View over the clouds

10 Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight in Economy

Over the years we’ve taken our fair share of long-haul flights. We live in Australia, have family in Europe and love to travel; so there’s no way we can avoid them! In my twenties I used to love them; the further away, the more exciting, right? But of course, as we get older, sitting on an aeroplane for hours on end starts to lose its excitement; we just want to be there already!

A cabin in economy class
A cabin in economy class, photo from flickr sgkimpo

There is always Business Class, but like most people, we sadly can’t afford to fly that yet. It’s still cattle class for us and it’s pretty rough! But by now we’ve survived plenty of those long-haul flights and we’ve learnt how to deal with them, and how to stay as comfortable as is realistically possible. If you’re stuck in economy and facing down a killer flight, here are our tips for making it bearable:

1- Pick your preferred seating when booking

Nowadays most airlines let you choose your seat when you book. This is neat because now you don’t have to turn up at the airport three hours in advance to secure a decent spot!

Seating preference is a personal thing. For example, I always ask for a window seat. You don’t get disturbed by other passengers wanting to get up or walking along the aisle, or by the flight attendants and their food trolleys. You can also rest your head on the aeroplane’s wall, gaze out the window at take off or landing, or take photos of the clouds!

View of Dubrovnik at landing!
A view of Dubrovnik while landing

Try and get a seat near the wings, especially if you are susceptible to travel sickness. That location is less bumpy during turbulence.

2- Wear comfortable clothes and bring layers

Make sure you wear very comfortable and loose fitting clothes. There is nothing worse than spending ten hours in a seat with tight jeans on. If you want to wear your track-suit pants or pyjama bottoms then by all means do! It’s not the time to be worrying about how you look; we never look our best after a long-flight anyway!

Next, remember to wear a few layers of clothing. I am always cold on aeroplanes so I always wear at least three layers, and very often need a blanket on top of that! Simon, on the other hand, is always hot and normally only wears his T-shirt. If you wear layers you can add or remove them as you please to control your body temperature.

3- Pack a pillow, eye mask, ear plugs and a blanket

Bring a flight pillow for extra comfort, and if you want to get some sleep bring an eye mask to block out the light, and earplugs to block out the sounds around you.

Always check if the airline provides a blanket; some do, some don’t. If not, consider bringing your own or a pashmina, especially if you feel the cold!

4- Noise cancelling headphones

Yes, they are expensive but if you fly a lot they will pay for themselves. Let’s face it, the airline provided headphones are generally rubbish. Half the time when you watch a movie you’ll struggle to hear anything. Noise cancelling headphones will dramatically decrease the volume of background sounds, be it screaming babies, people talking loudly or the sound of the engines. It will make listening to music or watching a movie that much more enjoyable.

5- Choose water over alcohol or coffee

Yes sometimes having a glass of wine will help you relax, especially if you’re a nervous flyer. It’s ok to have a drink and I nearly always do, but don’t over do it. Not surprisingly, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated; and if your flight is extra long that’s particularly important. Bring extra water with you; I always feel that airlines don’t provide enough.

Avoid sugary drinks and coffee during the flight if you want to get some sleep. Save drinking them until just before landing when you can use them to pep you up. Especially if you arrive early morning, a coffee can help kick your body into action after a long-haul flight.

6- Bring sleeping tablets

Go to your doctor or pharmacist before the flight and ask for some good sleeping tablets. It’s really hard to get any sleep on a plane, and as a very light sleeper, I normally can’t sleep without a little help.

If you’re a heavy sleeper you may not need sleeping tablets. I gave Simon one to use on a flight once. It knocked him out so hard that when he got up mid-flight to go to the bathroom, he almost fell asleep in there! So if you’re going to take sleeping tablets you may want to try them out once or twice before your flight and see how strongly they affect you.

Another great option for better sleep is Dream Water. This is a drug-free drink containing Melatonin. I swear by this little bottle of goodness after discovering it on a trip to the United States. After drinking it, I slept for ten of the fourteen hours from LA to Melbourne! Needless to say, it was awesome and even better than the sleeping tablets!

7- Bring a book, magazines, and your electronic devices

If you get bored easily, don’t forget to bring something to read. Grab a few magazines at the airport before you board or bring a good book with you.

If you have a laptop or tablet, take them with you and stock them up with a few movies, TV shows or games. Or if you like to blog, a long-haul flight is a great time to work on it!

Make sure all of your electronic equipment is fully charged before the flight and bring a spare battery pack or a USB cable. Some airlines have USB sockets that will charge your smartphone or tablet. There is nothing worse than being stuck on a plane for ten hours with no battery left on your device and nowhere to charge it. It has happened to us before and we were very, very annoyed with ourselves!

8- Wear compression stockings and walk around as much as possible

Wearing compression stockings can significantly reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and will also avoid leg swelling. For every flight over four hours, I highly recommend wearing them.

Walking, standing, stretching, and doing leg exercises are important for your blood circulation.
When you’re allowed to, try to get up regularly and go for a walk down the aisle. Most of the larger planes on long-haul flights will have space near the doors for you to stand a while and do some stretches. If you’re unable to leave your seat due to turbulence, you can still do legs exercise while strapped in.

9-Play some relaxing music on your phone or iPod

Listen to some relaxing sounds when you are ready to fall asleep. Before you fly download some white noise, hypnotic chimes, sounds of nature or whatever type of background sounds work for you!

10- Bring body lotion, lip balm and Evian spray

Always bring a travel sized skin lotion, Evian spray and lip balm in your carry-on luggage. Your skin will get quite dry so you’ll want to keep it hydrated. Bringing lip balm with me is essential because I always get sore lips on the plane.

10 Tips for surviving a long-haul flight in economy

We hope following these tips makes your next long-haul flight more enjoyable. If you’d like to share some of your own tips for surviving these flights, please add them in the comments below. Happy travels!

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