As a veteran of both short and long haul trips, our Travel Editor, Emily, is here to impart her wisdom based on experience of what essentials you absolutely need for a long term or long distance trip.
Long haul trips can be painful even without delays or stop overs. Babies are bound to cry, your meals will inevitably taste a bit strange, and the person behind you will kick your chair at some point. Still, there are a few things that make the journey more bearable and comfortable, especially if you struggle to sleep on planes. Here is a list of my long haul essentials.
Long haul trips mean awkward time differences. The lights will go out when you don’t want them to and come on when you are about to fall asleep. If you struggle to retain your natural rhythm whilst on the flight a sleep mask is perfect to block out light and fall asleep as and when you wish to. It also means you can ignore the people next to you if you wish. Try and get one that is comfortable for you because they are also useful for hostel rooms (with people coming in and out and turning lights on and off).
Never will I travel without movies or TV shows at my fingertips. My iPad, with the iPlayer app, Sky Go or Amazon Prime, has gotten me through awkwardly timed layovers, delays on the plane, and also served as a good way to put me to sleep (some documentaries are not as great as they seem!). It is also good to download movies as due to your IP address you may not be able to use these apps abroad without a VPN which could leave you TV-less the entire journey.
Toothbrush and face wipes
While this isn’t necessarily for on the plane sitting in the same, slightly stuffy, air the entire journey makes my face feel gross even just after five hours on one plane, let alone a longer journey with a layover. Similarly a fifteen hour trip without brushing my teeth feels wrong and the power of freshening-up is not to be underestimated. If I don’t freshen up on the plane, bathrooms are normally my first stop in the airport before I face a new city so I can wash my face and feel slightly cleaner. On a similar note, you may wish to take new underwear to change into as well.
While you don’t need fancy flight socks, it’s worth having a fluffy pair so you don’t have to wear your shoes the whole time. I’ve seen people in slippers on flights when taking a walk around. Case in point: it’s a long journey, so get comfortable.
On the theme of comfort, a neck pillow does wonders when you are struggling to fall asleep, or are like me and don’t like tipping the seat back in case the person behind gets annoyed (it happened once and I have never done it again). They can often be attached to your bag so you don’t need to worry about it fitting or you can buy blow up ones which pack into a small bag (although these are less comfy).
Last January, I was on my second flight of the day to my final destination: Beijing, and it got delayed mid-flight as Beijing airport was closed due to smog. We landed in an airport an hour away and spent 9 extra hours on board, making a total of seventeen hours without anyone getting off. My 2am arrival turned into a midday arrival and the staff only handed out extra Twix bars and water. This is hopefully a rare occurrence and I don’t blame the company; what was a long shift for the staff doubled and they also didn’t know when we would get going again. However I am vegan and had only had 3 bread rolls on the entire flight (the food options being chicken or fish). Fortunately, my mum had instilled in me the fear of not having enough food, so I had cashews, a few fruit bars and some sweets and I survived (I also tried to sleep most of it so I didn’t get jet lag instead of pacing up and down like other stressed passengers). But had I not, it would have been a tough 18 hours. Long story short: take snacks just in case. If you don’t eat them on the journey, you can munch on them during your holiday instead. Also, sucking a sweet helps with that uncomfortable feeling during landings and take offs so they are always handy items to have.
Always buy water at the airport. It’s fresh, it feels nice if you are too warm and it is very easy to get dehydrated on planes due to low humidity.
Planes normally provide blankets for long haul flights but I always get cold. Even if you are going to a warm country I would always recommend packing a jumper: for the evenings, for visiting religious sites which often require more conservative dress or if you end up hiking in high altitudes. Also wearing a layer means more room in your luggage.