After five months of doing it full time, I’ve pretty much got this whole travel thing down to an art. And while the destinations thus far have been incredible, the flight journeys have been… long. I’ve been on 40 (!) flights since February, and a lot of them have required landing early in the morning (thanks, red-eyes) and embarking on a full day of travel without any chance to rest or change. So, if I’ve learned anything thus far, it’s how to sleep like a pro on an airplane and wake up feeling refreshed upon arrival.
Long flights do not have to totally ruin your day/life, as long as you know how to properly handle them. Part of it requires planning ahead and packing a sleep-friendly carry on, but mostly all you need to do is follow a few simple tips and you’ll come out of your mile-high cocoon feeling like a brand new butterfly. TBH, I’ve actually started to enjoy my long travel days — They’re basically just big blocks of uninterrupted time where the only things I have to do are sleep and watch reruns of 2 Broke Girls. Plus, since airplane WiFi is completely useless, it’s the one time that I can enjoy free time without feeling guilty about not working. It’s a win all around.
Here are nine tips on how to master the art of long haul travel. 2 Broke Girls binging, not required.
1. Go With Glasses Instead Of Contacts
There are only two times in my life when you’ll see me rocking my Warby Parkers: When I’ve run out of contacts, and when I’m flying. Going to high altitudes in contact lenses is pure torture, especially when it comes time to take them out. They get so dry! Wear your glasses for the flight (you’ll be sleeping, anyway), and pack a pair of contacts to pop in upon landing.
2. Don’t Overdo It On Rx’s
Listen. I wholeheartedly wish that I was one of those people who could zen out on a flight without the help of narcotics, but thanks to an intense fear of flying that’s sadly never been the case. I take .5 mg of Xanax (which, yes, were prescribed by my doctor) every time I board a plane, and pop a melatonin before bedtime on any long-haul trips that have 8+ hours of fly time. I’ve both underdone it and seriously overdone it in the past, and can say with 100% certainty that this is the best cocktail for me. THAT SAID, it may not work for everyone, nor it is it my place to tell you what kind of pills to pop (despite my parents’ dreams, I never made it to med school). I will say that spending the majority of the flight sleeping really, really helps with jet lag, and if you need a little pharmaceutical help to do that it’s NBD. Tylenol PM is also a miracle drug, as is the all-natural melatonin (which works just fine sans Xanax). Figure out what works for you, and obviously talk to an actual medical professional before taking anything stronger than an OTC sleep aid. Also, don’t overdo it on Xanax and leave your passport on the plane. I’ve seen it happen, and it is not pretty.
3. Skip The Alcohol
Yes, it’s free, but the wine on planes isn’t ever that good. It may be tempting to down a glass of chardonnay with whatever chicken or pasta situation they’re serving for dinner, but forego the vino in favor of a (way less satisfying) glass of agua.
4. BYO Snacks
I have a bizarre confession: The more I fly (and the more mid-flight narcotics I take) the more I’ve started to really, really like airplane food. That said, we all know it’s absolutely disgusting, and should be avoided at all costs. Instead of chowing down on the sodium-infused, microwave-nuked curry chicken that the flight attendants are doling out, pack a healthy meal from home. Or, do my personal favorite thing and get a full to-go dinner from Whole Foods on the way to the airport. It’s not the most convenient option, but it will help prevent you from waking up with your eyes swollen shut with a case of salt-induced #sushiface.
5. Drink More Water Than You Think You Need
Yes, $11 bottles of airport Evian are a major ripoff (FYI — that is the exact amount I paid for a bottle of water in Zurich last week), but they’re well worth the price if it means feeling 💯 when you land. There’s no real science behind how much you should drink, but I’ve found that downing a 12-ounce bottle for every 2-3 hours of flight time keeps me feeling fresh. Plus, the more water you drink the more you’ll have to get up to pee, which will help you avoid any of the scary blood clot disorders that can happen after you’ve been sitting for too long. Sorry, aisle-mate.
6. Give Yourself “Bedtime” and “Morning” Routines
Brush your teeth and wash your face, change into a pair of cozy socks (or, if you really DGAF a pair of pajamas)and get ready for bed the same way you would at home. I am a huge fan of facial cleansing cloths (especially these rose-scented ones from Sephora), which you can use to quickly de-grime your face and hands at multiple points during the flight. The germs on a plane are horrific for your pores, so it’s important to cleanse your skin once when you board a plane, and once right before you get up. Plus, it’s an easy way to help you feel super fresh upon landing.
7. Moisturize Like A Crazy Person
On a long flight, hand and facial moisturizers are your ride or die BFF’s. Flying dehydrates you like crazy, and unless you slather on the cream you’ll wake up feeling all kinds of cracked. Make sure to find some favorites that are under 3 oz, though, so you won’t have to experience the very real heartbreak of leaving them at airport security.
8. Maximize Your Sleep Situation
For me, window seats are a non-negotiable. Bring your own pillow, blanket (a cashmere scarf works best, IMHO), eye mask and noise cancelling headphones, and create a comfortable environment for yourself that will allow you to get as much shut eye as humanly possible. Turn on the most boring movie you can find, or one you’ve seen a dozen times, and let yourself snoooooooze the minute after you’ve eaten and chugged a bottle of water. If you really want to take things seriously, tell your seat-mate you do not want to be disturbed for any meals or drink service (which you won’t need anyway, since you brought your own).
9. Bring An Outfit For When You Land
There’s something about changing into a new set of clothes (/underwear) that will always help you feel refreshed, even when you have to do it in an airport bathroom. If you have a full day ahead of you, or aren’t allowed to immediately check into your hotel, update your look and swash on some bronzer and mascara (since you have a super clean face, anyway). It will make you feel like a totally new person, and you won’t have to walk around smelling like airplane for the first day of your vacation.