Ever

Avoiding crying kids is key!

A WestJet flight.
Senior Editor

A WestJet flight.

Buckle up, travellers! If you're getting ready to take your inaugural long-haul flight, you might be feeling a little nervous as you prepare for the lengthy journey ahead.

For many people, one of the worst parts about jetting off on an international vacation is the drawn-out plane ride that comes first. From boring airport waits and unnerving turbulence to uncomfy plane seats, catching a flight can sometimes feel like a daunting task.

But remember, the journey can be just as memorable as the destination itself —provided you're armed with the right knowledge.

To ensure you're well-prepared for your upcoming journey, the Narcity Travel team has compiled a list of our favourite must-know travel tips that apply to all long-haul flights.

So, before you fasten your seatbelt, stow your carry-on and set off on your upcoming trip, get clued up on our essential long-haul travel hacks to make the journey as smooth as possible.

Dress for comfort

Long-haul flights are the sky version of a marathon, so dressing appropriately is key.

Swap tight waistbands, fitted shirts and stiff jeans for clothes that are cozy, comfy and breathable, and make sure to bring layers so you can adapt to fluctuating cabin temperatures when you're on board.

Consider pulling on your favourite sweater, fluffiest socks and loosest trousers to keep you comfortable and snug throughout your journey. And don't forget to opt for comfy shoes to walk around the airport in.

If you really want to prioritize style, consider bringing along a second outfit to change into before landing or when you arrive at your destination airport. A change of clothes can also make you feel a bit less icky if you've been on board for a long time, so don't hesitate to pack a second sweater or shirt if you want to.

Highly-recommended accessories from Narcity's travel team include eye masks to help you sleep on the plane and cancel out the light, and slippers or slides to put on during the flight so you can avoid being one of those passengers that walk around barefoot.

If you can only pack one accessory, bring a scarf, as it can be used to snuggle up in for warmth, to cover your eyes from the light, as a blanket or pillow, or to cover your face when you don't want to chat to the passenger next to you.

Bring your own snacks

Most long-haul flights will have some type of meal service and snack option, but it doesn't hurt to bring some of your own if you're going to be sitting there for hours and hours on end.

Airplane meals can be a hit-or-miss, and hunger strikes at inconvenient times. Of course, you don't get to choose when the meal service begins, so having some snacks of your own will help quell any hunger pangs if your stomach isn't quite on the same wavelength as the scheduled meal.

Packing a selection of your favourite travel snacks like nuts, granola bars, chocolate or fruit will keep your hunger at bay and give you a much needed energy boost while flying. And it will also give you something to do when you're seriously bored!

Keep hydrated

The dry air in plane cabins can be a real hydration killer and this can make you feel low in energy, tired and irritable, and can even give you headaches and dry skin.

To combat this, drink as much water as you can throughout the flight. Consider bringing a large, empty water bottle through security and fill it up before boarding so you can keep sipping when the flight attendants are not offering drinks around.

Keeping hydrated will help fend off jet lag too, and ensure you land feeling ready to explore.

This brings us to our next point...

Pick the right seat

While you might usually choose to prioritize budget when you're flying short haul, forking out for a few extras when you're taking a really long flight can be worth it.

For example, if you'll be sitting on an airplane for hours and hours at a time, you'll want to be comfortable and in your preferred type of seat.

If you're somebody who'll be drinking a lot of water (good job!), you might want to choose an aisle seat so you can take regular bathroom breaks without worrying about asking the people next to you to move.

You might also prefer an aisle seat if you're somebody who needs more leg room, or someone who likes to move around and stretch your legs during a flight.

Alternatively, if you have an exceptional bladder or if you are a solid sleeper and don't want to be disturbed by those around you going to the bathroom, you might want to pick a window seat to stay tucked out of the way.

If you want to steer clear of crying children, Skyscanner suggests avoiding the front of the plane, as this is where babies and their parents are often seated on international flights.

Either way, forking out for your preferred seating option is probably worth it for a long-haul trip.

Bring your own entertainment

Long hours in transit can be tedious, so be sure to have a variety of entertainment options at hand.

Although most long-haul flights offer some type of onboard entertainment, having your own mix of content will keep you busy and engaged throughout the flight.

Load up your phone, iPad, tablet or e-reader with movies, TV shows, e-books, and podcasts, and don't forget to pack a charger in case your battery runs low.

And don't just think screens. Notebooks, journals and colouring books are a great way to get creative in the air, and you can always listen to music to give your eyes a break as well.

It's also worth bringing your own headphones if you can, as free airplane headphones or earphones are often cheap and won't block out the flight noise.

Stretch it out

Sitting for extended periods can lead to discomfort. Combat the stiffness and keep the circulation flowing with simple and gentle stretches that you can do from your seat.

Ankle rotations, neck stretches and shoulder rolls will keep your body feeling refreshed, and don't be afraid to take a stroll around the plane when it is safe to do so.

Experts suggest getting up every two hours or so when flying, and while there may not be anywhere in particular to go, moving around will do you a whole world of good.

Choose your airline wisely

Choosing the right airline for a long haul flight is an important decision that can significantly impact your overall travel experience — and in some cases there's a big difference between a good long-haul airline and a bad one.

A carefully chosen airline can enhance comfort, reduce stress and contribute to a more enjoyable journey. Factors such as seat comfort, in-flight entertainment, food quality, service, and even leg room can vary widely between airlines.

By doing your research and picking a carrier that aligns with your priorities and preferences, you're ensuring that the hours spent in transit are as seamless as possible, setting a positive tone for your arrival.

Bring a self-care kit

After many hours on a stuffy flight with strangers, you're bound to feel a little groggy and gross.

A mini self-care kit, including items like mints, a toothbrush, a comb, some moisturizer, a lip balm, facial wipes and hand sanitizer will help you to feel clean, fresh and replenished before you disembark.

Not only will you look and feel revived, but you'll have a new burst of energy to carry you through the arrival airport, too!

Enjoy the ride

Between the rush of leaving home and heading to your destination, it's easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the journey itself.

Long-haul flights are a great opportunity to disconnect from the demands of daily life, so enjoy shutting off your mobile coverage and try to unwind.

Whether you finally indulge in that long movie you've been waiting to see, or get lost in a book you haven't had the chance to finish, try and consider the flight as "bonus time" rather than simply a chore.

Bon voyage!

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

Helena Hanson
Senior Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Media, leading the Travel and Money teams. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.