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I love travelling and seeing new places, but I absolutely hate flying. And long haul flights are particularly terrible. I really try to avoid flying as much as I can, but it’s difficult considering I live in Canada and EVERYTHING is too far away to be using other methods of transportation. Even to travel within Canada requires flying most of the time.
Until recently, I used to always get off a long-haul flight feeling nauseous, lightheaded, grumpy, and with a terrible headache. So what helped? I made a couple of changes to my flight “routine”. In this article I share with you the tricks that help me the most when flying. Regardless if you are embarking on a short or long-haul flight, this is what I recommend for a better experience:
1. Fly During the Day
When booking your flight, try to schedule a day flight as much as possible. From my experience I’ve noticed I get less anxiety when I fly during daylight than darkness. Even if I’m not seated by the window and can’t look outside, I feel calmer when there’s some daylight coming into the plane. And if you’re taking short flights, flying during the day doesn’t impact your sleeping schedule too much, so you’re less likely to suddenly get incredibly sleepy upon arrival.
On a side note, I also experienced significantly less turbulence during day flights compared to night flights.
If you struggle with flight anxiety, this is the most important tip I can give you! Sleep as much as you can before the flight. I find that when I’m well rested I get less anxious during the flight. I have never been able to sleep on a plane no matter how tired I was. Sleeping well before the flight makes the flight more manageable, and it ensures I can function somewhat normally after arrival. When I am well rested, long haul flights also seem to pass quicker.
Do everything a day (or a few) days before the flight. Make sure you’re fully packed the day before the flight. Make a list a few days before the flight of last minute things to check, such making sure the gas is turned off.
Relax as much as possible before the flight. I find it helps me prevent migraines. I would also suggest you try to avoid overthinking. Listen to some music instead, or go to the airport early and relax there.
4. Arrive Early
Arrive at the airport early and go through security. I find there are shorter lines in the early mornings. So that’s another reason to book an early morning flight if you can. In my experience I have also found that early morning flights are cheaper compared to mid-morning/ day flights. And going back to point number 1, scheduling an early morning flight means that most (if not all) of the flight time will be in daylight.
Arriving early at the airport will take many worries away. It will give you time to check your bag, go through security (even if there is an unexpectedly long line), find your gate, purchase a snack or coffee. Again, the point is to avoid stressing as much as possible because that could lead you to get headaches/ migraines during the flight.
5. Eat a Meal
This one tip made the biggest difference for me. After a long flight, I used to always arrive with terrible nausea. That all changed when I started eating hearty meals at the airport. Sitting on solid ground and taking my time to eat something nutritious and filling before takeoff seems to do wonders for me. Some of the dished I enjoy eating are chicken salads, stews, and steaks with veggies on the side. My suggestion is to go for anything filling that you you can stomach well. I would also recommend some fruit. And if you do get nausea, I suggest a sour fruit, like a Granny Smith apple.
6. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Junk Food
If you’re a coffee drinker, drink your usual amount of coffee but don’t exceed that. The day of a long flight is not the time to be trying anything new because you don’t know how your body might react. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a 10 hour flight with headaches from not enough coffee or GI distress from too much coffee.
On that note, I would also recommend you avoid alcohol and junk foods. As tasty as they are, greasy foods will leave you feeling boated and heavy once you’re in the air. For me, they also induce nausea. I would also recommend avoiding snacks high in sugar because they will affect your blood glucose levels, and make you feel very tired/ give you headaches.
7. Drink Water
All that effort to get through security and run around the airport will certainly take a toll on you. You may not feel thirsty, but you are certainly dehydrated. Take small sips of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration (and headaches).
8. Distract Yourself
If, like me, you cannot sleep on flights, try to distract yourself by watching movies/ TV shows on the plane. On that note, sometimes the TV or headphone jack at your seat might be broken. Make sure to bring lots of materials to keep you entertained in that situation. Personally, I cannot concentrate on reading books or working because there are too many distractions around, there isn’t enough light, or my ears are ringing. I would suggest you save some movies/ TV shows to watch offline on your tablet/ laptop. Most long haul flights are over after around 3 movies, so distracting yourself can make the time pass faster.
9. Get Up Every Now and Then
You probably sat down for a few hours at the airport, and now you’re sitting down on the plane. Get up every hour or so to move your legs and stretch your back. Sitting down for too long can result in terrible back pain and leg muscle cramps.
These have been my tips for a better long haul flight. They’re mostly focused on health because if you’re not well, nothing will improve your flight experience. Would you add anything to this list? Let me know in the comments bellow.