How To Survive 24+ Hours Of International Travel

I’ve been lucky to have traveled from the western coast of the United States to Europe (and back again) three times over. I’ve also been unlucky enough to have suffered through 24+ hours of plane travel. It’s brutal, I won’t lie. By the end, you feel gross, hungry, and just want to sleep in a horizontal position. I’ve tried to research the best way to do survive extended travel through blog posts and Pinterest infographics, but most expect you to carry your house in your carry-on! After about a hundred flights and a couple of international journeys, here are my favorite habits to survive over 24 hours of travel.

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Starting with your carry-on, pack as little as you can.

I’ve had to pack anywhere from a weekend to moving my life overseas for a semester. Assuming you’re going to be traveling internationally, you’ll probably be in the place you’re going for at least a week or two (or maybe months!). If you’ve decided to check a bag but bring a carry-on and a personal item in the cabin with you, make sure all your heavy items are in the checked bag. Normal sized toiletries, shoes, hair straighteners, etc., you get it. Your carry-on should be an easy to lift and maneuver suitcase or bag. Make sure that you can lift it over your head without assistance. Also include any valuables you may have (like your laptop or DSLR camera) that you may not use during the flight. If convenient, it should have an outer pocket where you can put toiletries that you need to use during the flight (I’ll get to that later). It should also be small enough to fit into a bathroom stall, because you will need to do that at some point.


  In your personal item bag or backpack, have all the things you must have during check-in and during the flight. My list looks like this:

  • iPhone with charger
  • File envelope of documents (printed itinerary, passport, doctor’s notes, etc.)
  • Wallet
  • Headphones or earbuds (preferably ones that noise-block)
  • Book or personal item for entertainment, like an iPad or Kindle. Only one!
  • Extra pair of socks and underwear (trust me)
  • Notebook and pen for journaling or doodling
  • Eye mask or neck pillow
  • Ginormous water bottle that you bought once you got through security
  • Snack (I get a granola bar or pretzels, you know what you like!)

That’s it. That’s all that should be in your personal item bag. When traveling for extended periods of time, you might imagine the excessive boredom you might suffer from. Don’t worry, you won’t. You will appreciate your easy to carry bag after lugging it around multiple airports and stuffing it under many airplane seats. You’ll also appreciate it if you are unfortunate enough to have a tight layover and end up running from one terminal to another (definitely not speaking from experience…).

If you have a flight over 7 hours, try and spend some time sleeping.

You will experience a time change once you get there and waking up to a new time zone is easier than trying to adjust on little or no sleep. Watch movies on the plane entertainment system, spend some time going through photos on your phone, or journal about your travels. Be lazy for a day, without the guilt of knowing there’s something you “should be doing.” If there’s a hobby you enjoy that’s easy to pack, do it! I’ve seen many people bring crocheting or knitting with them to keep them busy. Just keep your personal item bag light and easy to sort through in the tiny space between your knees and the seat in front of you.


Now that you’re packed, you’re prepared for the journey ahead of you. Here are a few tips I’ve learned about airports and excessively long flights:

  • Buy a bottle of water once you get through the gate. Your goals should be: check the closest screen for gate location, buy a bottle of water, head directly to gate XYZ. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things during long flights and dragging travel days.
  • Make your carry-on and personal item bag easy to go through security with. Put toiletries on top and laptop easy to pull out. If you’re traveling internationally, you will probably have to go through security 2-3 times. It’s less stressful if you plan ahead and make it easier on yourself. Also: wear shoes that are easy to take off!
  • Don’t carbo load with airport food! Eat things that are healthy(er) and hydrate. Most of your day will consist of you sitting for long periods of time, and the last thing you want is to have tons of energy (or bloating) and can’t do anything about it. Two of my favorite airport foods are smoothies and salads, which are also nice on your wallet.
  • Be comfortable. Don’t wear pajamas, but make sure that you can have some layers to rearrange. Leggings, a comfy t-shirt, fuzzy socks, and a sweater cardigan is my go-to outfit for international flights. Feel free to take your shoes off once the flight takes off!
  • When you are about to get onto your flight, transfer your must-have in-flight toiletries from your carry-on to your personal item bag. For international flights, bring: make-up wipes, toothpaste/brush, lotion (for hands/face), and contact solution if you need it. You will want to be able to clean your face and hands throughout the day. Make-up wipes and lotion afterward are the easiest and best ways to do that. Hand-sanitizer is also a MUST.
    • Note: If you wear contacts lenses, make sure to take them out for a few hours on your longest flight to let your eyes rest and to clean your lenses.
  • In airports, find a seat with a window or a plug. If you have excessive layovers, watch movies, read, or call someone to talk to! It makes the time pass quicker and you also don’t feel like you’re wasting a day of doing nothing.
  • For international flights, your best bet is an aisle seat. First choice of food and drink, more leg room, and easiest to get in and out to walk or use the bathroom.

There you have it, all of my travel secrets for surviving international travel! While it’s no one’s favorite, you can make it less stressful and boring by planning ahead and knowing what you’re up against. I’m planning a trip to NYC in April and I’m preparing for about 10 hours of plane travel. Where do you want to travel internationally next?

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Kendall Varin

I'm a native Idaho girl who decided to branch out from my roots in the Pacific Northwest. The last autumn semester of my senior year I was very studious (and slightly adventurous) in Scotland. Having lived six places in the last two years, I don't plan to stop there. I'm convinced my life’s purpose is to meet and love as many people from all over the world as I can. Follow my blog as I post about confidently traveling solo, studying literature in a different country, and how little it takes to truly feel at home! For a little Scottish appreciation, make sure to check out my Instagram too!

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