Since I’m from America and my wife is from New Zealand, we have had our share of long distance flights. Here are some tips for making the best of your plane ride:
Bring Water: In the middle of the night, nothing is more uncomfortable than being thirsty and waiting for a steward to get you some. Bring an empty bottle through security and fill it up at a drinking fountain before boarding.
Spend a bit extra for a nice flight time: If I already have to save $1200 for a flight, it’s worth it to me to spend an extra $100 to get the flight with fewest layovers or best departure time. I prefer leaving before so I can eat their meal and then crash.
Know how you sleep: What does it take for you to fall asleep? A comfortable pillow? Sleeping pill? Warm blanket? Snack? Figure out what you need and make sure you have it packed. I like a blow up pillow for my neck.
Pick your seat with sleep in mind: I generally like isle seats because I can stick my very longs legs into the isle so I don’t feel as squashed. But on long flights, I always take a window seat so I can lean against them. Pick your seat accordingly. Isle = easiest for bathrooms, stretching legs, but others wake you when they get up. Window = colder, better view, can rest head against wall, but not good for small bladders or pacers. Middle = never really a good option unless you want to sit next to an isle/window person.
Also, be careful where you sit on the plane. Sometimes the very last row and rows around the emergency exit don’t recline. Also keep in mind the location of the lavatories. Will the light and slamming of doors keep you awake? It’s hard to know where babies will sit, but many large planes have bassinets near the front of the plane.
Do you need entertainment? My wife knows she’ll never be able to sleep, so she always packs a book with her. I don’t bother since I’m never up longer than it takes to eat.
Practice sleeping while sitting upright: Use meetings at work as a great practice for sleeping upright in a chair. (Just kidding!)
Parents: Good luck. Make sure you have food, water, entertainment, diapers, pacifiers and blankets packed. Try to time flights with their nature bedtime or naps. Tire them out before you leave or in the terminal so they are ready to sleep on the plane. And if all else fails, claim you have no idea why these kids keep following you around.