I’ve taken my fair share of overnight flights for work and play. My worst experience with a red-eye was a trip home from Australia. I was stuck in a middle seat for 13 hours next to a drunk guy who eventually passed out on my shoulder.
I’ve worked hard to not let that happen again. Now I have a system for making the most of overnight flights and not being completely miserable. Here’s the gear I use to survive. Don’t forget comfortable clothing, too, which we reviewed earlier this spring.
Give yourself all the advantages you can. If your number-one priority is comfort, consider upgrading to premium economy or economy plus seats—they’re the best bang for the buck when it comes to an upgrade. They typically cost 65 percent less than a business-class ticket, and you get an average of five to seven more inches of legroom and a wider seat. If you don’t want to splurge on a pricier ticket, book early and choose your economy-class seats wisely.
You should also think about the time-zone difference at your destination, and try to get a head start on jet lag by falling asleep at the right time. For instance, if you leave Atlanta at 11 P.M. on a flight bound for Florence, Italy, you might stick to just one in-flight movie and then try to sleep, since you’ll be arriving in the morning.
As for entertainment, download movies, TV shows, and podcasts to your phone or tablet before you leave in case the in-flight selection isn’t up to snuff—or worse, you get stuck on one of those older planes without a screen in front of you.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones ($348)
Noise-canceling headphones are an absolute must on a long flight. Not only will they drown out engine rumble and crying toddlers, but your eardrums will thank you since you won’t have to crank your music or podcast nearly as loud as with typical earbuds.
Sony’s WH-1000XM3’s are incredibly comfortable, with superior noise-canceling technology and great sound quality. You get 30 hours of battery life, and a new USB-C charger means ten minutes plugged in will give you five hours of playback. They come with an audio cable and an adapter (which you should pack if you’re using a different pair of headphones than what the airline provides), so you can plug them into the headphone jack in case the plane doesn’t accommodate Bluetooth for in-flight entertainment, which is critical for a long flight.
Anker PowerCore 20100 Portable Charger ($50)
Your phone won’t do you any good if you drain your battery scrolling through Instagram before your flight. You can keep everything charged with Anker’s PowerCore 20100. It’s a staff favorite at Outside and has enough juice to charge an iPhone nearly seven times.
Trtl Travel Pillow ($30)
Most travel pillows are either too big and bulky or don’t provide much comfort, so I wake up with a stiff neck. The Trtl solves those problems. Thanks to its wrap structure, it easily adapts to anyone’s neck and jaw shape and provides great support while being half the size and weight of other pillows.
Sleep Mask ($7)
Sometimes airlines will pass out sleep masks on overnight flights, but not always. You’re better off bringing your own. I like this one, which is incredibly comfortable. Its has memory foam and eye cavities that allow you to blink and not feel like you’ve been blindfolded.
Yeti Rambler Bottle ($30)
Another key to surviving an overnight flight is to stay hydrated. Bring a bottle with you, so you aren’t at the mercy of the flight attendants. I like Yeti’s Rambler, because it’s basically indestructible and has no trouble keeping water cold during a long travel day.
White Noise App ($1)
When it’s time to get some shut-eye, turn off the music and fire up this white-noise app. It’ll help drown out the racket of the plane and other passengers, helping you sleep better and feel more refreshed once you land.
Sleep with Me Podcast (Free)
If you need some more help falling asleep, this is the podcast for you. It’s basically a series of purposefully boring bedtime stories for adults, to help insomniacs drift off easier. Our editors love it, as do pro athletes and health gurus like Tim Ferris.