I am a former flight attendant. Here are 12 ways passengers are ruining their long-haul flight experience.

Airplane Window (Left), Airplane Meal (Right)

My years as a flight attendant have taught me how to maximize comfort in the air.Tiffany Hawk

  • As a former flight attendant, I’ve found ways to make travel less stressful and more enjoyable.

  • Some people drink too much alcohol, which can lead to dehydration and bad behavior.

  • Others forget to dress in layers and spend the whole flight feeling too hot or too cold.

I used to work as an international flight attendant and have seen many travelers repeat the same mistakes.

Flight attendant standing with a tote bag at the airport

During my time as a flight attendant I have looked after over 100 international flights.Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

As a travel writer who used to work as an international flight attendant, I have traveled the globe many times.

I’ve waited in every cabin and sat in almost every seat on the plane, from a first class sleeper suite to the middle seat in the last row of economy. In doing so, I learned many of the tricks of the trade the hard way.

Here’s what I’ve noticed that many travelers do, consciously or unconsciously, to sabotage their comfort and overall experience on long-haul international flights.

Some have a hard time waking up after taking sleeping pills in the air.

Pills spilling out of a prescription bottle - stock photo

Consult your doctor before taking any airborne medication.Tetra Images/Getty Images

Don’t assume that you can wash down a sleep aid with a few drinks and sleep comfortably for just the right amount of time.

Some sleeping pills can cause drowsiness and other side effects, and you need to be able to stay awake and alert in the event of a mechanical problem or other emergencies on the plane.

If you’re having a hard time getting up after trying sleeping pills for the first time, have a stronger than usual reaction to one, or have taken too many sleeping pills, you might be woken up in front of your face by a frustrated flight attendant.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any prescription airborne medication. And if you’re taking over-the-counter sleep aids, make sure you follow the directions carefully.

Many do not test and use their bulky neck pillow before flying.

Neck pillow on the airplane seat

Always try on your pillow before you take it onto the plane.PhotoHelin/Shutterstock

Some people swear by these classic U-shaped neck pillows and my daughter really loves hers.

But mostly I’ve seen passengers lug them around the world only to hang them up on the plane after feeling unwell.

Before you burden yourself with such a bulky addition to your carry-on, test the pillow at home to make sure it fits well.

Passengers who let their children watch TV series and films throughout the flight may have to deal with jet lag the next day.

International airplane food

There’s no guarantee you’ll enjoy the inflight menu, so bring snacks just in case.Tiffany Hawk

As a mother of two, I don’t blame parents for relaxing their usual rules to get their kids through a long flight. My eldest would love to get on the longest flight in the world just for the opportunity to watch TV and movies all the time.

The amount of TV shows, movies, and games for kids on most international flights is delightful, but unless you mix in some analog entertainment options — like coloring books, sticker books, or mazes — your kids will likely be too wired to switch off and sleep.

And without sleep, they’re likely to experience jet lag the next day.

I’ve seen travelers walking through the cabin without shoes or socks.

aircraft cabin

Airplane floors are not cleaned very often, so it is best to wear slippers or shoes.Tiffany Hawk

There’s nothing quite like getting acclimated for a long flight by kicking off your shoes and putting on a comfortable pair of socks, a convenience crew members often dole out in first class.

But you should be wearing these socks when you’re sitting in your seat, not when you’re walking around the dressing room.

When I worked as a flight attendant, many airplane carpets were not thoroughly cleaned very often. Because the cabin can get bumpy when the plane flies through turbulence, the liquid on the toilet floor may not be water.

If you plan to walk around barefoot, pack slippers to avoid direct contact with the floor.

Some people don’t wear enough layers in the airplane cabin and are either too hot or too cold for them.

An airplane.

Airplane temperatures tend to be either too high or too low.Getty Images

It’s hard to please everyone, and that’s especially true when it comes to the temperature on a plane hurtling around the world thousands of feet above the ground.

There is a high probability that at some point the cabin will be either too hot or too cold for your liking. You can ask a flight attendant to adjust the temperature, but remember that another passenger may have just requested a change in the opposite direction.

Play it safe by dressing in layers that are easy to stack or remove.

Many travelers rely on inflight entertainment, which doesn’t always work.

Airplane TV screen

There are many entertainment options on international flights.Tiffany Hawk

A long-haul flight is a perfect opportunity to catch a new movie or TV series streaming on a channel you don’t subscribe to at home.

But seatback TVs can be finicky, so chances are the TV in front of you won’t work. If you’re not the kind of person who can sleep all night on a plane, bring your own entertainment.

Many passengers do not charge their devices before boarding, mistaking the power outlets in their seats to be working.

airplane socket

Even if there are power sockets on airplanes, they are not guaranteed to work.Shutter Stock Studio; Shutterstock

It’s smart to load your devices with movies, shows, and e-books before a long flight.

Just make sure your devices are fully charged before boarding, as it’s not uncommon for the outlets in a seat, row, or an entire aircraft to stop working.

To be extra safe, bring a book or download a few podcasts that won’t drain your battery and will help keep you entertained through the night.

People who drink too much alcohol can step out of line.

Two drinks on the plane

People should refrain from alcoholic beverages and drink plenty of water.Tiffany Hawk

Due to reduced blood oxygen levels from low cabin pressure and dehydration from low humidity, the effects of alcohol can feel like they hit the air much harder.

I’ve seen drunk passengers embarrass themselves, start arguments and throw up after boasting about their alcohol tolerance.

I’m not saying you can’t have a glass of wine with dinner – I rarely miss the opportunity – but please remember that even if you’re not misbehaving, drinking too much and becoming dehydrated can lead to a brutal case of jet lag.

Many air travelers drink too little water and arrive at their destination dehydrated.

A person fills up their reusable water bottle at an airport.

Fill up a reusable water bottle at the airport.myboys.me/Shutterstock

When the captain is constantly flicking the seat belt sign on and off, or you have to climb over other people to get to the lavatory, it can be tempting to ration your water intake on flights.

But the dry air and high altitude can both contribute to dehydration, which can then worsen jet lag symptoms or lead to other health problems.

Flight attendants should sweep the cabin regularly and offer water, but if they’re not, don’t hesitate to ask for more.

For better control of the situation, you can bring your own water bottle on the plane. Most airports have water stations, so bring an empty bottle to refill once you’ve passed security.

People don’t always remember to bring small items like ear plugs and moisturizers that make the trip that much more comfortable.

Inside a new long-haul aircraft with passengers seated and resting during a long flight, with a picture taken from the rear of the aircraft

Properly preparing for a long flight will make the experience much more enjoyable.Arthur Debat/Getty Images

If you’re in a premium cabin, a flight attendant can give you a cute amenity kit. But if you’re in the back, you’ll probably need to bring your own.

The air in airplane cabins tends to be low in humidity, so bring lip balm to keep your lips from chapping and lotion to keep your skin from flaking.

If you don’t have noise-cancelling headphones, bring earplugs to quell chewing, chattering, coughing, and pacing the hallways.

An eye mask protects your eyes from flashing TV screens, flight attendants’ flashlights, and the light streaming in from open blinds.

And after a long night of eating airplane food, drinking wine, then waking up to breakfast and coffee, you’ll appreciate having a travel-size toothpaste and toothbrush. Or at least bring some gum to freshen your breath.

People often resort to gassy foods and drink carbonated drinks.

International airplane food

There’s no guarantee you’ll enjoy the inflight menu, so bring snacks just in case.Tiffany Hawk

Some airline food is highly processed, so it’s only natural that travelers will want to fill up on salads and fresh vegetables at the airport.

However, do your best to cut out anything that can give gas, including fizzy drinks. The low air pressure at cruising altitude causes gases to expand.

That’s why your bag of chips inflates like a balloon, and it explains why you need to loosen your belt to correct your in-flight bloat.

All that trapped wind can be excruciating, which is why my airline has trained their flight attendants to place passengers in gas-friendly positions to relieve their pain.

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