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The healthy traveller’s guide to… surviving a long haul flight

A young woman smiles as she walks to board a plane

How to make a long flight as comfortable as possible

A young woman smiles as she walks to board a plane

No one really relishes the thought of a long haul flight but whether it’s for business or pleasure, most of us will board a plane at some point.

And if you can’t get an upgrade (does that ever happen?), how can you make the economy experience a little more bearable and ensure you’re looking and feeling as good as possible on arrival?

Get in early on the seat selection

Most airline carriers now offer early seat selection for an additional charge. And yes although it’s annoying to fork out extra cash for the privilege, it could be worth it for the option of selecting a good seat (especially for the longer leg of the journey). That extra leg room can make all the difference, as well as your (lack of) proximity to the toilets and kitchen galley.

To help with your seat selection, check out Seat Guru which maps out the seating of each aircraft and identifies top seats.

Dress for comfort

Do yourself a favour and leave the jeans in your checked baggage. Dress in loose-fitting, comfy clothes with non-restrictive waistbands and perhaps think about wearing slip-on shoes or loafers. These are handy for trips to the loo and going through security too (note: do not even think about going to the aircraft loo with just your socks on or bare feet #somanygerms).

A close-up of a woman's legs pulling a suitcase through the airport while holding her passport

Getting the right head/neck support for snoozy time

The struggle is very real when it comes to getting comfy enough to sleep in economy class. If you have a neck pillow that works for you - that’s fab - otherwise if you’re still on struggle-street there are a couple of options available that are worth checking out.

Minimise surrounding noise

Noise-cancelling headphones might sound like a great idea, and whilst they are definitely great for tuning out aircraft noise frequencies, you will still hear people talking (and kids having a meltdown) through them! Our suggestion is to have some white noise tracks ready to play – or double up your headphones with a pair of noise reduction earplugs.

Getting some sleep

Yes it’s nice to watch a movie, maybe two – but you’re going to feel so much better at the other end having grabbed some decent nap time. Don’t fight it when your eyes start to dip, get the sleeping mask on pronto! Being well-rested before your flight will also ensure your immune system is in good shape to deal with whatever lurgies come your way.


Water and electrolytes! Alcohol will dehydrate you even more in the skies, so feel free to have a sneaky wine to unwind, but do yourself a favour and keep the water coming (and up your intake before you board). Drinking an electrolyte during the course of the flight will ensure you keep your salt levels balanced too. If you tend to feel queasy on flights, bring some ginger herbal tea bags – and keep refilling your cup – it’s a good excuse to get up and stretch those legs at the same time.

A little girl plays with a toy airplane as she sits window-side in a real one

Beware the bloat

Being mindful of what you consume before and during your flight as this could make a major difference to your comfort levels. As well as generally eating lightly before and during the flight, three basic things to avoid are:

  1. 1

    Airport fast foods - a combo of carbs, refined sugar and salts is a perfect recipe for bloat

  2. 2

    Fizzy drinks (need we say more)

  3. 3

    Cruciferous veggies (like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) – it’s these types of veggies that are digested by the bacteria in the large intestine and create a lot of gas. Not a pleasant experience at 10,000ft!


The chance of developing deep vein thrombosis increases as travel time increases; however, not everyone is susceptible. Check with your doctor whether you should be wearing compression stockings (they may also recommend a blood-thinning medicine like aspirin) and as a general rule everyone should take a regular walk up and down the aisle and do a few feet flexes to generate blood flow to the calves.

Stay fresh

Face wipes, moisturiser and toothbrush/paste are your best pals on long haul. To keep you feeling zen perhaps try essential oils – lavender can be calming, whereas peppermint can be invigorating.

Germ busting

Bring a couple of antibacterial alcohol-based wipes for giving the area around you a quick wipe down (including the tray table). Use hand sanitiser after every loo visit and, naturally, before you eat. And if you must use the seat pocket in front of you – keep your things as close to the top as you can – who knows what could be lurking down there…

Now buckle up, breathe in and settle back into your seat, we hope you’re ready for your long-haul flight!

The fine print

nib health funds limited ABN 83 000 124 381 AR 264068 (nib) is an authorised representative of Cerberus Special Risks Pty Limited, ABN 81 115 932 173, AFS Licence No 308461(Cerberus). This insurance is underwritten by certain underwriters at Lloyd’s and arranged by Cerberus. This is general advice and you should consider if this product suits your needs. Before you buy, please read the Product Disclosure Statement available from

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