Red eye flights can be tough, but sometimes they are the best way to maximize your time at your destination. I used to travel so much for work. The thing was, my kids were little and I wanted to miss as few nights at home as possible – spending the whole day flying seemed like such a waste of time.
My colleagues that were frequent business travelers gave me these red eye flight tips. I used them all the time and can attest that they make life easier the day after that all-night flight.
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Red Eye Flight Tips: Before Your flight
Change your time zone in advance
If it is at all possible alter your sleep and wake up times to the new time zone during the week before your flight. I understand that sometimes you just cannot do this, but it does help with jet lag and adjusting to the time difference if you can pull it off.
Get some exercise the day of your flight
Getting a little movement the day of your flight will help your body be ready to relax on the flight. Do something light that is aligned with your regular routine. If you overdo your workout you risk being sore and having a hard time sleeping.
Eat before the flight (but not too much!)
You will want to maximize sleep time, and taking the time to eat dinner on the flight cuts into that time. Just make sure not to eat too much. It can be hard to sleep comfortably with a full stomach!
And…skip the glass of wine on the flight. Alcohol has a diuretic effect and planes are dehydrating. Both of those factors combined mean you may become even more dehydrated, which according to the Sleep Foundation, can negatively impact your sleep.
Strategic Seat Choice
Location of your seat
Choosing the best possible seat for your travel takes a bit of strategy. We generally prefer aisle seats on flights, but for red eyes, that all changes. Choosing a window seat gives you the ability to lean against the side of the plane. Of course, choosing the window means you have to be willing to tiptoe over your neighbor to go to the restroom. If you expect to have to go more often, go with the aisle.
Also, you need to consider if you want to be in the front of the plane or the back of the plane. The front usually is served faster so you can get to sleep sooner, so that is my preference. Also, if you are a light sleeper and sensitive to noises, the right seat for you is probably away from the galley and restrooms.
I use SeatGuru to choose the best possible seats, and red eyes are no exception!
Class of service
Of course, if you are a business traveler or lucky enough to swing a first class seat with points, congrats. For long overnight flights, the planes often this is the best case scenario. For long haul overnight flights, they often have lie-flat seats. It really does make a difference, so if you have points to splurge and overnight travel coming up, consider using them!
Leave as late as possible and fly direct
When choosing your flight, take the latest one possible so you are actually tired. Our experience is that jumping on a 9:45 pm flight and arriving on the East Coast at 5:00am makes for a longer feeling next day than jumping on a midnight flight and arriving at 6:45 am. Our bodies are just more ready to get to sleep on that second flight.
Plan a comfortable outfit
It goes without saying, but restrictive travel clothes can make your attempts to sleep difficult. Wear comfortable clothing made of breathable fabrics that will allow you to be relax on the plane. Make sure to dress in layers. A soft cardigan is perfect because you can be comfortable with any temperature on the plane. Yoga pants are a great option for the overnights because they typically are non – binding. We choose boot cut black so that they more closely appear to be slacks than yoga pants.
Need more inspiration for traveling in comfortable clothes? Here are more of our recommendations for the best travel pants for long flights.
Red Eye Flight Tips: On the flight
Setting the tone for sleep
First and foremost, follow a bedtime routine. This is all about getting in the mindset for sleep. We have a post that lists out in-flight essentials for long haul flights with all our favorites travel items. You can check out the complete list here: our in-flight essentials post, and some of the highlights are listed below.
PRO TIP: I did not find these super comfortable, but I do not find most headsets comfortable so it’s probably me. I addressed this by switching the earbud tips out for foam ones that I bought at BestBuy and problem solved!
Anne, Our Head Lite-Packer
Next, make sure you have a large scarf for warmth, a neck pillow and sleep mask. If you don’t want to go for the headset, don’t forget to pack a pair of earplugs!
Finally, for some people sleeping on a plane is simple really hard to do. If sleep is critical because you have a meeting or plans, you could consider a sleep aid like melatonin or Ambien. If you are going this route, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. AND, make sure the flight is actually going to take off before you take your sleep aid. I have heard stories where a frequent flyer took a sleep aid, then had to disembark because of mechanical difficulties. He was lucky to have some airline crew watch out for him, but it could have gone terribly wrong!
PRO TIP: A She Packs Lite reader says: “I always take a silk eye mask. The silk is soft on my face and it blocks out the light of other passengers watching movies or using bright lights.”
During Your Red Eye
Hydration during flight
Flying is incredibly dehydrating. Make sure to drink plenty of water the day of, and day after your flight as well as throughout the flight. Because alcohol is also dehydrating, make sure to avoid it.
I like to use essential oils to set our mood during a flight, and distract from unavoidable smells on the plane. Lavender and other sleep blends are nice to set the tone for sleep, and a bright cheery oil will help you feel more awake when it’s time to go. I roll them on our wrists and behind our ears like perfume.
For flights longer than 5 hours we always wear compression socks. They prevent your feet and lower legs from swelling so you are more comfortable when you land.
Red Eye Flights: Approaching Your Final Destination
The last thing is to find a time to change and freshen up for your destination. To prepare for the day after a red eye flight, I like to freshen up a bit. I will brush my teeth, moisturize, spray on toner and use the cheery essential oils from my kit, think orange or peppermint, to wake myself up. If I have a meeting, I make sure to change clothes too. Whether I freshen up on the plane or in the airport depends on how much time I have before my next activity.
In any case, I hope all of these red eye flight tips will help you the next time you find yourself flying overnight.
In any case, I hope all of these red eye flight tips will help you with your next overnight flight.