Beauty, Food, Tech, TravelHow to: Survive a Long Plane Ride

I’m a bit of an expert on surviving long haul flights, given that my first 17 hour one was at the tender age of 6 (we have a lot of relatives in Asia). Even as a young one, I distinctly recall thinking, “Man, this sucks” as I took in the plane’s stale air, questionable food, and roaring overhead noise while barfing into an air sickness bag. Since then, experience and technology have been great aids in reducing the airplane’s assault on the five senses so far that I even LIKE long haul flights (but capped at 17 hours tops). My tips at dealing with the pains of traveling:

1.    Feel:  As every travel-related site and dermatologist will tell you, airplane air is bad and dry, wreaking havoc on complexions (read: breakouts) and your throat. You have to stay moisturized.  I like to prepare first by stocking up on water after TSA frisks me. You may be thinking, “Why should I buy water when I get it for free on the plane?” True, but I can’t be the only one that gulps down their tiny airplane ration of water two minutes after receiving it. I also remain terrified by a story a friend’s father told me. He was stranded on the tarmac for 4 hours, parched and hungry, after the flight attendants ran out of provisions. I’d prefer for that not to be me.  Experts also tell you to avoid drinking on the plane as alcohol dehydrates, but if you are a nervous traveler, I don’t see the harm in slightly indulging. A friend of mine has a long time fear of flying and kind stewardesses routinely used to give her shots of tequila on the plane.  Worked for her, and she even did one with Flava Flav one time at 6 am.


For your skin, you will want a light but thoroughly hydrating moisturizer. I know a lot of experts swear by a heavy moisturizer, but for a long haul flight, I want something that absorbs quickly and efficiently, nothing gloppy or thick feeling. One great duty-free deal I’ve found has been the Clinique Moisture Surge (a TDO favorite) trio pack, with the face moisturizer, face spritz, and eye gel for $58. I apply the moisturizer, which has a lovely, gel-cooling effect, and then spray the face spritz every few hours. Before nodding off, on goes the eye gel. I also really like Bobbi Brown’s Hydrating Face Tonic, which acts as a refreshing toner. It’s like a lovely long drink for your thirsty skin and your nose, with notes of chamomile, B5, and lavender.  Pat this on before your moisturizer and it will go on even better and smoother.

Separately, if you suffer from air sickness, over the counter aids such as Bonine and Dramamine will be your savior. Until I grew out of air sickness, this was the only way I survived. As a bonus, even the non-drowsy version makes you drowsy, so I used to practically sleep through an entire flight and wake up only for mealtimes! Also, think about your seat choice placement (if possible.) I’m a window seat all the way, because I need to lean on something to fall asleep. Some people like aisle seats since they’re seat roamers, but I’m one of those people that always gets jostled by flight attendants/people walking by, so that doesn’t work for me.

2.    See: I don’t love eye masks because I feel slightly claustrophobic in them, but if they’re your thing, Chanel has an adorable satin eyelashes one with matching pouch and this padded cotton/silk combo Dream Zone Sleep mask. What I do like is applying moisturizing undereye pads, like these from Vitamin C Illuminating pads from Elizabeth Grant. They’re de-puffing, cool, hydrating way to keep the driest part of your face feeling comfortable and not strained. Lie back with these under your eye mask and slowly drift off. Alternately, I love these silk lavender scented eye pillows which are cool to the touch. Great for headaches and sinus decompression, I like to pop these on whenever I’m having trouble sleeping.


Also necessary is stocking up on reading material and fun apps for the plane. I recently finished Mindy Kaling’s newest (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?) and it was a page-turner breeze—like a 20-something version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants that will keep you giggling throughout the flight (especially the chapter on gym revenge fantasies). If you haven’t read the Hunger Games—what are you waiting for?  Get the trio because once you finish the first book, you won’t be able to stop. Other books I’ve started on plane and liked, Just Kids by Patti Smith (an homage to good friendship and the underground NYC art scene in the 70’s) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips books (romance books get a bad rap but SEP’s are witty and non-Fabio/Vicar and the Chambermaid-like. Hers read like romantic comedies, I like the football trio). In terms of fun game apps, I like Fruit Ninja (slicing and dicing fruit never gets old) and Cut the Rope, which uses a surprising amount of brainpower (maybe just me) to figure out how to get the little furry monster the candy.


Airplane rides are also a great time for personal introspection. Most people sleep on long haul flights (unless you get a baby on yours), so they tend to be quiet. The lack of internet and phones also mean little distraction from your thoughts. I find airplane rides are a great time to write diaries, long put-off blogging, or journal entries. JetBlue’s Terminal 5 has a Muji store, where I like to pick up utilitarian notebooks and try out the store’s extensive selection of Asian ballpoint pens (they put PaperMate to shame.)

3.    Hear: Noise canceling headphones are indispensable for blocking out that annoying humming sound or your neighbors’ life stories. The gold standard is these by Bose, but I also like these less expensive ones from Sony. Make sure you get the adapter too, so that they can work with the in-flight entertainment system.  I also always make sure I stock up on mellow songs for the journey. Right now, I’m in a Christmas music mode so I like the um, Justin Bieber Christmas album (it really is good and he does a duet of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ with Maria Carey—gold.’)

4.    Smell: Aromatherapy waters and solid perfumes are another way for me to trick my brain into thinking I’m in rose fields in Provence versus Row 24K. Back in the day, I gifted my mom Chantecaille’s Rosewater for her long flights. Spritz it on and you can almost see the rose petals being harvested on a warm May day in Grasse, France.  I expect this tedious harvesting is the reason for its $60 price point. It’s very popular among the jet-set, so very frequently sold out. More thrifty is Jurlique’s Rosewater Balancing Mist, which is $21 and Shobha’s rosewater toner at $15.

Solid perfumes are ideal for flights b/c the scent isn’t as wafting, meaning that the smell won’t extend to all of your seatmates. It’s concentrated, so I like to touch it on my pulse points. This Chloe solid perfume necklace is lovely for long flights, with a long-lasting, non-cloying smell. I also like that it’s a warm scent, but also works well if you’re traveling to a more humid location.


5.    Taste:  Tasty snacks especially needed on long haul flights since your body gets confused by the airline’s feeding schedule and you can wind up starving at 4 am with no food truck in sight. On a flight to Japan at 9 pm U.S. time, I was once given the choice of either beef with noodles or an egg omelet. Huh? I was completely confused as to whether I should eat according to my departure or arrival time. I discovered Popcorners thanks to Jet Blue, a mysterious blend of chip and popcorn with low-calorie counts (what is it exactly? It’s too good for me to find out) I like the Kettle Corn and Jalapeno Cheese flavors. Other things I’ve been liking: Trader Joe’s crispy seaweed sheets in Wasabi and Salted and if you get really ambitious, kale chips. I first read about how to make them in Smitten Kitchen and one bored Friday night, my roommate and I (yea, sometimes we like to bake on Friday nights and watch Say Yes to the Dress) decided to try it out with a bag. Delicious and super easy to make—you only have to make sure you don’t bake them for too long so they become burned. Add parmesan, chili pepper seasoning, pine nuts, olive oil, whatever you want and create your own flavors. To make a really sizable snack though, you may need several bags of kale. Kale chips are sort of like cotton candy in terms of volume delusion, a handful of kale produces like two baked chips.

Have other favorite travel advice? Share in the comments!


  1. Rowena  |  2 December 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Great advice! It’s all about hydration and comfort. I have a friend who sleeps with an Asian pack mask on her face for long flights. I always take off my shoes and slip on a pair of cozy slipper socks.

  2. Mariel from How Lovely  |  2 December 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Always stash a little rosewater spray in my purse (and chapstick), makes all the difference

  3. Signature Mix  |  2 December 2011 at 11:52 AM

    My noise cancelling headphones and Clinique moisture surge are lifesavers on long flights. This is such great advice.

  4. Kathleen  |  2 December 2011 at 1:09 PM

    Thanks guys! I probably should have added something about chapstick and picking out the perfect travel pillow too, but I felt like my post was getting a little lengthy!

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