These Are My Best Red Eye Flight Tips

A view from a red eye flight

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I have taken more red eye flights than I ever imagined I would. But because of that I have some hard earned red eye flight tips, and I’ve learned how to sleep on a red eye flight.

If you had asked me 3.5 years ago whether I would ever willingly take a red eye flight, I would’ve said no — absolutely, definitely no. But I didn’t yet live in Alaska, where most flights to the lower 48 leave over night. On the one hand, I get to live an outdoor-focused life on the Last Frontier. On the other hand, the tradeoff is that I have to travel to the lower-48 more than I’d like.

In the last seven months I’ve taken nine long red eye flights. You could say I’ve gotten used to them. And part of that was discovering red eye flight tips to make it just a little easier. And, since I highly value sleeping, learning how to sleep on a red eye was an even bigger deal.

Sleeping on a plane is in no way, shape or form comfortable. But there are ways to make it better and to help you be at least a little functional. Here are my favorites.

But first, before anything else: consider how you sleep best and book your seat accordingly. I sleep on my left side, so I always fly in the window seat on the left side of the plane so I lean on it.

Red Eye Flight Tips: How to Sleep on a Red Eye Flight

A good neck pillow. You’re going to spend more on this than seems reasonable, but it is by far the most important thing you’ll buy. You want something that’s packable and portable, but supportive. After much experimentation, and considering that I’m a window seat sleeper, I’ve picked the J-Pillow as my favorite neck pillow. It looks weird, but it’s definitely the most comfortable for overnight flights and it’s become key.

But because I have some kind of apparent personal problem that results in me constantly leaving neck pillows on the plane (and, therefore, spending a small fortune on them over time), I have also tested many others, including those sold in airports. I assumed that those were going to be the worst. Instead, I found the one sold in the airport to actually be my second-favorite. The Cabeau memory foam pillow smashes into a small bag super well and is darn comfortable, too. It happens to cost about the same in the airport as it does on Amazon.

Comfortable clothing. Now really, don’t forget the sweat pants, the hoodie and some warm socks. Kick off your shoes when you settle in on the plane.

A travel blanket. Ever tried to sleep on a plane while you’re cold? Yeah, it’s not great. I travel with a packable fleece blanket a lot like this one.

Sleep aid. While it leaves me a little groggy through the next day, it also means I can sleep on the plane — and sleeping on the plane is so, so key to success. About 20 minutes before boarding I swallow and over-the-counter sleep-aid. It does help me go to sleep, but more than that it helps me stay asleep on the plane. If the neck pillow is the most important red eye flight tip, actually sleeping is the second most important one.

Sleep mask. Yes, I am this extra. This is the sleep mask with which I travel. Guy next to you watching a movie or have the flight on? No problem. You’re wearing a sleep mask.

Ear plugs. Just buy those foam ones at the pharmacy and call it good. But they make a difference, so don’t forget them.

Amy wears a sleeping mask.
I know I look silly. But I also look like I’m going to go to sleep.

Moisturizer. OK, so this isn’t for the plane but it is an important enough part of recovery that I’m going to list it here. Flying, especially overnight when you’re sleeping and not guzzling water, kills your skin. A moisturizer sheet mask is my favorite way to rehydrate it as soon as I get where I’m going.

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