Your Guide to Landing Refreshed: Best Red-Eye Travel Strategies

Where are you traveling to? Somewhere exotic, or a favorite place you return to again and again? Are you taking an overnight “red-eye” flight? There is a reason why they call it a “red-eye”! 

We asked some travel experts and frequent flyers for their best tips.

The Benefits of Red-Eye Flights

Fairly empty airport.
Image credit Ayrat A via Shutterstock.

First, let’s look at the benefits of the red-eye flight.

  • These flights can be economical.
  • The airports are less crowded, which means shorter lines at check-in and security.
  • Planes are also often less packed.
  • You might even encounter less traffic on the way to the airport!
  • Red-eye flights are time efficient: you make the most of your time, both at home and at your final destination. Instead of losing a full day to travel, you fly through the night. This often leads to savings by avoiding the need for an extra night in a hotel.
  • The flights can be quieter, there are certainly tips and tricks that will help you arrive refreshed after your airborne evening.
  • For business travelers, red-eye flights can be a convenient way to attend meetings or conferences without disrupting your work schedule. You can leave after work and arrive early the next morning, ready for your business activities (if you rest on the flight).

Red-Eye Flight Planning

Woman running through airport.
Image credit Nelson Antoine via Shutterstock.

There are a few things you can do ahead of time.

  • Choose the Right Flight Time: If you prefer going to bed early, opt for an earlier red-eye departure (maybe a 9pm, instead of midnight). Conversely, if you plan to stay awake throughout the flight, a 6 p.m. departure can be ideal, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel upon landing (assuming flying east).
  • Book a window seat. You can use the wall as support for sleeping and you will be jostled less by aisle mates moving around.
  • Avoid caffeine. Know your time cut-off. It might be noon earlier in the day.
  • This might be controversial: avoid alcohol. It can disrupt rest. Others say it helps. Know yourself!
  • Avoid connecting flights (don’t be the person in the picture!)
  • If you are one of the millions of people in the world with digestive issues, read our article about Traveling with IBS before you leave!

Book Your Hotels!

woman showing thumbs up.
Image credit Mix and Match Studio via Shutterstock.

“When taking a red-eye flight, make sure you’ve booked yourself a room that allows you to check in right after landing,” says Monica Fish, a frequent traveler, mom, and Founder of Planner at Heart. “There is nothing worse than getting to your destination early in the morning totally beat and having to wait until 4pm to have access to a hotel room. If you’re traveling with children who aren’t as resilient, it’s a must-do.”

Sleep During the Flight

Woman sleeping on plane at night.
Image credit frantic00 via Shutterstock.

Red-eye flights can sometimes actually help with jetlag. By sleeping on the plane during your typical nighttime hours, you may be better adjusted to your destination’s time zone upon arrival.

Here are some tips from Chantelle Kincy of Flannels or FlipFlops: “When taking red-eye flights, sleeping as much as possible is essential. Bring noise-canceling headphones, an eye mask, and melatonin. Don’t partake in any onboard drinks; head to your seat, take melatonin, and try to rest. Avoid stimulation like movies and your phone so you can fall asleep faster.”

Consider Adjusting Sleep Schedule Ahead of Time

Woman sleeping peacefully in bed.
Image credit Ground Picture via Shutterstock.

One of the key factors in acing a red-eye flight is adjusting your sleep schedule to align with your destination’s time zone. Dr. Shelby Harris, director of sleep health at Sleepopolis, recommends gradually shifting your sleep and wake times a week or two before your trip. This adjustment can help reset your circadian rhythm, making it easier to adapt to the new time zone upon arrival.

Leave Your Electronics Packed Away, With One Exception

Woman using smartphone on red eye flight. Flying at night.
Image credit YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV via Shutterstock.

Most of us have a smartphone with us, and perhaps also a tablet and/or laptop. Keep them packed away. The emission of blue light can prolong your wakefulness, contribute to dry eyes, and is inconsiderate of your fellow travelers.

One exception is that you could use your phone and earplugs/headphones to listen to white noise or similar sleep inducing sounds. You can use your phone in this way, but still keep it out of sight.

Pack Sleep-Enhancing Gear

Woman with neck pillow and eye mask.
Image credit ViDI Studio via Shutterstock.

Ensure you have the necessary gear to help you sleep peacefully during your red-eye flight. Consider packing a sleep mask to block out unwanted light, noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to eliminate distractions, and a comfortable travel pillow for neck support. It’s also a good idea to have a blanket or a thick sweater on hand in case the cabin gets chilly.

Compression socks are helpful, not just to reduce the risk of blood clots during long, overnight flights, but they maintain healthy blood flow in general, which can benefit many. Many seasoned travelers swear by eye drops to keep eyes moist. The dry cabin environment can wreak havoc.

Skip In-Flight Meals on Shorter Flights

Woman eating in airport.
Image credit Matej Kastelic via Shutterstock.

To maximize your sleep time on shorter red-eye flights, consider forgoing in-flight meal services. You can eat before departure or after landing at the airport, allowing you to focus on getting rest during the flight. Some travelers even attach a “do not disturb” note to their attire or eye mask to signal their intent to skip meals.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Hungover woman.
Image credit antoniodiaz via Shutterstock.

While a glass of wine may seem tempting to induce sleep, it’s best to avoid alcohol on red-eye flights. Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, but it often leads to poor-quality sleep. Additionally, the low humidity in airplane cabins can leave you feeling dehydrated, and alcohol can exacerbate this dryness.

But do hydrate with water. It’s a balancing act. You want to hydrate, but not need to get up to use the bathroom too often.

Freshen Up Post-flight

Airline approved toiletry bag. I
mage credit akvarelmed via Shutterstock.

After a red-eye flight, take a moment to freshen up, especially if you have an important day ahead. Pack essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and face wash to create a semblance of your morning routine. You can also utilize airport bathrooms to freshen up upon landing, helping you feel more prepared to tackle the day despite the time difference and any sleep disruptions.

Land Ready to Go!

Woman at airport looking out windows.
Image credit Nok Lek Travel Lifestyle via Shutterstock.

By following these expert tips, you can make your red-eye flight a more pleasant and productive experience. Adjusting your sleep schedule, choosing the right flight time and seat, and packing sleep-enhancing gear are crucial steps to ensure a successful red-eye journey. Remember to prioritize quality rest, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready for your adventures.

Looking For More Travel Tips?

Travel insurance.
Image credit Casper1774 Studio via Shutterstock.

Check these articles out!

Join Us

The Queen Zone Join Us Feature Image
Image Credit The Queen Zone

Join us on this empowering journey as we explore, celebrate, and elevate “her story.” The Queen Zone is not just a platform; it’s a community where women from all walks of life can come together, share their experiences, and inspire one another. Welcome to a space where the female experience takes center stage. Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing, Queen!


  • Dede Wilson

    Dédé Wilson is a journalist with over 17 cookbooks to her name and is the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners LLC, currently publishing through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone.

Similar Posts