We have travelled on a few long haul flights before, to the USA many moons ago, but even those couldn't have prepared us for the epic journey that was the flight around the world to Australia, and so having made it there and back I wanted to share our tips for surviving a long haul flight. They worked for us, hopefully they will do the same for you.
I have never fully appreciated how awesome these things are. Get one. I picked up a lovely velour memory foam travel pillow from Matalan while the Mister went for a beanbag style one from Primark - both were effective and comfortable, and the Mister's had a handy clip which meant I could attach it to my bag (mine didn't, so I had to carry it). When you use them, it's worth tilting them to one side otherwise your face is likely to slip through the bottom, just FYI.
Socks & comfy footwear
Be it a nice warm pair to pop on during the flight or some actual flight socks, I'd recommend them. I wore slip-on pumps on the way out and flip flops on the way back and kept a fluffy pair of socks in my hand luggage that I slipped on & off on each of the four flights we took. My feet swelled up a lot so being able to remove my footwear easily and still keep my feet warm (I found it got quite chilly on the planes) was handy for me. Also, having to make a mad dash through Dubai airport after a late landing to catch our transfer flight to Adelaide was made considerably easier by having comfy shoes on.
Wear comfortable clothing
I wore a favourite jersey tea dress with leggings & a cardi and the Mister had on joggers & a t-shirt, with a hoody. Sitting in one place for such an extended length of time, you don't want to feel restricted or have anything digging in to you (belt buckles, jeans etc = not a good idea). Something loose fitting and soft is definitely the way to go, and if you have room in your hand luggage, perhaps a spare top/t-shirt & pair of undies in case you feel a bit gross and want to wash up & change between flights.
Get noise-cancelling headphones
Headphones are provided on the flight but ideally picking up a good pair of headphones of your own is a good idea, in the seat backs there are several different types of port so most brands should fit. This was recommended to us by a friend who has travelled between the UK & Oz on numerous occasions and I understand why. You'll want to block out the hum of the aircraft as well as the general hustle & bustle from other passengers on the flight, allowing you to listen to music or watch a movie in relative peace.
Very important. Obviously you can't take water through security, but once you're in I would recommend picking up a bottle or two before you board the plane. I asked for water every time a flight attendant passed me but I was still very dehydrated, & I also took water on board with me. It feels like you can't get enough so seriously - don't forget to drink. If you're drinking alcohol during the flight too, it is even more important.
Get an aisle seat
If you can book your seats ahead of time, try to do so and get yourself an aisle seat. For such a long journey, you'll want to be able to get up and move around without climbing over/waking other people to do so, and you can also stick your legs out now & again to stretch them.
Take basic medicines with you
We had a handful of medicines in our hand luggage, still in their own packaging of course, for emergencies. We took painkillers, anti-diarrhoea tablets & antihistamines as well as a couple of plasters. There's nothing worse than feeling unwell on a long flight and if you have basic medication with you, you can at least manage with what you have.
If you can sleep on the flight, and I know it isn't easy, then do. It'll pass the time quicker, and you'll feel less like the walking dead at your stop-over/destination. It can also help reduce the impact of jet lag once you reach your destination.
Take snacks, & eat before you fly
You might have to buy them after security (= expensive) depending on the airport but I would recommend taking snacks on the flight with you. In-flight meals are not exactly gourmet and on one or two occasions they were sadly almost inedible, if I hadn't had a couple of things in my bag I would have been rather hungry by the time we reached our destination. Also, take the opportunity to eat a good meal before you fly as you don't know how long it will be before the in-flight meals are given out.
Mark your luggage
If you have a generic black suitcase (and lots of us do), then mark it with something that will make it easier to spot in baggage claim. There's nothing worse after a long flight or two than standing there trying to guess which black case out of the hundreds bumbling along the carousel in front of you is yours. We bought luminous straps and tied them around the cases, plus a couple of brightly coloured address tags to make doubly sure.
Do you have any tips or advice for managing on a long haul flight? I'd love for you to share them with me. Happy travels!