When it comes to taking long-haul flights in economy (which let's face it, almost 99.9% of us fly economy), there is no real way to be completely at ease BUT there is plenty you can do to make it as enjoyable as possible. The number one tip I have is to be prepared long in advance. There's nothing like stress to set off your trip on the wrong foot. I tend to pack a full few weeks in advance, and while I don't recommend this necessarily, it is good to have all your ducks in a row a few days before your flight.
Despite almost everything being available online, there is a sense of security that I find comfort in to have all my important documents printed off and tucked away someplace I can easily access them. Even the best traveller is at risk of having their phone stolen, so it's nice to have hard copy backups. I print off all my hotel confirmations, boarding passes, travel insurance information and any further transit connections which have been booked. In places like Toyko, having a printed copy of your hotel address in both English and Japanese can be helpful if you ever get lost. You simply have to point to the address on the paper, and any non-English speaker or cab driver will be able to help you to your destination. I also use a passport holder since its a great place to keep both your passport and boarding pass in one accessible place. The last is my travel wallet. I have a large wallet with lots of different pockets to keep all my receipts and bills organized and the large size is useful since different countries have all sorts of different sizes of bills.
Once you're settled in your seat, it's time to get comfy. While I always dress as nicely as possible before getting on the plane (once upon a time, looking and being nice at the ticket counter might grant you an upgrade - although this hasn't ever worked I still keep trying) after I'm seated or shortly before getting on the plane I like to change into a comfy and warm pair of leggings. I also make sure to bring a pair of flight socks with me. Yes, this might make me sound like an 80-year-old woman, but they do work to keep your legs from getting too sore on the long flight. If you've managed to snag yourself the prized exit row seat, you might be faced with a very cold ride. Being near the door has its advantages, but it certainly has downsides too, generally, these seats are cold and LOUD. Flights overall can be on the cool side so bringing a scarf with you is important for helping you stay warm throughout the flight. I tend to bring infinity scarves with me since they wrap around nicely and also can act as a makeshift hat if it gets super cold.
A good neck pillow is something to invest in. While you can get cheap blow up ones in the airport (which are better than nothing) a pillow with great neck support and a thick cushion will prevent your neck from incredibly sore the next day and help you sleep or just stay comfortable on the plane. Lastly, and trust me on this one, is a change of underwear. Unless you plan on not checking any luggage there is always a chance that your luggage might get lost and the last thing you want after a 24 hour day of travelling is not to have fresh underwear. Not the most elegant of conversations but trust me, it takes up a tiny amount of space and is well worth the thought.
A 15-hour flight comes with A LOT of downtime. While you might be able to sleep part of that time away, some of us have trouble getting any sleep on aeroplanes. So to combat the boredom, having a bag full of distractions is key to making that time fly by. In the last few years, podcasts have become my #1 choice of in-flight entertainment. With so many different podcasts to choose from you can find one on almost anything you're interested in. My personal favourites are; How Did This Get Made?, a comedy show about movies which are so bad they're good, Ronna and Beverly a talk show featuring two incredible improv actresses playing fictional Jewish mothers who interview real celebrities, Mental Illness Happy Hour a show about the many faces of mental illness and then a slew of true crime podcasts - which there seems to be a neverending stream of these days. I also try to download a few episodes which talk about the city I'm about the visit to give myself a head start on where the best food, entertainment and experiences are.
If you're not a podcasting type, a movie might be more up your alley. The airlines these days usually have lots on offer on their in-flight entertainment systems, but it's always good to bring a selection of your own. I've seen too many cases where someone's tv in their seat didn't work, and they had to sit there the entire flight bored out of their mind. Netflix and Amazon Prime both now have great options for downloadable content so well before leaving, look into which shows you want to download and clear out plenty of space on your iPad. I also love to download language books and guides on my iPad as PDFs to brush up on my conversational phrases before landing.
Getting an earphone splitter is key if you're travelling with a friend or loved one so you can share in what you're watching. Plus if you're running low on battery, it means only using up the power on one device. Plugs and portable chargers are another thing you want to make sure to grab. Even the newest devices might not last an entire 15-hour flight, and you never want to count on there being a power outlet at your seat on the plane. My power bank charges my iPhone up to three times, and I've never needed more than that.
A traditional book or magazine is also something I treat myself too in the airport since tactile media isn't something I frequently have the time to delve into. Bringing your travel guidebook on the plane is also a great idea to help finish making any last itineraries plans you might have left to the last minute. I also keep a notebook, pen and Post-it notes with me as well since I'm a blogger and always want to keep track of the things I did and any hidden gems I want to make sure to share.
If you're planning on getting any sleep on the plane (which hopefully you are) there are a few key items to ensure you're giving yourself the best chance of getting some shuteye. The flights usually are good about turning off the lights when it's time to readjust your sleep schedule but in case the person next to you is reading, or the lights have been kept on, it's important to make sure you have a good eye mask to block out the light.
I always bring a little travel sized bottle of lavender spray. This is the Lush Twilight spray which I just transferred to a travel sized bottle. I put a little bit of this spray on my neck pillow, and scarf and the gentle scent helps calm me down during any turbulence and puts me to sleep once I'm nice and relaxed. In Japan, you can also buy these heated lavender-scented eye masks which are incredible for relaxing your eyes and putting you to sleep.
If you need an extra bit of help, take a melatonin. While I don't recommend this for the long term, it is a great way to help readjust your sleep pattern. I don't love the way ear plugs feel, but if you don't mind them, they're a great way to keep out the sound of a crying baby.
A 15+ hour flight wreaks havoc on your body. Whether it is all the gems, the dehydration or even just sheer exhaustion, your body isn't going to be at its best. But these are some great things to help bounce back and fight off sickness. I'm prone to getting nauseous on flights so I always make sure to keep a few anti-nausea pills with me as well as an ibuprofen in case of headaches. I also pack one or two lozenges since the dry air can irritate your throat. A packet of emergency powder mixed with water can help prevent any cold germs you might be picking up while travelling.
Your skin takes a beating on the plane so having a good face moisturizer and hand cream are important to keep your skin feeling healthy. If you don't feel too embarrassed, you can even bring a face mask to do while the rest of the passengers are asleep. Although you might look a bit funny, your skin will thank you.
After you wake up from a hopefully restful sleep, a quick trip to the bathroom to brush your teeth, wash your face wash and hand will do you a lot of good in helping you wake up and preparing you for the day ahead.
A bottle of water is mandatory. You need to drink at least 250ml of water for each hour your flying. These collapsible water bottles from Vapur are the best for not taking up space once they're empty.
While they sell food on the plane, it's usually not the greatest and very expensive. Bringing some snacks with you is a good idea in case you're hungry when the food cart isn't around. A bag of nuts, energy or granola bars are great for snacking. Babybell cheese is wrapped in wax, so it doesn't go off as quickly and is an excellent shot of protein.
If your ears tend to pop on the flight make sure you buy some gum before arriving at the airport - the stuff in the terminal is widely expensive.