How to rock a red eye flight

Red eye flight tips. Learn how to rock a red eye flight and land feeling like a legend! What seat is best, what to wear and what to bring to help you sleep.

I’m always eager to get the most out of my vacation days – and score the cheapest deals – so that usually means taking a red eye flight to or from my destination.

I’ve taken dozens of overnight flights through the years (Sydney-Perth, Sydney-LA, Vancouver-Fiji, Seattle-Boston etc), so I feel like I’ve become a master of the red eye. The red eye Yoda, if you will.

Often I have to jump straight off the plane and into the office – or straight into an adventure – so I need to be as well rested and bright eyed as possible when I exit arrivals.

So what are my red eye flight tips, you ask?

Tip number one is obviously be super rich so you can afford business or first class with flat lay beds. But for those of us who are shit out of luck in the financials department, there are a few little tricks and tips that can help things run smoothly.

Or at least as smooth as sleeping in a tiny plane seat for 5-8 hours can be.

Travel is glamorous, right?

Book the latest departing red eye flight

If your flight time is between 5-7 hours, book the 11pm or midnight departure rather than the 9pm take off. You’ll be tired enough to fall asleep quickly and will arrive at your destination at a more friendly hour. Not much is open at 4am anyhow!

Window seat for the win

I prefer the window seat on a red eye as it gives me a little extra room for sleeping. If I can’t get comfy in my seat I’ll often perch my pillow on the wall of the plane and curl up. The window seat also means you won’t be disturbed if your seat buddies need to get up during the flight.

It almost always costs money to select your seat when booking, so I aim to check in online as soon as I can for best availability – which is typically 24 hours before the flight departs. Set a reminder on your phone so that you don’t forget.

Wear comfy clothes

Hats off to anyone who can sleep in jeans, but I’m all about comfort when I fly: leggings, tshirt, sweater, plus a large scarf in case I get cold. I often wear boots when I fly from Seattle, but if I’m heading to warmer climes I’ll wear Vans or sandals and bring a pair of socks for sleeping.

Board ready to sleep

Eat dinner long before you board so that your body is ready for sleep, and avoid caffeine and alcohol before flying.  I like to board with my teeth brushed, makeup removed and face moisturised. I even brush and plait my hair so it doesn’t become a total mop overnight.

Hydrate before you fly

I drink plenty of water throughout the day before a red eye flight so that I arrive at my destination feeling more refreshed. Drink too much water right before take off and you’ll end up taking more trips to the toilet than hours spent sleeping.

I always bring an empty water bottle through security that I can fill up before I board, so I have something to sip during the flight if I wake up a little dry mouthed.

Sleep gear

Invest in a good quality neck pillow. Mine is memory foam and so much better than those handed out on the flight. I used to pack a small blanket on budget flights – nowadays I pack an oversized scarf instead.  If you need darkness and silence to sleep, pack an eye mask and earplugs.

Music is essential (for me)

My alternative to ear plugs is listening to calming music on noise cancelling earphones throughout the flight. My favourites are She & Him, The Kooks (acoustic B sides), Kim Churchill and Vance Joy. But if Metallica is your thing, have at it.

Herbal help

I’ve never taken proper sleeping tablets and don’t recommend someone take them for the first time on an airplane. However if they work for you, it’s definitely worth popping one to assist in sleep during the flight.

I love Dream Water Shots, a berry flavoured liquid ‘shot’ which contains melatonin and GABA to help relax and induce sleep. The bottles are 2.5oz so I can take it through security to drink right before boarding.

Resist on board food and drink

Yes, even if it’s complimentary – I’d rather sleep than eat on a red eye flight. I have been known to indulge in a cheeky glass of red wine to send me to sleep mode, but any expert will tell you that’s not the right idea!

Turn off the entertainment

While binge watching movies is my favourite flying past time, I don’t turn my headset on at all on a red eye. Screens are so bad for sleep! I also switch my phone to flight mode before I board so that I don’t get distracted with social media (especially with on board WiFi readily available these days).

Freshen up

I bring a travel-size packet of face wipes and wet ones with me so that I can freshen up in the morning. Some daytime face moisturiser, deodorant, and a natural coloured lipstick or balm works wonders to feel less like a zombie.

Shameless travel hack: If I need a little extra help after a flight I walk through the duty free shops – a little spritz of a tester perfume and no one will know I just got off a long flight!

What are your best red-eye flight tips?

Read also: How to survive an overnight train in Asia and Why I prefer off season travel.

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