How to Prepare For a Long Flight

Seattle to Shanghai

Location: Seattle Washington USA

Even after all the flights I have taken, I still don’t enjoy it. And our flight to Shanghai is 13 hours – one of the longest we have had. We will fly from Seattle to Shanghai non-stop on Delta Airlines. How to prepare for a long flight? With all the flights I’ve taken, I have a system.

I don’t like taking sleeping pills, because I am just too drowsy throughout the following days, so I have developed a a long-flight preparation plan. Even when the flight is not 13 hours (most of our flights are 3-6 hours) I practice the following flight preparation plan:

Two-Three days before;

No alcohol and no spicy foods. Eat healthy, low sodium and easy to digest foods.

Drink lots of water


Moisturize my skin

One day before;

Make sure my carry-on is well organized and includes the following; passport, earplugs, headphones, eyemask, water bottle, Ibuprofen, motion sickness medicine, chapstick, moisturizer, neck support, wet wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste


Get a good night’s sleep – limit late day screen time

Do all of the above from two-days before

Day of Flight;

All of the above

Get up as early as I can but limit caffeine

Drink a lot of water in the hours before boarding


Set my watch to the destination time

Dress in non-binding clothes including shoes and socks or be sure to pack a pair of socks. Wear a sweater that can be easily put on and off and used as a blanket.

I never wear my contacts on the flight. I always wear my glasses.

Greet my flight attendant and be kind to them. Not only do they deserve it they might be more inclined to help if I need something during the flight.

After I board;

Organize my space before take off so I know where my things are including earplugs, water, headphones, neck pillow etc. I also use wet wipes or sanitizer and wipe down my tray table and armrests as soon as I sit down.

I like to support my feet and either do that with an inflatable foot rest or my backpack.

Take two ibuprofen with water

Look at my watch and visualize the place I’m going and the time of day it is there…see myself there.

Find a meditation station on the in-flight audio or iTunes and begin listening to the calming voice and music.

If I want to eat before sleeping, I choose a light, non-spicy meal and have a non-caffeinated non-alcoholic drink. I never drink wine because it dries me out.

After the meal I go to the toilet, moisturize in the bathroom, brush my teeth and use my chapstick too.

Back at my seat I settle in. Get cozy and warm. Check my watch and think about what time it is where I’m going. Find my meditation music and sit back. Clear my mind of everything or think about fun things I want to do when I arrive. Think about my breathing – like in yoga breath deep from the belly. Relax my jaw. Relax my shoulders. Think about restful sleep.

If I wake up, I drink water. I take a walk to stretch. I take more ibuprofen. I moisturize and use chapstick. Then I settle back in again with the restful music.

This is my best advice for long haul flights. Sometimes I watch a movie if I’m having trouble falling asleep. I never sleep soundly, but I do arrive relaxed and not too disheveled. On arrival I always try to stay awake until a normal bedtime for my destination. Luckily for us, we arrive in Shanghai in the early evening. We should be able to go to bed and hopefully wake up ready to go on our first full-day in China.

I have purchased some compression socks to try this flight. This is the first time I have done that but I know many people swear by them. So I’ll give it a try.

I welcome your suggestions for making a long flight tolerable. Please comment below. If you like our blog, please pin and share. Thanks!

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  • Reply Susie Perry

    Well, having JUST arrived home from Ireland…I would suggest…go first class!! . I never have, myself, but dang the room in the planes is SO tight, no way to get comfy.

    September 10, 2019 at 8:32 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Ahhh I certainly do when I can!!

      September 10, 2019 at 10:01 am
    • Reply Dennis

      Going First Class certainly makes the flight more enjoyable! Back in the day it was easy to pile up air miles on a credit card I upgraded as often as I could.
      Several years ago I took a trip (I want to say it was back in the American Airlines days). They had first class, business and coach classes. Than they also had some oddball seating that was very spacious and comfortable. One aisle two seats wide down the middle. Wide seats with a comfortable distance between them. LOTS of leg room! The perfect combination of affordable price and loads of comfort. I haven’t seen it since that one time on a trip from Sea-Tac to National Airport in DC.

      September 10, 2019 at 4:36 pm
  • Reply Michael Söhlke

    I agree with most practices except for the Ibuprofen part – it is medication and that should only be taken in case of need (sorry…!)

    September 10, 2019 at 2:07 pm
  • Reply Amy

    Very good advice! The diet and exercise tips for the days before travel are very helpful.

    Wish I could fly first class, or business class! But I’d rather spend those funds in the destination itself.

    September 11, 2019 at 8:10 am
  • Reply Lynn in Atlanta

    I would add: exercise approx. every 1-2 hours when awake and drink a LOT more water than you think you will or need! No caffeine, no alcohol. My secret: spend the $ for the Extra Comfort or Premium Select seat, especially in the newer A350 and other aircraft models. The added seat pitch and leg room can make ALL the difference in your sense of rest, and is well, well worth the added cost, IMHO.

    September 18, 2019 at 6:46 am
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