How To Survive a Red-Eye Flight

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First, let’s assume you’re not flying first class.  If you are, congrats and read no more. If you happen to be a commoner like me, please read on.  As many of you know, for the past six years I have been making treks out to Hawaii to check on my mom who lives in a skilled nursing facility. When I first started making these trips, I would book the 6:00 am flight out of Hawaii that would get me home to Kansas City around 11:00 pm. I would essentially spend an entire waking day traveling! Eventually, I decided to give the red-eye flight a try! I found that not only did I have a whole day at home when I got back to Kansas City, but even better, I had an extra bonus day to be with my mom, and to enjoy Hawaii!

After racking up at least twenty red-eye flights over the years, I have learned tricks that have really helped me deal with jet lag and being able to function the day following the flight. So, I thought I would share these tips with you for when you book your trip to Hawaii (or wherever).

The red-eye flights I normally book leave at about 8:00 pm Hawaii time and get me home in Kansas City by 11:00 am the next day.   So, essentially I have an entire day to unpack, get organized, and even do a little work! Below are my red-eye tricks or rituals that really help me get the most rest out of a red-eye flight and make the re-entry into my new time zone so much easier:

  1. First and foremost, keep repeating to yourself that the red-eye flight is for SLEEPING ONLY – no reading, watching movies, or doing Sudoku! Very important! Even if you can’t sleep, the #1 trick is to keep your eyes closed the entire flight. You’ll be amazed how much you really do sleep even though you think you haven’t.
  2. When booking your red-eye flight, always choose a window seat. If you are a side sleeper, figure out which side of your body you normally sleep on and this will determine which side of the aircraft you choose your window seat on. I told you, this is serious! I have figured out that I sleep best on my right side, thus, I choose the right side of the aircraft so I can lean up against the wall of the aircraft on my right side somewhat simulating how I sleep!Red eye.jpeg
  3. I always bring my own pillow. The airline I frequently travel on no longer supplies pillows (huge surprise, right?). I suggest bringing the biggest pillow you feel comfortable with. You want to bring a pretty good-sized pillow so you can soften up the side of the aircraft window/wall. Believe me, as silly as you may think you look carrying your pillow through an airport, it is totally worth the looks and stares. I normally pack my pillow in my checked suitcase on the day flight out to Hawaii, and then pull out the pillow for the red-eye return trip home.  My pillow.  My best friend.Pillow-and-Blanket-1-1
  4. I also bring my own little blanket. The airline blankets just don’t cut it for warmth or coziness. I noticed my seat mate on my last red-eye flight brought her own blanket as well. Not only is the blanket nice for keeping you warm, but it’s also nice to toss over your head to protect from noise or cabin lighting. Yup, I may look like Casper the Friendly Ghost, but I don’t care.  Remember Rule #1 – it’s about sleep!
  5. I always bring an eye mask to wear. It helps tremendously to cut out any cabin lighting or your neighbor’s reading light. Murphy’s Law of the Red-Eye is someone very near to you is not following this blog post and will have the spotlight on the entire night.  Eye mask – it’s no fashion statement but it’s critical.eye mask
  6. Earplugs are a must especially if you have a crying baby on your flight (book it, Danno – nice Hawaii reference BTW) or neighbors that are chatty, or God forbid, snoring.ear plugs for Red Eye
  7. Socks to throw on once you board the plane. Helps with coziness and keeping your feet warm during the flight.  Shoes or flip flops come off.sock image for Red-Eye
  8. Toothbrush and toothpaste – I always grab a little dinner and a glass of wine before boarding the plane so once I’m on the aircraft my belly is full and I’m a little sleepy from the glass of wine. Right before I board the aircraft I hit the bathroom one more time to brush my teeth and wash my face. Essentially, I’m simulating getting ready for bed at home. Since I wear a mouth night guard at night, I will also throw it in my bag to use during the flight. As soon as I get off the plane, I hit a bathroom to freshen up and brush my teeth.  This is an important and refreshing step back into the new day!
  9. So, once I board the plane and settle into my seat donning my socks, eye mask, ear plugs, and night guard (and looking super sexy BTW), I put my seat belt on, situate my pillow up against the window, throw my blanket over my head and body, and away I go! My eyes don’t open until we land at our destination! Even if flight attendants come by with beverage services, I do not partake. I am busy working on sleeping, or at least trying to sleep. I truly try to keep my eyes CLOSED the entire flight even if I think I’m not able to sleep, I still keep them closed with the eye mask on. Again, keeping your eyes closed and trying to sleep is your main job on a red-eye flight! Your body and mind will thank you for it the next day.

So there you have it! I hope this guide to conquering a red-eye flight helps you overcome the perceived brutality of red-eye flights. Happy sleeping or at least trying to sleep!  And remember, you just earned yourself an extra day in paradise!:)

5 thoughts on “How To Survive a Red-Eye Flight

Add yours

  1. I love this blog!!! I think I’ll try your tips for my overnight flight to Ireland in Sept. It will be a day flight to Philly and then overnight to Shannon, Ireland. We land at 8:50am so need to be sure I can sleep so I can enjoy the rest of the day and stay awake!


  2. Good tips Lailan. Would work on a two week long choir bus tour too. I’ve been using a great app called Calm which has lots of guided meditations, including several for inducing restful sleep. I’ve seriously never heard the end of the one that guides for five minutes!


  3. Great tips! I always keep my eyes shut for the entire red-eye flight! I discovered this technique through trial and error and was amazed at how it worked. Ear plugs: a must even on a day flight! I need to follow your other tips for true red-eye perfection! thank you my, dear friend!


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