How to Survive a 26 Hour Flying Experience

Authored by:
Amy T.

26 hours? ¿En serio? Yes, I’m absolutely serious. I left my home in San Diego, California at 2 pm on a Friday and didn’t arrive in Santiago, Dominican Republic until 3 flights, 2 layovers, and 26 hours later at 4 pm on Saturday. How I survived this, I’m not completely sure. But i do have tips on how to make a full day of flying a little easier to manage. Also, because hindsight is 20/20, I have tips on how to avoid booking a full day flight.


Avoiding the worst mistake of your life: A full day of flying 

Buy your tickets early. I can almost guarantee that if you have the ability to buy tickets 3-6 months in advance, you will have so many different options for flying and for leg room. Buying tickets early will also lower ticket costs and lower your risk of getting stuck with 19+ hour journeys. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t confirm my travel plans until a month before leaving. So strangely enough, a 26 hour journey was the most reasonable flight compared to the rest of my options. 

If you got the money... I 100% recommend purchasing more expensive flight tickets that depart and arrive at reasonable times, have minimal travel time, and do not require you to fly several planes in order to reach your destination. Again, unfortunately for me, even the more expensive options were 18+ hour travel times with red eye flights, departures, and arrivals. I just couldn’t win.

 I would also 100% recommend paying for an aisle or window seat. Although the bathroom shuffle is never a fun activity from any seat, at least the aisle or window seat has a place for your head to rest on. As a broke college student trying to cut costs, I found out the hard way that the middle seat is a great for sleepy head bopping, neck cramps, and accidental drool on strangers. 

If following my tips isn’t an option, you’re probably regretting a lot of your life decisions right now. I certainly did. Not to worry though, I’ve got some awesome tips that will help you survive your full day of flying experience. 


Tips to survive a full day travel experience

Pack light. I cannot stress this enough. You’re already going to be tired, stressed, and hangry. Adding more luggage to the equation is a recipe for disaster. Only pack what you absolutely need. Checking on extra bags before you go through security is definitely an option but it also adds the hassle of retrieving your luggage at the baggage claim afterwards and crossing your fingers and praying to God that your check-on luggage successfully made it to your end destination after 3 separate flights.

Although I’m studying abroad for 2 months in Santiago, Dominican Republic, I opted to only bring a carry-on suitcase, backpack, and snack bag (secret: a food bag is usually allowed and not counted as a carry-on!). If you’re curious about how I managed to not bring any checked bags, read my next post here. 

Bring a lock. If you have long layovers and plan to take a nap during one of them, bringing a lock is the way to go. I brought two hand locks with me (which were unfortunately useless because they couldn't loop through my zippers) and a bike lock. Although I’m 100% sure a lot of people thought I was strange for linking a bike lock to my carry-on luggage, that bike lock truly saved me. I was able to catch a couple zzzs with little anxiety because I could slip the bike lock through all the handles and straps of my bags then lock them to my chair in the airport. I 12/10 recommend bringing a lock, especially a bike lock, with you. 

Sleep whenever and wherever you can. With a full day of flying, napping in the air and in the airport is a necessity. For those who cannot sleep in an airplane or in an airport chair, I’m truly sorry for your loss. Even for those who can, it’s extremely uncomfortable. I usually can take naps anywhere if I’m tired enough. But to my disappointment, napping for 2 hours on my red eye from Colorado to New Jersey was literally the worst “in-air” nap I’ve ever attempted to do. This sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure I finished my 26 hour journey with only 4 hours of non-consecutive sleep. So...don’t be like me. Find a comfy chair, table, or position in the airplane and try your best to get some shut-eye. 

Bring something fun to do. With a full day of traveling, you’re bound to get bored. I suggest bringing items such as a book, journal, drawing pad, or music. Watching a show on your computer or phone during your layover is also a smart idea. During my layover in Newark, New Jersey, I watched the last episode of Chernobyl by HBO with a friend. If you’re looking for a new show to binge, I 100% recommend the mini historical drama series Chernobyl. 

Find joy in the little things. I don’t know about you, but 26 hours of flying and loitering in an airport is not my first choice. I tend to lose a lot of sleep and get hangry from the lack of food. But looking for the silver linings definitely made the experience more bearable. I was lucky enough to run into 5 other students taking the same flight from Newark, New Jersey to Santiago, Dominican Republic. Getting to know other people in my study abroad program was a highlight of my 26 hour day. Another highlight was the gorgeous sunrise I witnessed in the Newark airport. My flight to Newark happened to land at 5 am, right when the sun began to rise of the New York City outline. As a West Coast Cali girl, I see great sunrises on rare occasions. So witnessing this beautiful sunrise definitely made me feel better about my 26 hour trip. 


Hopefully these tips help you plan out your flying experience. Although 26 hours of flying was not my favorite experience, I can definitely say it was doable. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Unfortunately for me, my flight back home will be 20 hours of traveling time. So I guess I’m a couple weeks, I’ll be looking back on this post to remind myself how to survive my journey. Good luck to the rest of y’all!

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