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Tips To Survive A Medium-haul Overnight Flight

I’ve come to the conclusion that overnight medium-haul flying is bizarre to prepare for mentally – not quite the duration where you get longhaul anxiety but not so short that it’s a walk in the park.  

I was recently floored by my overnight flight to Sri Lanka from Hong Kong that lasted 5.5 hours. Once you factor in kids that won’t sleep, a bright cabin, noisy passengers etc, the likelihood is you might bank only 3 hours sleep. Which is enough to turn the most pleasant of humans into an aggravated, highly strung wreck.

Boarding - Sri Lanka

If you’ve got one of these delightful journeys coming up, here are my tips on how to deal with it:

  • Eat a big meal before you get on the plane. That way you can get onboard and focus on catching some precious sleep.  If your kids still insist on staying awake to eat (my 3yo won’t miss the chance for a meal), make sure you’ve pre-ordered a kid’s meal as this will arrive first.
  • Pack an eye mask in your hand luggage – despite taking off at 1am, Cathay insisted on keeping the lights blaring for a good few hours.  On our outbound flight I forgot to put my eye mask in hand luggage and had to improvise…
    Flying without an eye mask
  • Pack ear plugs for that moment when all your family might be asleep but other babies are keeping you awake!
  • Wear layers – I find that on overnight flights, the cabin temperatures flick from arctic to tropical.
  • Encourage your kids to sleep by packing cosy blankets (my 6yo loves her Skip Hop travel blanket) and neck pillows (I love my J Pillow).  My sister-in-law swears on bringing her son’s favourite pillow for the journey.
    Sri Lankan Airlines - Freddy Asleep
  • You will land feeling exhausted and groggy as 5 hours is not enough time to sleep, in fact on our outbound flight the kids only slept for 3 hours.  Do what you can to make your airport arrival easier e.g. organise your visas in advance, perhaps pay for VIP Immigration service to skip through a queue, bring a stroller even if your kids don’t use it that often
  • Factor in tiredness to your next step after the airport. There’s no way we would have been in a fit state to pick up a hire car at this point and all fell asleep during our 1.5 hour drive from Colombo to Bentota. Similarly when we arrived back in Hong Kong I was delighted we’d pre-booked a taxi to meet us.


  • Nicki


    Hi there! I am going to Goa next month with my 10 month old son and I’m so nervous! Juse found your blog so will be reading it furiously over the next few weeks for tips on what to take. Hehe! We are going on a night flight so this is useful to know. Thanks!

    • NicolaB

      Have a great trip!

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