My tips for taking long flights to or from Hawaii:

Living in Hawaii since the 80s and having most of my family in the midwest means I’ve taken more 10+ hour flights than I can remember. Here’s what I’ve learned works for me to make those flights as comfortable as possible:

Pack layers of warm clothes in the carry-on

One of the reasons why I live in Hawaii is because I don’t like being cold (and therefore love the warm weather). Last thing I need is to be uncomfortably cold on a 10-hour flight.  Lately I wear thermal underwear and (yup!) and it keeps my legs toasty warm. Combine that with a hooded sweat jacket (the hood keeps my ears warm from the blowing cold air) and you’re in for a toasty-warm flight.

I usually pack these warm clothes in my carry-on so that I can walk through Honolulu airport in my typical local-style shorts and t-shirt and then incrementally pile on layers when the flight gets underway.  This also works well in reverse: I board the plane in the bitter cold of the midwest (yeah, like one of those 50 below zero with the wind chill kinda days) fully layered and warm, yet when we land in Honolulu I’ve stripped back down to my local outfit and can enjoy the sunshine after landing back home.

Load up the Kindle

Paper books are too heavy and personally I can’t read one book for 10 hours straight. Instead I bring my iPad with the Kindle app and I make sure I’ve got a small library of books with a wide variety of subject matter. I find myself switching books several times which helps keep my attention.

Use to load up on web pages to read later

Pocket (at lets you mark web pages to read later and then stores the content locally on your chosen device which means you can read those web pages without requiring an Internet connection. Right before boarding the plane, I send about a dozen web pages to Pocket and then make sure my iPad downloads them. This gives me a “magazine” experience with light reading until I’m ready go deep on a Kindle Book.

Bring a sleep mask

The flight is going to be long and if it’s a “red-eye” (meaning that you will be flying through the night) you’ll want to get as much rest as possible.  I’ve found a sleep mask really helps me catch long naps throughout the flight with minimal distraction. Combine this with a hooded sweater and toasty warm clothing and you will maximize feeling fresh and energized when you land.

Wear thick wool socks

Hawaiian islanders are used to being in their bare feet.  We take our shoes off before going into someones home, we drive barefoot, and otherwise wear rubber slippers which is the closest thing to bare feet otherwise.

So naturally the first thing to do when you get on the plane is to take your shoes off and store them above.  In addition to walking around like a local, your feet will really thank you for not being squeezed into shoes for 10 hours.  I wear thick wool socks designed for hiking or cold environments which gives me adequate cushioning while keeping my feet warm. Wool is the only material that maintains warmth even when wet and it nicely wicks away any sweat.

Bring a lot of food that doesn’t need refrigeration

I can’t explain why but I noticed I eat a lot when I fly. I don’t worry about gaining weight and just enjoy eating.  I’ll order some wonderfully fatty food at the airport before I board, like burgers or sub-sandwiches and I’ll eat those right away.  Throughout the flight I’m constantly munching on dried fruits and nuts with the occasional hard candy.

Bring bottled water and keep it filled

Aircraft cabins are extremely dry and will turn you into a prune if you’re not careful.  Pickup a medium sized water bottle (not too big or it won’t fit in the seat pocket), drink a lot, and keep it filled throughout the flight by frequently visiting the flight attendant station where you can top it off.

If you’ve packed the gear above, then…

Noise-cancelling headphones

This used to be a little too pricey for me but these days you can get good noise-canceling headphone for a reasonable price. This is a must!  You don’t realize how fabulous they are until you’ve been wearing them for over 5 hours and then you take them off for a moment – huge difference!

The aircraft engine noise is precisely what these headphones were designed to eliminate and they do a fantastic job. Having peace and quiet during the flight makes all the difference in the world.

Use an inflatable footrest

Highly recommended! This is something new I added more recently what a winner!  Even the flight attendants were impressed and that’s saying a lot.  The inflatable footrest does a few really important things: (a) By raising your feet above the floor it allows increased circulation to your thighs which really reduces (for me, eliminated) fatigue in the legs and (b) It adds an insulating later from the cold floor so your feet stay toasty warm.  For the few bucks they cost (you can find them at any of those common convenience airport shops) it’s well worth the to and fro trip you’ll be taking.

What to do on a long flight to or from Hawaii:

  1. Eat the food you’ve brought
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Sleep as often as you can.
  4. Read your Kindle or Getpocket web pages.
  5. Watch the movies (using noise-cancelling headphones).
  6. Play a few games on your tablet or phone (assuming you packed the recharge cable).
  7. Repeat!

How do you deal with long flights? Share with me in the comments!