5 Expert Red Eye Flight Tips to Help You Survive an Overnight Flight

Long airline flights can be brutal, but they are a necessity if you are wanting to visit exotic lands far away.  And while some people despise taking an overnight flight (also called a red eye flight), I have actually come to enjoy them.  Well, as much as you can.  In my experience planning a trip, taking a red-eye flight can help you to maximize your vacation time off of work because you are traveling overnight and can usually depart after work. While overnight flights may not seem ideal, there are things you can do to help get you through it, actually enjoy yourself, and be refreshed upon arrival at your destination.  So from experience, here are our top 5 expert red-eye flight tips!

1. A Positive Attitude Goes a Long Way on Red-Eye Flight

For whatever reason you decided to take an overnight flight, I’ve learned that having a good attitude can really go a long way.  A positive attitude is helpful in any situation, especially whenever you are flying!  Just accept it and hunker down, because you know you are in for the long-haul.

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I have really found that having this type of attitude helps on an overnight, red-eye flight.  Accepting the situation brings me less stress during the flight, because I know I’m not going anywhere for a long time!  So just kick back and relax.  Especially if you are just starting off a vacation, this is a great time to disconnect from the craziness of life and have a bit of downtime for yourself. In fact, one of the benefits of flying is that you have an excuse to disconnect. So take full advantage of it!

2. Dress Appropriately for an Overnight Flight

As you may know, I’m not some kind of fashionista. I just don’t get sacrificing comfort for style…especially when you will be sleeping on an overnight flight!  While I don’t advocate looking like a complete bum either, I do think you can still take pride in your appearance but be comfortable. For more detail, read my advice on what to wear on a long flight to stay comfy.

Comfort is Critically Important on a Red-Eye Flight so You Can Sleep

While you may love your skinny jeans, you may be cursing them 5 hours into your flight (or less)!  Comfortable pants are a must.  As a female, I prefer yoga pants which are soft and a bit stretchy.  They also have a loose waistband that can be adjusted so that it doesn’t cut into your side while sitting for so long.  Josh prefers to wear his outdoor cargo pants.  Again, they are soft and have elastic waistbands that can be adjusted.

*Read what other “Travel Nuts” Like to Wear on Long Haul Flight

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Temperatures Are Rarely Consistent on Airplanes!

The temperature on an airplane is unpredictable, and it changes often.  So one of our biggest red-eye flight tips is to be prepared for this by wearing layers.  This way you can add or remove as needed to maintain a comfortable temperature.  I also like to wear clothing items that can do double duty, such as a scarf that unfolds and can be used as a blanket, or sweater that can be rolled up and used as a pillow.

Lastly, be sure that you wear comfortable shoes and socks for a red eye flight.  Tight fitting shoes will cause problems with circulation!  You may also want shoes that easily slip on and off.  I know that some people frown on taking your shoes off on a plane.  And if you have some smelly feet…don’t be that person!!!  But I just can’t get comfortable to sleep with my shoes on!  So I actually bring an extra pair of clean “fuzzy” socks to switch into and I make sure to wear fresh shoes.

3. Occupy Your Time & Savor Having No Distractions on an Overnight Flight

People always complain about not having enough time in the day (me included).  So the great thing about being on a long red eye flight is that you have plenty of time on your hands.  Take this time to relax.  Listen to some of your favorite travel music or break into that book you have been dying to read but never got around to it.

Even though you are surrounded by other people, there is no reason you can’t fit in a bit of “me time” during the flight.

Have a date with yourself, seriously!  One of the things that I love about long flights is that you will often still get some kind of meal service.  While it’s not 5 star, it gives you something to do!  Plus, a movie will typically be playing.  So grab a glass or two of wine (or beer in Josh’s case), take your time and enjoy your meal, and maybe watch a favorite travel movie.

You have nothing else to do, so just savor the moment.

Lastly, if you do actually want to be productive during your flight then you will have plenty of time to get some work done.  If you are starting out on a vacation, this is a great time to finish reviewing your trip details or read up in your tour guide about activities.  If you are heading to a foreign country, download a language app to your electronic device and practice the language.  Many of these apps have games too which are fun to help occupy the time and practice the language. 

4.  Carry-on Items to Help you Sleep During a Red-Eye Flight

Everyone has their favorite carry-on items during their trips.  But for an overnight flight, you should be prepared with some additional items that you don’t typically bring with you.  Eye masks are extremely helpful for sleeping on an overnight flight!  It’s amazing how distracting the light around you can be without a mask.

We also believe ear plugs are a must for keeping out noise; however, we actually use our ear buds from our MP3 player too!  While trying to sleep, simply turn on some soft, relaxing music.  This will not only help keep out the noise around you, but it will give you some white noise in the background to fall asleep too.  Very helpful for falling asleep!

Be prepared so you can sleep well on long, or red eye flights! Picture of my inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, and ipod portable music player
My set up to be prepared to sleep well on long, or red-eye flights!

Bring an inflatable pillow for a red-eye flight.  The bigger, fluffy ones are great, but they take up a lot of room and are a pain to haul around!  We prefer the inflatable version because they compress to a small size and fit in our small bag.  Usually, a glass or two of wine will help me fall asleep.  But if you tend to have trouble falling asleep, then bring some Tylenol PM with you to aid the process.

Pack Your Carry-On Carefully

Lastly, pack your carry-on bags carefully.  You will want to be able to access some items easily from under the seat in front of you.  I am always amazed at the number of people who get up during a flight to get items that are buried in their roller luggage stowed in the overhead bins difficult!

5.  Red-Eye Flight Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep on an Airplane

Okay, so maybe you never sleep well on airplanes.  But hopefully, you can find a sleeping position to make it not as miserable!  We’ve learned a number of things over the years that have helped us be able to sleep decently during an overnight flight.

Choose Your Seats Wisely (and in advance)

There are definitely some preferred areas to sit, and areas you DON’T want to sit!  Our first recommendation is to review your airplane’s seating layout in advance and pick your seats carefully — and in advance, if you can. While most planes sit 3-3 (seats and rows across), bigger aircraft that are often used on long flights may sit 3-4-3, 3-5-3, 2-4-2, or 2-3-2.

We prefer the flights that have 2 seats near the windows because it makes it much easier to get in and out during the flight.  Plus, since Josh and I usually travel as a pair, we can get the whole row to ourselves with an aisle and window perfect!

Liz and josh sitting on the plane near a window in comfy clothes and prepared to sleep on an overnight red-eye flight to China

Window Seat – if You Want to Sleep

If you want to sleep, then be sure to get a window seat so that you can lean up against it with your pillow.  It also disturbs you less because people are not climbing over you to get out of their seat and use the restroom (although you need to be comfortable being the one doing the climbing!).

Avoid Sitting Near the Galley or Bathrooms

Make sure that you choose your seats in advance so that you are NOT sitting next to the lavatory or the galley.  Those bathrooms go non-stop during most long-haul flights, and people tend to line up and be able to stretch their legs.  If you are sitting near it, you will not only have people surrounding you all the time, but you will get to hear the loud flushing of the toilet over and over again!

Also, the galley tends to be a gathering place on long flights.  Whether it is the flight attendants chatting or passengers who go back there to visit and get a glass of water, it is a happening place.  And the light can be distracting, so sit away from the galley!

Beware of Seats that Don’t Recline!

Seats at the very back of the plane or between sections (with the galley or lavatories behind you) will have a wall behind them…and sometimes they don’t recline! Awful, I know.

Creatively Use Your Carry-On As a Footrest

Also, the carry-on bag under the seat in front of you can double as a footrest.  Being able to put your feet up is a HUGE help to relieve the pressure on your back while you are sitting, and especially when you lay your seat back.  So use a sturdy bag and pack your items in a way that allows you to rest your feet on it under the seat in front of you.  It also gives you a way to stretch out your legs.

Survive an Overnight Red-Eye Flight With These Tips!

Overall, you may still not enjoy red-eye flights. But if you end up on an overnight flight, using these red eye flight tips can help make your experience more comfortable.  This way you can arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go!


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Red Eye Flight - Pin with camera on the ground in the center of the aisle looking down the airplane

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