How to Thrive During a Redeye Flight

I have the fear of missing out when I fly during the day, and I always tend to choose overnight or early morning flights when taking a long-haul trip. I generally opt to take “red-eyes” when heading east and the first flight of the morning when heading west, which allow me to make the most of my time on the ground.

When you spend a lot of time in the air, you quickly learn that these flights can be draining to your well-being and health unless you approach them the right way.

The new Polaris Business and First Class cabins on United Airlines have lie-down seats with Saks Fifth Avenue bedding to help ensure passengers arrive well rested. © United AIrlines

Upgrading is the easiest way to survive a long-haul overnight flight. If you have miles, this is the flight you want to spend them on, otherwise if there is space available in First Class or Business Class when you are doing your on-line “check-in” you will usually have an option to pay for an upgrade at a fraction of the original seat cost, sometimes as low as $99 depending on the airline. Extra bonus if you happen to be on a flight with lie-back seats in the upgraded cabins.

Eat before you fly. Most long-haul international flights offer meals in every cabin, but you have to stay up and wait for them. Eat something before you get on the flight, and then you won’t lose precious sleeping time, by waiting for a meal. In most first or business class cabins you can let them know you would rather eat later on in the flight or put up a “do not disturb” sign.

Hydrate. If you aren’t going to be in business or first class, buy a bottle of water before you board. You won’t have to wait up for the beverage cart, which often limits you to a small glass of water when they make their rounds. If you are in an upgraded class, you can ask for a larger bottle to have at your seat, or just request more water whenever you need it.

Collagen Gel Eye Masks. Rule of thumb, always have these in your purse. You can put them on before you land for a quick and hydrating pick me up. Make sure to pick up the ones that fit snugly under the eye and won’t slip. My favorites: Miss Spa Energize Gel Eye Masks or the Spa Splurge Collagen Eye Masks.

Spa inspired showers in the brand new United Polaris Lounge at the Chicago O’Hare Airport. © United Airlines 2016

Arrival Lounges. One of the best kept secrets in travel is the arrival lounges. Most of them have a daily use fee for those that aren’t members. You can slip in to take a quick shower, refresh, grab a bite to eat and then be on your way.

Pick the right seat and the right flight. If you are going to sleep, make sure to pick a window seat. Nobody will have to disturb you or wake you up while you sleep if they need to exit your row. Look for flights without connections, ensuring you can sleep interrupted.

Refresh before you land. Before you land get up, stretch, brush your teeth, drink water, eat something for breakfast. If you don’t want to use the lavatory on the plane, go ahead and skip the ones in the terminal, and head straight to the ones in baggage claim. These are often less used than the ones inside the main terminals at airport, and much cleaner.

Wear comfortable clothing. Not necessarily pajamas, but something that is comfortable to sleep in, loose-fitting, breathable fabric. Make sure your outfit let’s you breath easy. Wear shoes that can easily be slipped on and off. Wear layers. Bring warm socks.

Bring a pillow. Most upgraded cabins have great pillows, but if you are flying in economy you’ll want a horseshoe-shaped neck pillow to support your head and keep you from bobbing up and down.