Reader Request | Long Haul Travel Tips For Charlotte

Author: Miranda Eason

Today’s Reader Request is from Charlotte, who’s just weeks away from her first ever long haul flight, to Vietnam. She’s looking for advice to survive the journey, look good when she arrives and swerve the dreaded jet lag…

{Charlotte’s Request}

I’m flying to Vietnam on the 20th of March. This is my first holiday in three years and its obviously a biggie (I’m beyond excited!) I’ve never flown long haul before and, when I arrive, I have a lovely handsome man meeting me at the airport! I would like advice on how to survive the flight, what to wear, how to look remotely attractive after 14 hours in the air and how to beat jet lag when I get there. Any help would be amazing!
Thanks and much love, Charlotte xx

I tend towards the last minute when it comes to travel. I have been known to start my packing the morning of an early morning flight. Consequently I’ve never really gotten my long haul routine down. So I thought I’d ask some well-travelled ladies to share their best advice…

Lucie Monks, works as cabin crew and has been flying long haul, short haul and mid haul for over two and a half years, regularly flying to Rio, Vegas, LA, Singapore, Sydney, Capetown and Japan, amongst other destinations. Before becoming cabin crew Lucie travelled a lot so she’s very used to being a passenger too.

Luggage Tripp is a great brand of suitcases as they offer some really stylish colours and designs. The smaller wheely cases are the perfect size for most airlines. Plus you can always find them in Debenhams on sale for very reasonable prices. They also come with a five year warranty.

Plane outfit I always wear black leggings, a plain white tee and blazer, once I’m on the plane I pop a cosy hoodie on.

Getting off the plane outfit I change into classic skinny dark blue jeans, a stylish blouse (one that doesn’t crease) and a blazer. Along with a pair of heeled boots or heeled sandals, depending on the weather.

Carry-on necessities to help you get some much-needed rest Headphones, neck pillow, book, ear plugs, magazines, socks, eye mask, iPad, chargers and adapters.

Make-up bags You need two. One for liquids (the smallest one from this set from M&S is perfect and the correct size) and one for everything else.

Liquid bag essentials Everything must be 100ml or less. Moisturiser It’s important to moisturise whilst flying, as it can really dry your skin out, leaving you looking haggard. I use REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream 50ml I love it, however a cheaper moisturiser will still do the trick. Lip balm I use one called Dr Lipp Nipple Balm For Lips Sounds strange but it is amazing especially for flying to keeps lips soft. Another good one is Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. I take eye drops as my eyes get very red and dry. Foundation I love Estée Lauder Double Wear Light I use the lighter version which is like a BB cream, I find it doesn’t dry your skin out as much. There’s also original Double Wear which is a lot thicker. Obviously any foundation works but I find these the best. Mascara Lancôme Hypnôse is great. Hand cream Crabtree & Evelyn and L’Occitane are always good. Top tip Pop to the perfume counters for samples – they’re the perfect for your liquids bag. Don’t forget a travel size toothpaste, Superdrug is a good place to go for that.

In the non-liquids make-up bag Nail file, blusher, eye liner, toothbrush, hair bands, deodorant (dry stick deodorants are good for the plane as they don’t need to go in your liquids bag) and make-up wipes. Johnsons Face Care Makeup Be Gone Moisturising Wipes are amazing – your face feels like you’ve just moisturised it.

Tips for feeling fresh and looking good
1. Drink loads of water, this will help massively with jet lag and your skin.
2. Take Berroca – it’s a vitamin C supplement that you dissolve in water.
3. Walk around the plane as much as possible, this will stop you getting cankles.
4. Drink peppermint tea to relax you.
5. Try to sleep as much as possible on the flight.
6. Don’t eat bread or drink fizzy drinks as these will make you bloat even more than will anyway when flying.
7. Bring nuts to nibble on.
8. Once you’re awake drink green tea
9. Take your make up off at the earliest opportunity and keep moisturising during the flight.

Top tip Keep an eye on the moving map for a landing time. An hour before landing start preparing yourself. Pop to the bathroom to change into your meeting clothes and put your make-up on to beat the 40-minutes-to-landing rush for the toilets.

Melissa Knight is a freelance copywriter/editor currently living in Rome and married to a New Zealander. She travels to New Zealand at least twice a year and last year she flew to the Cook Islands and Australia, where her brother lives, too.

Select your seat if the airline you’re flying with gives you that option. An aisle seat is good if you don’t think you’ll sleep much as it means you can get up without disturbing anybody slumbering next to you. If you do want to sleep, a window seat is best. The area close to the toilets is generally best avoided as it can get a little crowded and noisy.

Regardless of where you sit, there are a few items that can make all the difference between a good flight and a bad one. Earplugs are a must have. Take an eye mask – it’s never dark enough, even after the lights are turned down. Buy a large bottle of water at the airport and drink from it regularly to stay hydrated. Many planes have a small water dispenser in economy, so once finished you can refill. Preload your tablet/e-reader/iPod with films/books/music/podcasts and, if you have them, noise-cancelling headphones are awesome. It’s a little bit of a luxury item but I also like to use This Works Deep Sleep Stress Less, a soothing scent in a roller ball dispenser.

A travel uniform of black leggings and a long top can be smartened up with a blazer and an oversized scarf when travelling through the airport, but is also comfortable enough to sleep in. Take a jumper and warm socks in your hand luggage to throw on if the plane gets chilly. On a long flight, I often change completely into some smart loungewear. Before landing, I put on a fresh ‘arrivals’ outfit, usually some light layers that won’t crease easily.

Airplane environments are incredibly drying so, as soon as the seatbelt light goes off, head to the bathroom to remove any makeup and apply a ridiculously thick layer of moisturiser. My go-to products here are Clinique Moisture Surge Intense and Clarins Hydraquench Lip Balm, they make my skin look and feel nourished. Before landing, wash your face and apply a normal layer of moisturiser in preparation for make-up.

The best products are compact and quick and easy to apply in a confined space. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick is great because it doesn’t count as a liquid (more room for moisturisers/cleansers/facemasks!) and can be applied where needed, then blended with fingers for a natural look. A cream blush will give you a little colour without drying, Bourjouis have a great one that also has a little mirror in the compact. I save travel-sized mascaras for flights and I use Clarins Instant Concealer to lighten my dark circles. Travel-sized dry shampoo and deodrant will go a long way to making you feel more presentable.

Fight jet lag by setting your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you get on the plane and act accordingly to ease your body into that timezone. So if it’s 9pm in the country you’re heading to, try to wind down for sleep. If it’s breakfast time, stay awake until it’s early evening at your destination. Once you arrive, try to stay awake until a normal bed time. You might start to struggle in the late afternoon or early evening, maybe arrange to meet friends – the excitement should ward off any temptation to go for a nap that will disrupt your body clock even further.

Ros Cooke is a physiotherapist for the England Netball team. Currently ranked third in the world, England’s main competition are Australia and New Zealand and so she frequently travels to those countries with the team – plus multiple internal flights – and has to ensure everyone is match-ready when they arrive.

Pre-flight nutrition and hydration: Pack your carry on with snacks such as cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, rice cakes, pretzels, popcorn, fresh fruit, bagels with peanut butter. At the airport avoid caffeine, especially if you’re flying at night. Stick to foods you’re comfortable with and ensure you have a balanced meal if you eat before boarding. Spend time walking around and stretching before getting on the plane.

On the plane: Drink water throughout the flight. Eating meals at times that fit with the meal times of your destination can help reduce the time taken over jetlag. Stick to your usual style of eating if possible. Long hours of travelling can upset your digestive system, drinking lots of fluids and sticking to fibre rich foods such as fresh fruit, wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals will help. Don’t overeat, remember you are probably moving a lot less than usual. If flying at night going through your usual pre-bed routine such as brushing your teeth can help. Try to sleep at the right time as your final destination and get as much sleep and rest as you can, don’t spend the whole time glued to your Kindle, iPad etc

At your destination: Adjust your watch to local time at your destination on the plane or as soon as you arrive. Avoid wearing sunglasses outside for the first few days. Try and get outside in the late afternoon for 30-60 minutes. Establish a good pre-sleep routine to teach your body it’s time to relax. Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable (dark enough, not too hot, or cold, and quiet). Observe the 30 minute toss and turn rule – if you’re awake for more than 30 minutes in the night get out of bed and do something that will help you sleep like reading a book or listening to music.

I can’t wait until my next long haul flight to try out all these tips! As ever if you have any tried-and-tested advice or product recommendations then do share below. Wishing you an AMAZING trip Charlotte!

Born in Yorkshire. Lives in East London. California girl at heart.
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32 thoughts on “Reader Request | Long Haul Travel Tips For Charlotte

  1. I got the dreaded cankles flying home from NY last summer. I was absolutely shattered so slept for most of the flight and that was the result! Since then, I’ve purchased a wonderfully fetching pair of flight socks and use them on short/mid/long haul.

    Always take my make-up off (usually pick a row that gets boarded first so I can get my pre-flight routine sorted whilst everyone else faffs around!) and slather on the moisturiser. I find drinking a lot of water quite hard on flights, I’m not sure why! I do my best but probably never drink enough.

    Changing outfit – am I the only one who finds this impossible in the plane toilets?! Barely enough room to get in and close the door, let alone change!

    1. Me too me too!! With pics!! (Actually, I lost almost my whole morning to pics of David Gandy yesterday in a bid to prove he’s more swoon-worthy than my colleague’s crush Jamie Dornan so maybe no more handsome men for me for a while…)

  2. I’m with Jo on the flight socks… if I go anywhere without them (or doing foot exercises on shorter flights) then my feet double in size!

    Other than that I’m the worst person for advice on jet lag. Last time I went to Australia I had half a bottle of wine when I arrived and then passed out on the platform of a train station in Sydney. The shame of it! x

  3. Oh goodness, I wish I had all of these tips last year for Japan! I looked a state when we got off! I never wear makeup for flights anyway but I didn’t slap on any moisturiser as I’m squared of taking liquids in hand luggage in case I get it wrong and they take them away, so I just don’t put any liquids in at all! The ugly flight socks are a must though, even if they’ve not been recommended to you for specific health concerns (some people are more at risk of DVT than others) then they will help keep swelling down. Keep moving your feet around in your seat and walk around as much as you can. I used an inflatable neck pillow for the first time on a flight and it made it much more comfortable for sleeping not having my head loll around all over the place, plus it doesn’t take up much room when its deflated in your bag.

  4. From a totally aesthetic perspective – get a blowdry as close to your flight as possible. I did this for my first long haul and on arriving sleep deprived and disorientated in Asia at least my hair looked fabulous! A light spray tan or a bit of gradual tan, freshly painted nails, face wipes, industrial lip balm, concealer and highlighter 🙂 A fully loaded kindle, bundle of magazines, healthy snacks, a guide book and watching episodes rather than films put the time in easily. Comfy leggings, roomy dress that can be worn with bare legs on arrival, blanket scarf and cozy socks. Last but not least…enjoy the flight and use your time doing what you hardly ever get the time to do. Have a fantastic time in Vietnam – it is quite possibly the best country I have ever visited 🙂 x

  5. My most important tip (which my Mum, who worked for Delta for 10 years, gave me) is take two changes of clothes with you in your carry-on luggage. It means that you have a bigger carry-on case but, if your bag goes missing or delayed, you’ll be okay for at least 48 hours. I worked at an airport for a summer when I was 18 and I can’t count the number of times that whole carts of bags arrived as the plane was already taxiing off.

    My other tip (also bag related – I’m obsessed) is, if you are in transit (have more than one flight to get to your final destination), then make sure they put your bags on your next flight. Go to the desk at your second gate and give them your bag tags – they can check up on the system to see whether the bags have been loaded or not.

    Oh I wish I was going away somewhere awesome like Vietnam, have fun Charlotte!

    1. I always have at least one outfit change with me too Kate, plus a bikini if I’m going somewhere sunny, would hate to miss a day on the beach if my bags got lost. And great tip on going to the desk with your bag tags, never considered doing that but always worry that my bags might not make the connecting flight.

  6. My tip from my mum, like Kate’s but on a slightly different note… Keep one pack of your contraceptive pills in your hand luggage. If your bag goes missing, you don’t have to embarrass yourself in a foreign pharmacy trying to communicate what you need with gesture! Another tip would be to take photos on your phone of the packaging incl brand and drug name of any medications you need in case you have to get some more at any point.

    Have a fantastic trip – handsome man will be glad to see you even if you look a state and promptly fall asleep!

    1. Great tips Kate, I always end up in a pharmacy buying something, usually something to take the itch out of bites, I seem to a magnet for insects in foreign climes, I really must start taking some with me.

  7. Thanks everyone, this article and comments are amazing and so helpful!! I had not even considered flight socks, or thought about moisturiser. So many useful tips! Ahh handsome man, I wont embarrass him with a photo, but I will say he is lovely and has eyelashes most girls would be jealous of! He is currently travelling for 6 months, so we will not have seen each other for 3 months!! (why do romances always start, when someone is leaving the country!) current status ‘friends’ but first ‘official’ date planned in Vietnam…. (insert swoony face here) so we shall see… fingers crossed!
    I am now off to write my shopping list with all your recommendations on 🙂 …. xx

  8. My number one thing to do is head straight for duty free and slather my face in the super expensive face creams that I wouldn’t ever normally pay for. Repeat if you have a stopover! You can do handcream, body moisturiser, the lot- and the lovely staff will often give you a free sample mini pot to take on board. I always confess what I’m up to, we have a laugh and my face gets a pre flight pampering.

    Second the leggings/plain top/blazer combination. A blazer makes me feel so put together the minute it’s on- plus nice pumps rather than grotty Converse that I can slip on and off and avoid sweaty gross feet in flight.

    Used to travel for work a LOT, and agree with all the jetlag tips above. Have a wonderful time- Vietnam is incredible from all I hear. And that handsome man sounds rather delish 😉 xxx

  9. My best friend and god-daughter lives in Australia (I know, good one) so I’ve had quite a few solo long haul flights. The best thing to get over jet lag is to set your watch to the time zone you are flying into. It really helps with figuring out when to sleep and you can also imagine what the person is doing in your destination which always make me really excited! The last two times I have gone have been as a surprise for my friend at her wedding and my god-daughter’s christening, both of which I had to go to the day after I landed and I was totally fine so it must work!
    Walking around and flight socks are a must…At the christening I was wearing heels all day and running around so by the afternoon my feet were so swollen I had sit with them in ice. Not a good look around a group of Aussies.
    I’m so jealous Charlotte, have a wonderful time! xx

  10. Oh, I forgot- stop at one free drink. Hangover flying is hell on earth, and alcohol will dehydrate you like crazy. Have a G and T and go to sleep.

    The other thing I forgot to say was try and enjoy it! I always used to say this to clients- when, as an adult, can you sit at rest for a long period of time, read, watch films, sleep, have meals and drinks brought to you by lovely smiley people? Not often. xxx

  11. These are all AMAZING tips!

    We are averaging a long haul flight every couple of months or so at the moment. Getting on to your new time zone as SOON as you sit down on the plane is the only way I’ve found to beat jet lag. Also, don’t look at what time it is back at home – it just reminds you that you should be tired/awake and prolongs the agony!

    I second elasticated waists for maximum comfort. Jeans are not your friend in the air. Layers are great for the inevitable hot/cold temperature games – easy to remove shoes and comfy, snugly socks are a must.

    I keep an in flight beauty regime simple – lots of moisturizer (hands and face) and no make up until I land (there is much that can be fixed in the arrivals hall). Keep post-flight make up simple – some tinted moisturizer/BB cream, a bit of concealer for any bags, blusher/bronzer for “glow” (I like NARS in “orgasm”) and some mascara – the £2 Natural Collection one is SO good.
    I also wash my hair the day of the flight so it’s as clean as can be, and tie it up into a very high top knot to keep it out of the way if I want to sleep, which keeps a bit of volume in it as well.

    Relax and enjoy the flight – I love having a few hours of enforced “down time” to shamlessly watch crap films and have a good moan about the food.
    Not only is booze is dehydrating but the effects are heightened in the air. Mid-flight hangovers are horrible (not that I’d know, ahem…) so while I’d NEVER suggest avoiding free gin completely (!) do counteract any drinks with lots of water and stick to one or two alcoholic drinks as a max.

    Enjoy Vietnam – it’s my very favourite country and I’m sure you’ll have an AMAZING trip!


  12. Vietnam, wow! Would love to visit, it will be well worth the long haul flight. I travel to Asia every year with work and although I still haven’t cracked it, I certainly know what doesn’t work! Not to be a stick-in-the-mud, I would avoid ALL booze and just drink as much water as possible. Honestly, one drink in the air equals five drinks on the ground! You’ll be so excited I doubt you’ll want/need a drink. Also, totally agree with Lucy above – make the most of having all that time to yourself with the free reign to watch/listen/read whatever you want with very little disruption. My record on a recent flight to China – 4 films and one book cover to cover! Also, if it is an option and you get the chance – ask at check-in if there is a chance to upgrade, worth a shot even if just to premium economy as even the slightly bigger seat/more leg room and proper cutlery makes such a difference! Bon Voyage!

  13. I go to Vietnam this April, so this post could not come at a more convienient time!!

    My regime is similar to the above: leggings under a dress so i don’t need to have an outfit change before leaving the plane (those crampt toilets are pretty disgusting at the end of a long haul flight, so the less time spent in there, the better) and scarf for added warmth/comfy shoes/thick socks/book/ipod.

    I know someone said to not sit near loos, but we always book a seat at the back- primarily so we can move our seat back as soon as we can without annoying passengers behind us! (I’m way too polite otherwise and would be sat upright the whole time just to not annoy someone!!). Also, another added bonus is that it’s near the galley so you can pop and get a drink/snack when you like, without having to walk a mile down those tiny aisles 😉

    My flight plan is to stock up on some clinique moisture surge moisturiser in duty free (though tempted to try and bag some free samples now!) and slather it on as a mask after taking off all my make up, then try and sleep as much as possible.

    Does anyone have any tips of things you can take to help you to drift off to a nice slumber?! I had a chest infection on a plane once and took benylin throughout the flight… best sleep ever. though I’m not sure i should be taking cough mixture if i don’t really need it!

    1. Hi Rachel

      Some travel sickness tablets can make you drowsy, as can Piriton (I have no idea how to spell it!) – the allergy medicine.
      I seem to remember somewhere that taking sleeping pills is a bad idea – if you are knocked out it raises the risk of DVT and also presumably isn’t helpful if there is an emergency – but I’ve found those two make me sleepy which would probably be ok for a couple of hours.
      Where are you heading in Vietnam? It’s a fabulous place!

      K x

      1. Thanks Katie. Oh yes, Piriton is drowsy isn’t it? Thanks for the tip. Don’t fancy something to totally knock me out, I take your point about emergencies, yikes.

        We’re going to Ho Chi Minh, then on a four night motorbike trip through the highlands from Nha Trang up to Hoi An, chilling out in Hoi An and then Hue. We don’t have time to do Hanoi/Halong unfortunately, but I think it gives us a reason to go back! Did you love it? Where did you go? x

        1. That sounds FABULOUS. The motorbike tour through the highlands is still on my “to-do” list… And my excuse for a third return trip 🙂 It is my favourite country in the world. The food is awesome and the people are lovely!
          We did Hanoi – HCMC 5 years ago (and came back last December for a few days in the Mekong region) so I’m sure things have changed a lot, but Hoi An is a lovely place to just relax and enjoy the ambiance. The old town is very pretty and full of tailors who will make you a copy of any clothing you can find a photo of… I went to a place called Yaly Couture and designed my own made-to-measure LBD for about £40 which I still love now.
          There isn’t a huge amount to do in Hue itself (the citadel I imagine is still semi-flattened from bomb damage) but I seem to remember Brown Eyes bar was good fun and did an interesting line in creme de menthe based cocktails… A tour of the DMZ (and the Viet Cong tunnels) from Hue is really interesting. I think we went with a company called Kangaroo and had an old dude called Bill as our guide. He was nuts but really knowledgable and good fun if they are still around.
          There is a website called Legal Nomads – she lived in HCMC for a while so is a great resource for food ideas for there and around Vietnam – which is definitely worth a read before you go.
          Have an amazing trip!
          K x

  14. You lucky girl! I got back from Vietnam (and Cambodia) a couple of days ago – slightly delayed honeymoon. I only saw a small part of Vietnam (Phu Quoc and HCMC) but it’s beautiful. You’ll love it! I would second (third…) the very sensible tips above. Also, I noticed that my flights were in no way full. If I’d been travelling alone I’d have selected a seat in the middle of a batch of three when checking in online. That stops pairs from selecting your row (as they won’t be seated together), meaning with a bit of luck you can have the row to yourself. I saw quite a few people with that luxury on my flights and they were able to sleep (seemingly quite comfortably). Bit of a gamble I guess, but the potential reward is worth it in my view! Have fun!

  15. I started travelling long haul regularly just over a year ago.
    I stay away from alcohol (sometimes indulge on my return flight) and bread as just adds bloat! Always buy at least a litre of water at the airport and in my carry on I have a second pair of contact lenses (should wear my glasses but don’t for vanity reasons) mini size of cleanser and moisturiser and cotton pads. Lots of lip balm too!!!
    I try to get a flight that will get me there in the evening rather than the morning, you can then get into a routine. I was recommended sleepeaze by Boots that I took the first night I arrived after my last flight to China, I fell asleep alot easier than usual!!
    One last tip, get changed into your fresh outfit in the baggage arrival hall toilets, more room than on the plane toilet!
    A tip for Vietnam, If going to HCM, try as many rooftop bars in the main square as possible! All good but different! And the food in the market is amazing!!

  16. Absolutely brilliant post Miranda! Let’s face it, even on great airlines a long haul economy flight is never easy! I find pre planning entertainment is a great way to pass time and i think packing snacks like nuts etc ensures you don’t have to suffer the dreaded in-flight meal

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