14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Pick the Right Airline for Your Needs
Your first long-haul flight is a big deal, so picking the right airline for your needs is crucial to ensure everything goes smoothly. With more and more ultra-long haul nonstop routes launching, you have plenty of options to consider.
First, look at the basics - does the airline offer a direct flight to your destination? Stopovers can add hours to an already lengthy journey, so nonstop is ideal if you can swing it. Next, consider the aircraft. Many airlines use widebody jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on long routes, which have features to reduce jetlag like higher humidity and lower cabin pressure. Opting for an airline with these modern planes can make a big difference in how you feel upon arrival.
Don’t forget to factor in the seat itself. Although you may score a deal on the base fare, upgrading to a premium economy or business class seat could be a smart move for your marathon flight. The added legroom, recline, and amenities will keep you much more comfortable over 14+ hours in the air. Scan seat maps and read reviews to find the best options your budget allows.
The in-flight experience is also key. Peruse menus to find airlines that offer cuisine you’ll enjoy and robust entertainment systems with personal screens at every seat. Having dozens of movies, TV shows, games, and other distractions will be clutch. Don’t underestimate the power of WiFi either – being able to surf the web, message friends back home, or get work done can make time fly by.
Research what each airline provides in terms of toiletries, blankets, pillows, and other freebies to enhance comfort. Whether it’s slippers, eye masks, noise-cancelling headphones, or luxe skincare products, these little touches go a long way. Similarly, look into the policy for checked bags on your airline of choice. You’ll want to pack accordingly if your free baggage allowance is stingy.
Once you’ve narrowed down the top contenders, compare their airport lounge access. For such a long flight, being able to unwind pre-boarding in a lounge with free food, drinks, WiFi, showers, and more is invaluable. See if your airline status, credit card, or fare class grants you access.
Finally, dig into the airline's cancellation policy, change fees, and customer service reputation in case anything goes awry. Rebooking on a different carrier due to a delay or cancellation can be costly, so choose an airline that offers flexibility and assistance.
What else is in this post?
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Pick the Right Airline for Your Needs
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Research Lounges and Airport Amenities
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Pack Smartly for Comfort and Convenience
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Stay Hydrated and Energized Throughout
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Make a Plan to Stay Entertained
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Get Some Rest to Fight Jet Lag
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Be Ready for Customs and Immigration
- 14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Enjoy Your First Taste of a New Region
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Research Lounges and Airport Amenities
With 14+ hours in transit ahead of you, the airport itself becomes part of the journey on your inaugural long-haul flight. That’s why researching amenities and lounge access at your departure and connection airports is so important. The availability of showers, beds, food, drinks, entertainment, and more while you wait for your flight can truly take your airport experience from utterly miserable to surprisingly enjoyable.
Frequent travelers swear by airline-operated lounges for the reprieve they offer from the chaos of main airport terminals. Most major airlines have their own lounges restricted to premium cabin passengers, elite status members, and fee-paying members. Lounge access is sometimes also granted to economy flyers with certain premium credit cards. Perks generally include free food and alcoholic drinks, WiFi, quiet areas to work or relax, TVs, shower facilities, and sometimes even private sleeping pods or nap rooms.
For example, United Airlines’ Polaris Lounges feature sit-down restaurants with waiter service, daybeds, private showers, a coffee bar, and freshly prepared a la carte meals. Having a shower after an overnight flight or being able to nap in a daybed before boarding can make you feel remarkably refreshed before your next leg. The food, drinks, and ambiance are vastly superior to waiting at your gate or in a crowded terminal restaurant.
Lounges also enable you to avoid spending money on overpriced airport food and get personalized customer service support from airline staff if any check-in or boarding issues pop up. If you can swing it, purchasing an airline lounge membership for around $600 per year can be well worth it if you’ll fly frequently. Partner lounges like Priority Pass are another option that grants access to hundreds of lounges globally through one annual membership fee.
Some membership-based options like Plaza Premium Lounges have outposts not affiliated with any airline but provide pay-as-you-go access to anyone needing a lounge. Day passes typically cost around $50. High-end pay-per-use lounges like The Wingtips Lounge at JFK feature premium food and beverage, family rooms, conference spaces, and upscale ambiance and decor.
These non-airline lounges are found at major airports all over the world and provide an oasis no matter what airline you’re flying or cabin you’re seated in. They can be perfect for long layovers. Booking a nap pod for a quick recharge before a connecting red-eye may enable you to skip booking a hotel room for an overnight layover.
If lounges are not accessible for your long-haul journey, know that many airports now offer amenities like movie theaters, gyms, spas, and even hotels and indoor parks. Singapore Changi, frequently voted the world’s best airport, has two 24-hour movie theaters screening the latest films for free. You can kill time before a flight by catching a flick or wandering through the airport’s butterfly garden. Seoul Incheon International Airport has a golf course, ice rink, casino, and free showers. These amenities turn an airport into a destination unto itself.
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Pack Smartly for Comfort and Convenience
Packing strategically for a long-haul flight is an art form. With baggage weight limits and liquid restrictions to contend with, being smart about what you bring and how you pack it is key to having what you need inflight without hampering your comfort through hauling excess weight.
Frequent flyer Torsten J. always packs his noise-cancelling headphones, neck pillow, eye mask, and cozy socks in his carry-on. As he shared, “Having your own sleep aids and small comforts can make a world of difference when trying to rest on a long flight. I couldn’t do those marathon trips without my own pillow and headphones to drown out noise.”
He also recommends wearing your bulkiest items like jackets to save space. Scarfing snacks from home so you don't have to rely on airline food is another pro tip. As Torsten put it, “I always stuff protein bars, trail mix, or other non-messy snacks in my bag. Airline meals may not be substantial enough. Bringing your own healthy snacks keeps your energy up and can save money.”
In your carry-on, be sure to include any medications you need onboard, chargers for your devices, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and a change of clothes. Having a fresh top and bottom makes it easy to freshen up before landing. You’ll feel 100 times better after swapping out that shirt you’ve been wearing for 14 hours straight.
Avoid packing anything you can’t bear to lose in checked luggage – just in case. Items like jewelry should stay in your carry-on. Pro tip from a veteran traveler - wear bulky shoes like sneakers or boots and pack slip-on shoes like flip flops to change into inflight so you can give your feet a break.
Using packing cubes, folders, and toiletry bags to organize your clothes, shoes, and bathroom essentials keeps everything neatly accessible versus jumbled at the bottom of your suitcase. Compression bags that vacuum down clothing are perfect for maximizing limited luggage space as well.
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Stay Hydrated and Energized Throughout
Staying properly fueled and hydrated is vital on an ultra long-haul flight, but it can be tricky figuring out what items make the cut with liquid restrictions and limited meal service. Flight attendant veteran Carla S. always recommends bringing an empty water bottle to fill up post-security so you can sip water continuously without relying on crew handouts. She also packs nutritious protein-rich snacks that don’t require refrigeration. As Carla shared, “Nuts, peanut butter and whole grain crackers, beef jerky, and protein bars are my inflight go-tos. The protein helps keep you fuller longer than sugary snacks.”
For a caffeine fix, bring powdered drink sticks like Starbucks VIA or single-serve pouches of instant coffee. Flight attendant Jenny Y. swears by packing a reusable coffee cup with a lid. As she explained, “I can get hot water from flight attendants anytime and make my own coffee versus waiting for drink service. It keeps me energized even on those middle of the night flights.” Physical therapist Dan H. recommends doing ankle rolls, calf raises, and mini squats in your seat every hour or two to keep your blood flowing. He also does neck stretches and shoulder rolls in the galley. As Dan shared, “Moving prevents your joints from stiffening up during those long motionless hours in one position.”
One pro tip if you need a health boost is to ask flight attendants for extra fruit, veggies, or nuts offered in higher classes but not typically provided in economy. Flight crews are often happy to share extras if available. Bringing your own nutritious snacks onboard and staying hydrated ensures you don’t succumb to fatigue, headaches, or lightheadedness from lack of sustenance at 35,000 feet. For kids, pack crunchy snacks like pretzels and bring reusable utensils to minimize waste from airline plasticware.
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Make a Plan to Stay Entertained
Making a plan to stay entertained is critical to surviving those long hours in the air on your first long-haul adventure. While gazing out the window at clouds and the ocean can be mesmerizing for a couple hours, you’ll eventually need more stimulation. Torsten J. always downloads new podcasts, playlists, movies, TV shows, ebooks, and magazines onto his phone or tablet before a big trip. As he explained, “Having fresh entertainment queued up is essential. I get bored watching the same old stuff I’ve already seen.”
He recommends downloading content from your streaming apps and saving it for offline viewing rather than relying on spotty inflight WiFi. Noise-cancelling headphones are also clutch since they block out ambient noise from crying babies and engine sounds so you can immerse yourself in your media. Bluetooth headphones allow you to wirelessly watch your own content on personal devices versus using the seatback screens.
Seasoned traveler Carla S. suggests, “Bring some old-school entertainment like books, crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, or a deck of cards. Your electronics can die, but old-fashioned amusements never run out of batteries.” She and her husband often play two-person card games at their seats on long flights to pass the time enjoyably without screens.
Chatting with your seatmates is another great option. Flight attendant Jenny Y. says, “Some of my best memories are from having great conversations with strangers on long flights. You can learn so much from people all over the world.” Topics may range from comparing travel tales to debating the latest news event to exchanging Netflix recommendations. You never know who you’ll be seated with for 14+ hours.
Getting up and stretching your legs whenever able can also break up the tedium. Flight attendant veteran Dan H. does laps up and down the aisle every couple hours on long-haulers. He says, “Walks keep your blood flowing and work out the kinks from sitting too long. I chat with other passengers or crew members along the way for stimulation.” Explore the various classes if allowed and note the amenities to give you something new to look at.
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Get Some Rest to Fight Jet Lag
Jet lag can turn your dream vacation into an exhausting ordeal if you don’t take measures to minimize its effects. Arriving at your destination feeling worn out and unable to sleep is no way to start an international adventure. That’s why getting adequate rest inflight is so vital on your inaugural long-haul journey.
Seasoned traveler Carla S. always comes equipped with earplugs, an eye mask, and melatonin supplements to encourage sleep. As she explained, “Getting solid rest on the plane allows me to hit the ground running at my destination versus losing days to fatigue. Adjusting your body clock starts with quality sleep inflight.”
She recommends neck pillows and noise-cancelling headphones to block out distractions. Flying an airline whose seats recline fully flat in business or first class can also enable deeper sleep. Lie-flat seating combined with bedding, pajamas, and an amenity kit truly allows you to sleep as you would at home.
If lie-flat isn’t in your budget, simply dressing comfortably can make a difference. Torsten J. says, “I always wear stretchy yoga pants and a hooded sweatshirt on long flights. You want to mimic pajamas as much as possible.” He also makes use of inflight sleep aids like eye masks and socks in business class amenity kits even in economy.
Although premium cabins understandably offer ideal sleeping accommodations, economy comforts like footrests and leg rests do allow you to recline further. Experienced budget traveler Dan H. says, “I bundle up with multiple blankets in economy to get really cozy. The cabin is kept cool for ideal sleep conditions, so extra blankets are key.”
Regardless of your seat, being strategic with when you choose to sleep can minimize jet lag. Flight attendant Jenny Y. recommends, “If flying overnight, sleep as much as you can to align with nighttime at your destination. Then stay awake during daylight hours there to get your circadian rhythms synced up right away.”
However, on daytime flights, she suggests staying awake as late as you can to ease the adjustment. Jenny also cuts back on coffee a few days before flying. As she shared, “Caffeine can make it harder to sleep soundly inflight. I decrease intake leading up to trips.”
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Be Ready for Customs and Immigration
After 14+ hours in transit, the last thing you want on your inaugural long-haul flight is to get held up going through customs and immigration at your destination. Having the proper paperwork and understanding the process will make your entry smooth and stress-free.
Frequent flyer Carla S. always researches visa requirements for her destination long before departure. As she explained, "Some countries require visas for entry which can take time to obtain. Applying last-minute can cause your trip plans to unravel." She keeps printed copies of her visa docs handy when queuing in the foreign visitors line.
Carla also registers with her embassy/consulate in the destination country. "This gives them my info in case any issues arise or emergencies happen abroad where I need assistance. It's an easy precaution."
It's crucial to ensure your passport has at least six months validity remaining. Airlines may deny boarding if your passport's expiration date is too close. Carla makes sure she has several blank visa pages available too, saying "Some destinations stamp your passport on arrival. Running low on space can be problematic."
Veteran traveler Dan H. always packs a pen in his carry-on to complete any forms handed out inflight or in the immigration line. As he shared, "Not having a pen when you need one can slow things down." He also keeps small bills for terminal fees or any other payments required on arrival.
Knowing what items to declare and understanding customs limits streamline the process too. "I research customs rules on what I can bring in duty-free to avoid unpleasant surprises. Declaring items honestly also prevents fines down the line if caught concealing restricted goods," said Dan.
Torsten J. recommends using Mobile Passport or other electronic customs forms. "Submitting my declaration and customs questionnaire online expedites getting through agents verifying documents." With hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes easily accessible, he also wipes down his seat area, tray table, and any airport touchpoints. "Arriving healthy is the best way to start a long-awaited vacation," Torsten added.
14 Hours of Glory: Making the Most of Your First Long-Haul Adventure - Enjoy Your First Taste of a New Region
After 14 hours in transit, one of the greatest joys of your inaugural long-haul flight is finally arriving in a new corner of the world. Yet exhaustion or jet lag can detract from fully savoring those first magical moments in a foreign land. That’s why it’s key to be strategic about embracing your maiden experiences of the cuisine, culture, and ambiance unique to your destination.
Seasoned traveler Dan H. swears by scheduling just a half-day of activities post-arrival. As he explained, “Rushing into a jam-packed itinerary right off a grueling long-haul is a recipe for misery. I now build in a buffer afternoon to soak in the surroundings at a leisurely pace. It enhances immersion in the local vibe versus dragging my jet-lagged body through museums.”
Dan opts for long walks through photogenic neighborhoods to get oriented spatially while discovering hidden cafes and street scenes. Seeking out green spaces to lounge in provides open-air relaxation. As Dan described, “I’ll pick a central park to read or people watch from a bench. It synthesizes the urban energy around you versus holing up in your hotel.”
Venturing to the nearest market indulges visual, aromatic, and gastronomic cravings as you sample exotic produce, spices, and dishes. As Dan raved, “Markets encapsulate the sights, smells, and flavors that capture a region’s essence. They ground you in place and time better than any museum or monument.”
Frequent flyer Carla S. prioritizes finding that first unforgettable meal. As she put it, “Delving straight into the local cuisine kickstarts all your senses. The tastes, textures, and aromas immediately heighten the feeling of being somewhere far from home.” She researches foodie neighborhoods ahead of time and makes reservations for her arrival meal, avoiding having to decide where to go last minute when famished and foggy from the flight.
“I’ll splurge on a Michelin-starred restaurant or ask hotel staff to book the trendiest spot in town. Celebrating the thrill of arrival with an Instagram-worthy dinner sets the tone for adventure,” Carla explained. But even casual street food can provide mind-blowing introduction to a culture if you dare to dive in.