The information here is pre-Covid. So please cut me some slack here. I haven’t had the chance to do any long haul flights since Covid appeared on the world screen. I haven’t done any flights yet.
What is a long haul flight? If you’ve flown for 4 hours, you know that it’s a bearable flight. You can get up and move around. Well, a long haul flight can be 6 hours, 8, hours, 12 hours or even longer. When I speak of these hours, I’m talking about actual travel time, regardless of time zone changes. What makes these long-hour flights any different from a short four hour flight? A lot.
When you are on a very long flight, you can expect to need to eat. Some, but not all long flights try to have food available, or serve you a meal (at least they used to). But some of the cheap, economy flights may not do this. I’m not talking about serving you drinks and pretzels.
Some long flights actually serve a meal. Depending on the class of your seat, you might get a salad, an entree, bread and butter, and a cookie for dessert. If you are in the nicer seats (think business class or first), they may actually serve you this is a set of courses, an appetizer, a soup or salad, your entree, then some sort of dessert. You might even be able to make your selection online before the flight, or order specialty meals (kosher, vegetarian, etc.). If this will continue when travel opens after Covid remains to be seen.
But nonetheless, I will at least tell you what it was like, and what you need to be aware of.
Boarding for a long haul flight may start earlier than you may expect (check your ticket carefully for boarding time). Overseas flights may come with an amenities kit (think cosmetic case with ear plugs, chap stick, socks, eye mask, etc.). If it’s just a long flight within the USA, you probably won’t get that. But depending on the time of day of the flight, you might want to set these items up for yourself.
A short four hour flight may seem like a long time and can get uncomfortable depending on what you are wearing. If you have to travel in a suit or a dress and heels for four hours, you could probably survive the discomfort. Now image being stuck in that suit or dress and heels for 8 hours, or 12 hours. Getting up to walk around isn’t as easy, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting in that outfit. This is one aspect of long haul flights that is different.
What you wear on a long haul flight matters. Comfort becomes a large factor when you are stuck in a plane seat for 8 hours in a pair of tight pants that are unforgiving. I often wear leggings, yoga pants, or something more forgiving then snug jeans or slacks. Footwear matters. Your feet will probably swell some, so cute tight shoes may not be best. I prefer a slip on shoe, sandals, even Vans or Keds work for me.
Also, the temperature on the plane is often kept cooler. Bringing a sweater, small travel blanket, scarf, cozy jacket or something may be helpful. Not all airlines provide blankets anymore. I found a travel blanket/throw that folds up small and keeps me comfortable on flights that is easy to take with me. Even wearing a polar fleece jacket can be handy.
Another thing to consider is your hygiene. After an 8 hour flights, sitting in that seat, that lovely hair you started with probably looks a bit more like bad bed head. Carrying a comb, wear a ponytail, braids, or figuring out how you will handle hair you may end up sleeping in is something you need to consider. If you are on a 12 hour or longer flight, you might want to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste. For example, LAX to Sydney, Australia is about 15 hours. During your flight you will sleep and eat. When you reach Sydney you may want to brush your teeth, and combing or do something with your hair. Also, is what you are wearing conducive to sleeping in, in an airplane seat? Do you plan to bring a change of jammies to wear? What about foot wear when you enter the lavatory to find the floor wet? Do you really want to wear just your socks on the wet lavatory floor?
Plan on comfortable clothes, and footwear than can accommodate the issues – sleeping in your clothes, hygiene at the other end, keeping warm, and keeping your feet dry or covered walking around.