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Travel Hacks That Only Really Work on International Flights

International Departure Terminal Business Travel Transportation Flight Concept
Written by Suzy Guese

This blog post was updated on August 14, 2019.

International flights can drum up all sorts of excitement for the traveler. The thought that you’ll be in a new country by morning can, at times, place rose-colored glasses on passengers. International flights can also be downright tiresome, annoying, and uncomfortable. For smooth sailing, or flying in this case, try out these travel hacks on your next international flight.

Wear Compression Socks

Male athlete runner and feet closeup. Fitness model wearing compression socks.

International flights often mean long hauls for several hours. If you tend to get off a plane and your legs feel sore and swollen, this hack is for you. Compression socks on international flights can be a lifesaver for traveling legs and feet. You won’t arrive at your destination already feeling sore in your legs, and this fancy footwear helps protect against blood clots on long haul flights. You might feel a bit silly with high socks, but your legs and feet will thank you when you want to hit the ground sightseeing your first day abroad.

Select a Seat in the Front

On international flights, you’ll be served several meals if it is a long haul. And these flights often mean bigger planes with multiple economy sections. If you wait to select your seat until the day of check-in, your options will be limited to the back. While the back of the plane can have its advantages, if you’re hungry or thirsty, it can be the worst spot to sit. Flight attendants usually start serving from the front of each section, meaning those in the front will have their drinks, meals, and trash picked up before you have probably even taking a bite of that lukewarm pasta. The minute you book your flight, call your airline. See if you can select a seat towards the front of the plane.

Planning a trip abroad? Check out these cheap international flights that can get you there for less!

Avoid Alcohol and Hydrate

happy young woman with water bottle in plane over porthole background

When the flight attendants come around with the drink cart, a glass of red wine might sound appealing. It’s hard to resist the hard stuff on international flights, especially because most airlines don’t charge for alcohol on these routes. Even if you are in full-on vacation mode, ready to party, you won’t be so thrilled when you can’t fall asleep and your jet lag is unbearable. If you are traveling internationally, try to avoid drinking alcohol and stick to water. You’ll end up sleeping better on the plane and your jet lag won’t be quite as severe.

Download the US Mobile Passport App

If you are flying internationally into the U.S., you are probably dreading the line at customs meeting you upon landing. For those without an expedited security membership like Global Entry, you could be standing in a long line at customs and even miss your connecting flight. To speed up the process, you can download the US Mobile Passport App. Right before you land, you can answer the customs questions in the app and then make your way to the designated Mobile Passport lanes. More often than not, these lines are shorter.

Ear Plugs and Eye Shades Do Wonders

man in a mask for sleeping, sits in the airplane's chair near the porthole.

Most airlines will pass around ear plugs and eye shades when you first takeoff. Don’t pass these up or pack your own. International flights bring a mixed bag of passengers on different schedules. You might encounter seatmates who like the gab the entire flight or a toddler that wants to let the whole plane know they are awake. To increase your chances of actually getting some sleep on an international flight, take the eye shades and ear plugs.

Buy Lounge Access If You Can

What can make international travel so utterly fatiguing might not actually be the flight itself. You could be tired from having to get to the airport extra early and sit in noisy concourses with the masses. While you might not spring for lounge access domestically, international flights often mean long travel days. Since you have to get to the airport early for international flights, you’ll find that you have a great deal of downtime after checking in your bags and going through security. To have a couple hours of calm, purchase an airline lounge day pass if you can or gain access through a travel rewards credit card. These sections of the airport can be much quieter and more comfortable. You won’t board your international flight already tried of other travelers and noise, nor will you notice just how uncomfortable your seat might be until a few hours into the flight.

What tips would you add to the list? Share your hacks with us in the comments below.

About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at