Tips to Survive the Dreaded Red-Eye

by Tiffany Paul

If you are a busy traveler that doesn’t have a day to waste traveling, the red-eye flight is a great option for you! The red-eye, which soars through the skies in the dark of night, usually has less people on it than a daytime flight, so you have more seating options and less chatterers. Chances are good that parents won’t choose an overnight torture session for themselves or their kids, so crying babies and seat kickers are scarce. And if you are a sound sleeper that’s able to sleep in any position, you’ll be able to sleep soundly the whole way to your destination!

While this flight is a dream for natural-born red-eye passengers, for others, it can be a dreaded necessity. For those that don’t function well without a goodnights’ rest, the red-eye can be brutal if you have a meeting or event to attend the day you arrive. It can also be problematic if you’re a light sleeper, leaving you waking up to the slightest turbulence or noise from fellow passengers and flight attendants.  Not to mention your body probably won’t be thanking you for the awkward, upright sleeping position you’re limited to. And if you’re one of the unlucky few who forgot a neck pillow, chances of waking up to a head nod or stiff neck are strong.  

With that said, here are a few tips and travel products to help make your next red-eye as effortless and enjoyable as possible.  


Plan an outfit with comfort in mind.

If you’ve booked a red-eye flight, choose your traveling outfit wisely. Think business pajamas. Wear breathable fabrics, loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes. Build your outfit around comfort and you’ll feel better than you would trying to wear clothes that pinch, pull or squeeze (even if they look amazing). You can still accessorize with practical items like your Sleeper Scarf, which will support your neck and help you stay comfortable and snug (even if you end up in the middle seat!). If you’re headed straight to a meeting or event from your flight, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on and take some time once you land to change and freshen up.

Transform your seat into a sleep haven

Gather items that will transform your seat on the plane into an environment that’s comfortable to sleep in. If you usually get cold on a flight, pack a scarf, small blanket and some comfortable socks. Use ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones so you won’t hear people chatting or babies crying while you’re trying to get some beauty sleep. Pack an eye mask to block out the cabin lights or the glow of your night owl neighbor on their iphone or computer.

If your plane has the option to upgrade to a seat with more leg room or cushier seats like Delta’s Economy Comfort seats or United Airlines Economy Plus seats, definitely consider it. If not, consider the Exit Row which naturally offers more leg room, just make sure you don’t pick an Exit Row marked as limited recline (Typically called out with an asterisk on the seat map).

Once you’ve created your sleep haven, a glass of wine or a cup of tea can be the perfect complement to any red-eye. Just remember to limit your fluids if you want to sleep through your flight. Also, don’t forget to match any glass of alcohol with water to stay hydrated since both flying and drinking alcohol can dehydrate you.

Pack your carry-on wisely

Never is your carry-on more important than during a red-eye. It needs to contain essentials for not only getting a goodnight’s rest, but also freshening up once you land. Heading straight to a meeting or event as soon as you get off the plane? Pack a second change of clothes in your carry-on for a quick wardrobe change. If you don’t have much time to freshen up once you land, set an alarm on your cell phone for thirty minutes before landing. Freshen up in the airplane bathroom and no one will be able to tell you were catching Z’s on the plane.

Here are 6 things I always bring when I’m taking a red-eye flight:

1.      Sleeper Scarf ( This is my go-to for a comfortable flight, day or night! It offers great neck support while I sleep and keeps me warm by doubling as a blanket or shawl around my shoulders and arms as I sleep. Not to mention I don’t have to worry about carrying around those bulky neck pillows.

2.      Eye Mask (Lilac Dot Sleep Mask, Once I finish my glass of wine, on goes my eye mask and I am out like a light. I fall asleep so much quicker and stay asleep longer when I travel with my eye mask. It’s a crucial accessory if I want to get some good rest on any red-eye.

3.      Warm socks or slippers (Nufoot Barefoot Mary Jane Slippers, Surviving a red-eye flight is all about comfort. That’s why I kick off my shoes and relax with something that will keep my feet warm (and safe from the airplane floor).  

4.      iPod (16 gb iPod Nano,  I upload my favorite songs to drown out any noise from neighboring passengers or white noise from the plane, and I even keep a few relaxing meditation soundtracks for when I’m having trouble de-stressing on the plane.

5.      Olay face cloths ( It is never recommended to sleep in your make up, but if you don’t feel like traveling through the airport with a bare naked face, slip a pack of these in your purse and use them to remove any makeup once you get to your seat (or excuse yourself to the bathroom before taking off).  Then use them again when you land to freshen up. You will feel and look ready to take on the day ahead.

6.      Convenient size mouth wash (Scope Outlast To Go, If you’re not up to brushing your teeth in the airport bathroom, try packing a convenience size mouthwash. I love packing the Scope To Go individuals because they’re small enough that I can take it through security in my purse or carry-on, and I can just toss the mini bottle once I’m done.