How are you with sleeping on long haul flights? Does it put you off international travel or do you sail through without a care?

Within the past 10 years, the new capability to directly fly from Dallas, TX to Australia has changed the travel game. Previously you had to go to the west coast (either LA or San Francisco) to fly towards Australia.

Is it still a major journey? Yes, no question.

But it can’t be overstated how much easier this direct flight makes such a loaded travel itinerary to manage.

To begin this journey we took three flights. We drove an hour and half to El Paso International Airport, flew to Bush International in Dallas Fort Worth and then caught a QANTAS direct flight to Sydney, before a shorter three hour flight to Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island, then a final two hour drive to our destination.

International travel can be daunting, and the longest flight in the world is Dallas to Sydney. At 15 hours southward and 17 hours northward it takes some additional preparation to make life more comfortable. We customarily start long journeys with an airport selfie. This functions as a reminder of our travels, and as slightly older than millenials it’s a fun way to pass the time. It’s also fun to compare your pre-travel pic to the selfie taken after close to 30 hours of barely sleeping.

So how do we make sure we get some rest on long haul international flights?

Advice for sleeping on planes

  • Have a goal – how long do you want to get, how much do you need to get? For a 15 hour flight, I aim for about 5 hours or so.
  • Use either noise cancelling headphones or earplugs. We like these amazing headphones by BOSE, or these silicone ear plugs (originally designed for Swimming) which are able to be molded to the shape of your ear.
  • Wear layers of clothing – I usually change into some comfortable long cotton pants once on the plane, like these.
  • Compression socks are a must! Compression socks help decrease swelling and are a must for athletes if you’re wanting to compete at the other end.
  • A sleeping mask can make sleep possible – on this trip we made our Ginger Runner Buffs do double duty as eye masks. It allows you to be less reliant on the cabin lights being down.
  • Eat often –  Eat small meals but when you have a chance to eat, eat.
  • Drink Water – To truly avoid the dehydration that comes with international travel, try to drink 8oz an hour. We travel with insulated metal bottles – something like this (though not the same brand). Ask the flight attendants politely if they will fill up the 64oz bottle you carried through security empty. Dwight must have a good smile, because they drained their jugs of water for him on a couple of occasions.  We’re not saying don’t have a glass of wine, but be aware that the effects of alcohol are amplified in the air.
  • Your own blanket – Anna likes to have a blanket or two because the cabin can get really cold. Her Cocoon Travel blanket is her go-to – it is made of a jersey fabric and is large enough to provide a little extra warmth to two people.

Special Meals

In terms of food, Anna needs a Gluten Free/Lactose Free special meal, and we’ve found that it makes sense to order Dwight one too – so we can eat together because sometimes they are delivered close to 30 minutes before the main cabin has meals served. This can also help with getting to sleep -although be aware that they don’t clear the service items until they do the whole cabin which can mean 0an hour or more with the left overs from dinner on the tray table in front of you. In our experience, international flights aren’t always booked out and that means there is often an open seat next to us where we’ll stash those trays and extra stuff.

Let me entertain you…

The best part of international travel, aside from the food and strong attempts at sleeping, is of course the in-flight entertainment. Yes you can read a book, but when the whole cabin is dark and we’re all feeling lazy and daunted by the traveling, program watching is THE way to go. And the old days of one movie for the entire passenger deck is long gone, now replaced with individual entertainment systems where everyone can choose how they pass the time from their own seat kingdoms. Anna opted for a series of Aussie movies or really any movie with Hugh Jackman, and Dwight binge watched the entirety of Game of Thrones season 7. On the flight to Queenstown, we both watched the new Spiderman movie together and that was fun!

Waiting in airports

After surviving the long haul flight to Sydney and getting through transit security, we bought ourselves Australian power plug converters, and then relaxed in the American Express Lounge where we could get breakfast and really good coffee. We’ve talked a little about this perk of the Platinum card on our Instagram pages: annie_rabe and dwightrabe. If you’d like to know more, let us know there and we’ll happily write up a post.

Although it was only a couple of hours in the airport, I still felt grateful to be on Australian soil. As we flew to New Zealand we were both excited to be heading towards Kepler and family. Can you see those amazing beaches? Spectacular, huh?!

As we reached the western coast of the south island, the view from the plane window was breathtaking. Fiords of the south jut out like mountainous fingers.

The clouds and sun played on the mountains and valleys. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, has been called “the land of the long white cloud.” You can see why in these photos. Even from the air you can see that this landscape is some of the most dramatic in the world. Epic is the word for places such as this.

Once we landed in Queenstown just after 2pm, we went through NZ bio-security where our shoes were inspected. Yes, the shoes were inspected! This makes sense when you’re traveling to an island nation trying to control the prospect of any ecological disaster from happening due to carelessness. Dwight cleaned his trail shoes beforehand, and was complemented on the effort but the inspector still found pernicious American seeds stuck in the upper of the shoe. Lesson learned, when traveling to NZ, clean the whole shoe!

After being cleared through customs and bio-security, we picked up our rental car and drove for about 2 hours to the small lake town of Manapouri. During the drive, our heads were on a swivel.

We crossed rivers and drove winding roads through Otago down into Southland and Fiordland. Sheep in a beautifully green paddock framed by rolling hills would become a familiar sight.

It was beautiful but we were both very tired and driving left hand side for the first time in years. With a couple of tricks I’ve picked over the years, like orientating yourself as the driver to the middle of the road and repeating “stay left” to yourself as you come up to intersections it all comes back pretty easily. We made it there okay. If you are interested in writing a blog on tips for driving internationally, let us know on our facebook page!

One important thing we did do which helped make  navigating and communicating much easier was to purchase a New Zealand sim card at the airport. We went with a company called Skinny. It was great in the south of the south island. This way we were able to use google maps and navigate ourselves. We both love paper maps too, but they are increasingly hard to find.

The first night in Manapouri, we found a local gem within walking distance of the cottage  – a pub called the Church, actually in re-fabricated church, and we grabbed a dinner of burgers. A “works burger” with beetroot and egg for Dwight and a GF burger for Anna. Join us tomorrow for our next installment, our first full day in Manapouri and venturing into Te Anau, the larger nearby city of about 40,000 people.

This is day 1-2 of our Antipodean adventure to New Zealand and Australia. Our Anitipodean Adventure Itinerary post has an index of all our posts from this journey.


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We are a recently married thirty-something couple who explore, adventure, and live Not a Pedestrian Life.
We are Anna & Dwight Rabe. We are Team Rabe.

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2 thoughts on “The longest flight in the world and sleeping on long haul flights”

  1. Love this first installment. I too use so many of your tips. These have been refined over the years of traveling from NZ to UK, Japan and the USA. I have a Katmandu puffer jacket that goes everywhere with me. Warm, light… great on the plane worn back to front when sleeping and it packs into a tiny package when not needed. Look forward to #2. xxxx

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