“My biggest worry about traveling internationally is spending endless hours on an airplane.” That just about sums up the thoughts of nearly every first-time traveler to Thailand… and many seasoned travelers, too. Since we’ve just completed our tenth 24+ hour trip between Thailand and the US (of which 18 hours are spent on a plane), we were inspired to whip up a guide about how to
survive stay comfortable on your next long-haul international flight.
So how do you survive a long flight to Thailand? Or a series of international flights? Here’s a roundup of our best tips to keep you feeling your best during your travels.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Checked Luggage versus Carry-On Bag
We’ve checked our luggage four out of ten flights, which includes our most recent long-haul flight from Thailand in October 2017. There are pros and cons to each option. Whichever you choose depends a lot on your traveling style and personal situation (kids, physical limitations, etc).
|Pros to Carry-On Luggage||Pros to Checked Luggage|
|No extra baggage fees, overweight or oversized luggage fees||Less hassle going through security|
|Belongings won’t get stolen, lost, or damaged while in transit||Your hands are free to explore the airport, sit down at a restaurant, go duty-free shopping, or visit the bathroom|
|Access your belongings at all times||There are far fewer packing restrictions (like TSA’s 3-1-1 liquid rule)|
|Reduce the chance of overpacking because there’s only room for necessities||There is no standard size for carry-on bags, so what may fit on one flight will not fit on another|
|No waiting to drop off luggage (use the self-check-in kiosk) or to collect luggage during flight connections or at your final destination||Walkers, strollers, and winterwear and ‘big and tall’ shoes and clothing inevitably use up a good amount of packing space|
Never Put Certain Items in Checked Luggage
Whether or not you check a bag, you should always bring the following items with you in the cabin:
- Money (cash, checks, credit cards) and jewelry
- ID and important documents
- Electronics (laptop, camera, phone, battery packs)
- Fragile items (art, instruments, antiques, glass)
- Perishables (cheese, fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood)
Here’s a more comprehensive list of high-value, fragile, and perishable items that you should place in your carry-on. Just keep in mind that each airline has different rules regarding what can and cannot be brought with you into the cabin, but it’s a great guideline nonetheless.
|NOTE: There have been recent changes in TSA guidelines regarding large electronics in the plane’s cabin. Check the policies of your layover and arrival countries to prevent any surprise confiscations.|
Choose the Best Airplane Seat
Best seats on a fight are relative to each traveler. Do you need extra leg room? Want to be by the snack galley? Have young children? Can’t imagine crawling over someone to use the bathroom?
- Sit at the front of each section for extra floor space if you have young children
- Grab an exit row seat if you have long legs or like to stretch out
- Stay near the front of the plane to reduce the feeling of turbulence
- Sit in the aisle seat if you plan on getting up a lot
- Snag a window seat if you rather be the disturber and not the disturbed
We personally try to book window-aisle seat pairs, which is available on 2-4-2 configurations such as the EVA Air B777-300ER or Korean Air B747-400. Otherwise, we sit in the middle row on a 3-4-3 configuration and one of us grabs the aisle. This way, we only bother each other (and not our neighbors) if we need to get up to use the restroom or walk around.
We also discovered a “best seat” hack on SeatGuru.com. This site has seating charts for different airlines and plane types. It goes a step further and color codes the seats based on perks or annoyances such as “extra legroom,” “limited reclining chair,” or “missing a window.”
Dress for Comfort
Choose loose, comfortable clothing to wear on a long-haul flight. Forget wearing thick, single-layer clothing like stiff jeans, scratchy sweaters, or heavy skirts or dresses.
Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the plane’s inside temperatures (cool to cold) as well as when you’re stressed out in the airport terminal (warm to hot). A t-shirt with a thin jacket or long-sleeve cardigan is a good idea. Wear a pashmina scarf, which can double as a pillow or blanket on the plane.
Wear slip-on shoes because they make traveling so much easier. For one, you won’t be holding up the security line trying to remove your shoes due to laces, buckles, or straps. Two, it’ll be easy to slip them on and off when you’re seated on the airplane.
If you’ve ever experienced swollen legs, ankles, or feet while flying, you know how embarrassing it is trying to fit your feet back into your shoes at the end of a flight. Plus, long-haul flights increase your chances of developing deep vein thrombosis, which is a serious medical condition. To prevent all of that, wear compression socks. There are some pretty fashionable ones out there, too, so you don’t have to settle for something your grandpa wears.
Stay Comfortable with In-Flight Amenity Kits
International flights provide their passengers a set of headphones, a small pillow, and a blanket. Some airlines go beyond those items and include an amenity kit on their long-haul flights. The higher the class (elite, business, premium), the better and more lavish the amenity kits. Some are quite valuable and contain hundreds of dollars worth of goodies.
Here are examples of the amenity kits from the airlines we’ve flown with to Thailand:
|Airline||Amenity Kit (Economy)||Amenity Kit (First Class)|
|American Airlines||N/A||Leather Cole Haan clutch, 3LAB moisturizer, lip balm, hand cream, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs, slipper-socks, pajamas|
|Emirates||Felt bag, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, socks, eye mask||Leather Bvlgari cosmetic bag, moisturizing pajamas, face lotion, body lotion, lip balm, tissues, mirror, perfume/cologne, deodorant, shaving cream and razor, toothbrush, mini toothpaste|
|Korean Air||Drawstring pouch, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, slippers||DAVI cosmetic bag, face cream, hand cream, aftershave lotion, eye gel, lip balm, earplugs, eye mask, shoe horn, hair clip, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, pajamas, slippers, pen, tissues|
|EVA Air||Eye mask and slippers||Rimowa hard-shelled cosmetic case, slipper socks, eye mask, Thann lip balm, body cream, earplugs, brush, toothbrush, mini toothpaste, pajamas|
|Air France||Eye mask, earplugs, wet toilette||Suede cosmetic case, Carita’s Lagoon face cream, eye cream, hand cream, lip balm, earplugs, comb, pen|
|Qatar Airways||Toothbrush, tiny toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs, socks||Leather BRIC’S cosmetic bag and luggage tag, Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio lip balm, facial mist, moisturizer, night cream, socks, eye mask, earplugs|
We always pack a handbag that’s small enough to fit in the seatback pocket with these items we can’t fly without:
- Sleeping gear (eye mask and earplugs)
- Moisturizers (hand lotion, lip balm, eye drops)
- Breath fresheners (mints, floss, mouthwash)
- Disinfectants (wet wipes, antibacterial hand gel)
- Large bottle of water
Kill Time at an International Terminal
In our experience, international terminals tend to be much nicer than domestic terminals and offer some wonderful services to travelers. If you have a long layover on your way to Thailand, there are plenty things to do in the terminal while you wait for your next flight.
Shop at a Duty-Free Store
There are some really interesting finds at international terminals’ duty-free stores like fancy Korean face masks and skin care, quirky snacks, and even Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
Rent a Room by the Hour
It’s not what you may think! It’s similar to a hotel room in which you can set down your luggage, relax, take a nap, and clean up before continuing on to your next leg of your trip.
Take a Shower
Some airports offer free showers while others charge a small fee. It’s a great way to wash off the stress sweat, fix your hair, re-moisturize your skin, and freshen your breath.
Dine at a 24-Hour Restaurant
Many restaurants are open ’round the clock, so it’s possible to land at 2 am and grab a light snack, a hot meal, or a relaxing alcoholic beverage to pass the time.
Visit a Playground
We’ve seen some really cool kid’s sections in international terminals complete with jungle gyms, books, and toys. Let the little ones burn themselves out before strapping them down in an airplane seat.
Decompress with a body massage or freshen up your look at a salon or barber. Traveling takes a toll on your body and these options help you feel and look better while traveling.
Beat Jet Lag
While we don’t have a cure-all for jet lag, we can share what generally works for us whenever we fly from Thailand to the east coast of the USA, which is a whopping eleven time zones away!
The first time we made this trek it took us daaaayys to adjust to the local time. But here’s what we do to minimize jet lag to just one day:
First, get a good night’s sleep the night before. We know it sounds obvious, but don’t begin your travels exhausted. Chances are, whatever sleep you do get in-flight will be of lesser quality and quantity than what you get in your own bed at home.
Second, get into the mindset that you’re on the local Thailand time. We usually reset our watches after we’ve stowed our luggage on the plane. Then we try to stay awake when it’s daytime in Thailand and go to sleep when it’s nighttime in Thailand. In fact, the meal options on long-haul flights typically revolve around the destination time, which helps a lot. Don’t be surprised if you are served ‘dinner’ and then a few hours later you’re served breakfast and coffee.
Third, choose an airplane seat where you can rest uninterrupted. As we mentioned in the “Choose the Best Seats’ section above, be sure your seat properly reclines (aka, don’t sit in the last row), opt for extra leg room, and avoid heavily trafficked areas such as the galley or bathrooms.
Fourth, we’ve found that it’s easy to get on the right sleep schedule if we choose a flight that lands in the evening and then go straight to the hotel and sleep. On the flip side, when we’ve arrived in the morning and forced ourselves to stay awake all day, it was a disaster. We understand that you’re at the mercy of your flight’s landing time, so whenever you get in aim for an early bedtime at the very least.
Lastly, resist naps on the first or second day after arriving in Thailand. Get up and move around, talk to people, and drink a caffeinated beverage (if it’s not too late). Even if you intend to rest your eyes for 20 or 30 minutes, you may end up staying asleep for several hours. That will throw your schedule all out of whack.
Go Through Thailand’s Immigration with Ease
We can’t imagine anything more dreadful than taking a long flight to Thailand and getting hung up at the airport’s security lines or immigration checkpoints. Luckily, Thailand’s airport security is ridiculously relaxed compared to other countries we’ve flown to, especially our home country. And even though Thailand’s immigration process is a little dated (no fingerprint scanners or automatic passport checks), it’s pretty streamlined.
One thing’s for sure: double check Thailand’s list of banned or restricted items so you don’t accidentally pack something that will get you in trouble.
Just before the plane lands in Thailand, flight attendants will pass out a Thai Arrival Card. Be sure to have the address of your hotel on hand in order to properly fill out the arrival card before giving it to the immigration officer.
If you fly to Thailand without first obtaining a visa (like we did on our first trip to Malaysia –whoops!), visitors can get a Thai Visa Exempt Stamp (55 countries) or a Thai Visa On Arrival (21 countries) right at the airport. Otherwise, you will have to apply for a Thai Visa at a Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate-General prior to your trip to Thailand.
Until the time comes when someone invents teleportation, stick to these guidelines on your next long flight to Thailand. We will be eagerly waiting for the next big improvement in travel!
If you’ve gone on a long-haul flight to Thailand, what’s one thing made your flight more comfortable? If you’ve never flown that far, what are your biggest worries?