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How to Prepare for a Long Haul Flight


Get ready for a long flight!

Gap year adventures and backpacking trips don’t always get off to the sexiest start. Your travels start with being squashed next to a stranger for several hours… Nevertheless, there are ways to make this trip across the skies a little more bearable, and dare we say fun? We’ll go through the tricks and tips in this guide on how to prepare for a long haul flight.

New Zealand is an epic country for a working holiday. The only issue is that it takes forever to get there from anywhere in the world but Australia, Fiji and a few small islands! Bearing in mind that you have to sit in an aeroplane for 13 hours or so, you might want to do a bit of preparation to help keep yourself entertained and as comfortable as you can get in a cramped economy seat.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand, read Flight to New Zealand: Return Vs. Open Return Vs. One Way and compare flight prices before booking your flight to New Zealand.

How do you prepare for a long flight to New Zealand?

You don’t want your working holiday or backpacking adventure to get off to an uncomfortable and mind-numbing start. Keeping things simple, our mini-guide is split into four sections:

  • Entertainment
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Sleeping
  • Cosmetics and medication
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Entertainment on a long haul-flight

Prepare for the in-flight entertainment

What’s great about many long haul flights is that they tend to have in-flight entertainment systems for each seat with an array of movies and TV programmes. Watching a couple of movies really makes the time fly by – pun unintended. Airlines can provide you with headphones, albeit terrible headphones, so it’s best to bring your own.

Bring your own entertainment

Maybe the choice of in-flight entertainment doesn’t meet your standards? In that case, bring your own tablet, e-reader, laptop, etc. Remember to charge them all before you set off on your epic quest. Transiting in another country for a few hours might be a good opportunity to recharge your gadgets, so put your chargers and relevant adapters in your carry-on luggage. For more tips on transiting, check out How to Kill Time During a Stopover.


If you do not have a Kindle (Amazon’s leading e-reader) or simply want to save space, download the free Kindle App on your phone it has the same selection of books available for you to read, right on your phone. And if you are a book worm, go for Kindle Unlimited, a service offering unlimited books and audiobooks right on your phone, the first 30 days of the service are free, then you are in for a small monthly fee.


Wear and prepare Comfortable clothes

Comfort is Key

We know what you were thinking, you were going to wear your best skinny jeans, corset, cowboy hat and stilettos… Well, don’t! Comfort is key. You don’t want to have to peel away your clothes after 13–24 hours of flying.

Stick to the sweat pants/shorts/leggings, your cosiest T-shirt/shirt/jumper, and trainers/sneakers (but nothing that’s going to stink the whole plane out when you take them off).

Pro tip:

Remember to pack layers into your carry-on. Airlines typically have the air conditioning cranked up in the cabin, which can get a little chilly and stop you from being able to sleep. Although most airlines will provide a blanket, taking your own spare layers will guarantee optimum temperature control!

As for your check-in luggage, make sure you have all the appropriate clothing for a gap year in New Zealand. See more tips at What Clothes to Pack to Travel in New Zealand.


Sleeping on a long-haul flight

Get a travel pillow

Overnight flights are the worst. Airlines usually give you a blanket, which is most welcome, and a relatively useless pillow. It’s more comfortable to use a neck pillow, so purchase your own before your flight. These can be strapped to the outside of your carry-on to save room. If you need more pillows to lean on during the flight, don’t be afraid to ask the cabin crew for more. They’ll do it!

Choose the optimum sleeping seat when you book your flight

Getting a half-decent sleep on a long-haul flight usually needs preparation long before your flight. When choosing your seat during the booking process of your flight, choose a window seat for something to lean on other than the stranger next to you. Additionally, avoid choosing a seat in a busy area, like near the toilets, for instance.

More tips for getting a good sleep on a long-haul flight can be found in How to Beat Jet Lag in Just Three Days.


Cosmetics and medication for a long-haul flight

For a long-haul flight, it’s likely that you’ll want to freshen up or use your medication at some point. However, packing cosmetic items and medication into your carry-on has been made especially painful by airline companies making packing these items a skill in itself!

Think: Travel size!

Remember to bring travel-sized cosmetics, as they are restricted items on international flights. Liquids, aerosols, gels and pastes have to be in individual containers no greater than 100ml. Even if you have almost used all of your massive tube of toothpaste, you must put the remaining paste in a small container. Put your cosmetics and any medication that you need for the journey in a transparent plastic bag no larger than 1 litre.

And with that, you will not get your precious toothpaste taken away from you.

Productive ways to fill your time on a long plane journey

  • Read a New Zealand guidebook
  • Start your travel journal
  • Write a best-selling novel
  • Write a list of which family and friends deserve a postcard from you
  • Take pictures out of the plane window to Instagram later
  • Get into the habit of talking to new people by talking to passengers sitting next to you
  • Save some Backpacker Guide pages to read on the flight, such as New Zealand in Numbers
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