How to survive a transcontinental flight?

Because I’ve made transcontinental flights for short-term missions {which I wrote about HERE} and for personal travel, I’ve learned a few things to make those long flights a little easier.

Can you benefit from this post?

If you’re traveling to a faraway place this summer, you may find the following information helpful. If it’s a mission trip you’re taking, you may learn from my experience.

If this is your first time to travel to another continent, I promise you NEED what I’m about to share!

For the purposes of this article, let’s define transcontinental as 8+ hours, or more, in the air. Combine those eight+ hours with early arrival at the airport, security lines, layovers, time changes, potential missed connections, and ground transfer at your destination, and you’re looking at a very long day {if not two}.

Also, I’m an economy traveler, so these tips are for surviving without the frills and fluff of first-class or travel lounge benefits.

Planning your flight.

Whether your travel is for vacation, Christian missions, with family, or alone, you can survive a transcontinental flight. Here's my tips...My favorite itinerary for oversees flights are those that leave in the evening. Obviously, this is not always possible, but I find departing later in the day helps alleviate jet lag.

As soon as the flight is underway or once meal service has concluded, I suggest you take a dose of sleep aid and settle in to get some semblance of a night’s rest.

Also, take care to choose your seat according to your usual preferences in-flight. On transcontinental flights, I’ve been known to beg for an exit row. My sister-in-law prefers the very last row near the restrooms.

What’s your favorite seat?

Speaking of jet lag, there are pills to help with this. The resource I use for travel/missions related vaccinations is Passport Health and they carry the jet lag medication. You can also ask your doctor for recommendations.¹

What to wear?

Comfort is the number one goal on a transcontinental flight. I’m not suggesting you roll out of bed and head to the airport in your pj’s, though you’ll be wishing you had about six hours in. Consider these tips.

  1. Wear layers to combat the changes in temperature you’ll experience on-board.
  2. Choose the most comfortable clothes you can, while still looking appropriate. {I like to wear comfy leggings, but I’ll wear a long top and sweater to look a little more put together.}
  3. Comfortable shoes are a must {I like to wear slip-on shoes, which makes going through security a little easier, with a gel sole for comfort.}
  4. Pack a scarf, sweater or jacket, and socks {if you’re not already wearing them} in your carry-on.

My carry-on must-have’s for *transcontinental* flights…

This is my list of carry-on necessities {along with passport and other travel documents}. Your needs may differ from mine, but this list will start you thinking in the right direction.

For general needs/comfort –

  • Chewing gum {during takeoff/landing}
  • Tylenol PM or other sleep aid
  • Prescription medications
  • Neck pillow {my favorite I purchased in Singapore, but THIS PILLOW is similar}
  • Travel House Shoes {SNOOZIES are my favorite}
  • Ear plugs {for sleeping or when you’ve reached your limit with fellow passengers}
  • Large scarf {for when the plane is freezing}
  • Jacket or sweater {for when the plane is freezing}
  • Hand fan {for when the plane is burning up 🙂 }
  • Small stash of over-the-counter meds {headache pills, cold meds, gas relief, allergy meds, Pepto-Bismol, etc.}

To combat hunger and thirst –

  • Hi-protein snacks² {sealed in original wrappers, pre-security; for special dietary needs or flying with children, there are allowances}
  • Bottled water² {buy it inside security or take your own empty bottle and ask airline attendant to fill it}
  • Drink enhancers {individual packets of *dry* drink mix for cold/hot drinks are great to have; packets of creamer and artificial sweetener, too}

To pass the long hours on-board –

  • Ear Buds and electronic device {fully charged before boarding}
  • Back-up battery charger for devices {some planes now have charging outlets, but not all}
  • Reading material {hard copy and/or on device}
  • Music and games downloaded {even if you never listen to music or play games on your phone or other device, this may keep you sane in-flight}
  • Devotional material {hard copy and/or on device}
  • Pen and/or pencil {to complete customs forms or make notes}

For personal hygiene –

  • Wisps for teeth cleaning {genius and can be used right at your seat}
  • Change of clothes³ {in case you spill coffee down your shirt in-flight; after 8+ hours on a plane and racing through airports, changing into fresh clothes is a welcome treat}
  • Basic make-up and toiletries² {as a woman traveling oversees, I want my makeup, deodorant, etc. in my carry-on for two reasons: 1) I’ll want to freshen up, at some point, and 2) If my checked bag should (heaven forbid) be delayed or lost, I’ll need these personal items with me.}

You just read my best tips for how to survive a long flight overseas. Do you have additional tips we could use? Please share in the comments.

Happy travels, my friend!

How to survive a *transcontinental* flight? #prepare #travel Click To Tweet

¹Before traveling outside the USA, check with your physician. This is especially important if you’ve not traveled internationally before, are traveling to a developing/3rd world country, have special health needs, or need up-to-date vaccinations.

²Be sure to check your airline’s website for carry-on requirements. Pay special attention to instructions for liquids and gels.

³Many international airports have vendors where you can pay for a private shower or sleeping room. I’ve done it and was glad to pay the cost. Sheer bliss after being on a plane for what seemed like days.

image credit: Christian Pics and Cole Keister

P.S. If you ARE taking a missions trip this year, check out this post:  Travel to the 3rd world and surviving it…

2 thoughts on “How to survive a transcontinental flight?

  1. I’m from a quote unquote third world country and we’ve never like this reference – third world.
    Anyhow, I think you’ve provided some good tips here – especially leaving in the evening. My longest flight has been 5-6 hours but a long flight is in my future and this post will help me.

    • Nylse, I totally understand the aversion to “third world” by someone born there. I never use the phrase when I’m on a mission to developing countries, but when writing a post like this I find it is a term understandable to most readers in the USA. Thank you for your kind comments and I hope you found something helpful for your next adventure!

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