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Last Updated on 23/12/2020

Long haul flights are like marmite. You either love them or you hate them. Unless you’re flying business class, you won’t exactly be in the height of comfort and there are some long journeys you have to contend with. Get one decision wrong and your flight can suddenly feel like an eternity in a nightmare. So I thought I’d share some tips to help make your long haul Economy flight that little bit more bearable. Here’s how to survive a long haul Economy flight:

1. Try to Sleep

I find sleep an impossible venture on a long haul flight and I’m always extremely jealous of those who can nod off before the plane has even taken off. Sleeping on flights is a skill I have not yet managed to master but if you can it’s probably the most beneficial thing you can do. Just imagine falling asleep only to wake up refreshed and ready to go just as the plane is landing. It’s the dream, right? Literally.

Any sleep is better than none, but unless you’re flying business class, chances are you have an upright seat and not much room to contend with. To increase the likelihood of you nodding off, pack a blow-up neck pillow, earplugs and a sleeping mask. Push the seat back to make yourself slightly more comfortable. Just watch out you don’t thrust it into the unsuspecting passenger behind. It’s not much but if you can find a way to get comfortable then you’re guaranteed to survive a long haul Economy flight.

Inside of plane.
Somehow, try to get some sleep on this.

2. Choose the Seat that Suits You Best

Travellers are divided up into two groups. You either prefer the window seat or the aisle seat. I’ve never met anyone that likes the middle. I’m not even sure they exist. I’m a window seat gal unless it’s a long haul flight. I hate being trapped in the corner for hours on end with my only possible escape over a mountain of legs and sleeping bodies. Getting up makes it that little bit more difficult when you have several people to contend with.

Both seats have their pros and cons. The aisle seat gives you the freedom to get up whenever you like but you have people shuffling passed you and there’s nowhere to lean whereas the window seat gives you a cosy little corner but you’re trapped there for the duration of the flight.

So it comes down to picking your battles. Think about what you’re willing to sacrifice to meet your needs. I like the comfort of being able to move about freely so I can cope with being knocked from time to time. If you get a row to yourself it’s like hitting the jackpot. It doesn’t get better than that!

How to make your long haul economy flight more bearable
Choosing the right seat is critical for a good flight

3. Hydrate!

It’s so easy to forget to drink water during long haul flights. Easier still is to make the most of the free alcoholic beverages because you don’t want to miss out on the limited perks. But flights can dehydrate you more than you realise and you end up feeling sluggish when it’s time to land. The teeny-tiny cups of water and plastic water bottles the flight attendants hand out at intervals are not nearly enough of what you should be drinking. Not to mention the amount of waste the accumulates every time they give you a fresh cup.

The best way to stay hydrated and limit your waste consumption is to take an empty reusable water bottle with you through security and fill it up on the other side. Most airports now have water fountains you can use so make a note of them before you get there to save time. Having a full water bottle next to you on the flight will remind you to hydrate and you will feel so much better for it.  

Reusable water bottle.
Cut down on waste with your own water bottle.

4. Pick a Special Dietary Meal

Want to know a secret about how to feel like you’re in business class while actually being in Economy? Pick a dietary meal on your long haul flight. It’s as simple as that. You end up getting your meals first so you get to tuck in while your neighbours give you the envious side-eye.

Dietary meals offer a small way to get some special treatment for free while still being in Economy. Plus the quicker your food arrives the quicker you can sit back and relax. Being a vegetarian I discovered this hack on a long haul flight to New Zealand and honestly, it was a game-changer.

How to make your long haul economy flight more bearable
Hardly fine dining but a bit of special treatment!

5. Dress for Comfort

Flights are always chilly thanks to their overuse of air-con. It’s the absolute worst being cold on a long haul flight, especially if you’re hardly moving. Protect yourself by layering up even if you’re flying to somewhere warm. Put on several layers of your comfiest clothes because it’s far better to be too warm than freezing. At least that way you can peel the layers off.

You also can’t guarantee that the airline will provide you with a pillow and blanket for your comfort so pack a large lightweight scarf to drape over yourself just in case.

How to make your long haul economy flight more bearable
Layer up. Better to be too cosy than too cold.

6. Stretch at Intervals

Even if you feel slightly self-conscious, I can’t stress enough the importance of standing up and stretching a few times on a long haul flight. Sitting down for long periods of time at ground level makes you feel stiff and is detrimental to your health in the long run. In the air, a long period of inactivity can lead to something scarier like a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis.

If you think you might be prone to it or want to be extra safe you can get yourself a pair of flight socks. They apply gentle pressure to the ankle to keep the blood flowing. Otherwise, stand up, roll your ankles around, shake your limbs and stretch to keep your blood moving. Don’t feel self-conscious about it. Trust me, everyone else is too wrapped up in their own world to care!

Woman doing yoga on beach.
Stretch a bit. Maybe not quite like this on a plane but you get what I mean…

7. A Toothbrush and Toothpaste Are Essential

Honestly, something as simple as a toothbrush will change your life on a long haul flight. After hours of sitting down in a twilight zone of endless films and plane food, a toothbrush can make you feel halfway human just in time for landing. You may not have had any sleep but at least you have clean teeth, right?

Depending on your luggage situation, it might be a bit tricky having a change of clothes to hand even if sitting in the same clothes for hours on end makes you feel less than fresh. For a handy alternative, have a pair of undies tucked away somewhere and change towards the end of the flight. It’ll make you feel almost as good as new again. Having clean teeth is an essential part of feeling fresh and normal. If your teeth are clean even if nothing else is then you’re set to survive a long haul Economy flight.

How to make your long haul economy flight more bearable
A toothbrush is a one-way ticket to feeling fresh.

8. Moisturise

Planes are notorious for their dry, recycled air, and if you’re exposed to it for a long stretch of time it can dry out your skin and make you feel horrible. Pack a moisturiser you can rub into your face and hands for a little bit of luxury on your Economy flight. Something as simple as a favourite moisturiser that smells nice will help you to relax.

I’ve seen some passengers do the full spa treatment and whip out a face mask and honestly why not? You haven’t got anywhere to be for the next couple of hours so why not turn your flight into your own personal spa so you’re the right amount of pampered for your trip.

Relaxing woman in a spa.
Do a spa treatment and imagine you’re here instead of on the flight.

9. Chill Out and Relax

Long haul flights are that strange combination of being stuck in limbo while knowing that you’re speeding across the world to your destination. It’s an odd feeling and while you’re suspended in mid-air you’re not going anywhere (even though you are) so you might as well take the time to enjoy it.

We spend so much of our lives in a rush and we hardly give much time to ourselves. So, make the most of the time you have on your long haul flight. Okay, it might not be the height of luxury on an Economy long haul flight but give yourself a day off. Binge-watch all the rubbish films if you want to, check-in with yourself, listen to music because what else are you going to do? Use the time to indulge yourself without judgement. Finding a way to tap into your happy place is one of the key ways to survive a long haul Economy flight.

How to make your long haul economy flight more bearable
And imagine you’re here, too. Relax.

10. Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks

Depending on the time of your flight you might be lucky enough to get one or two meals but don’t rely on it and don’t depend on them to fill you up. Despite getting dinner on the plane I was absolutely starving on my flight to Hong Kong and I didn’t have enough snacks to sustain me.

Plane food is notoriously a little bit dodgy and Economy is not known for its fine dining experience. So load up your bag with snacks. Make sure to pack a few nutritious ones to make you feel good and healthy.

If you want to pack fresh snacks like fruit or vegetables keep in mind the restrictions of the airline and the country you’re going to. Biosecurity is a huge thing in some parts of the world. Something as seemingly inoffensive as an apple can land you with a fine in New Zealand. So if you can bring an apple on board make sure you eat it before you land to avoid any problems.

Seriously, stock up on snacks. you’re going to need them!

I hope these tips prove useful and help you survive your long haul Economy flight!


Thanks for reading,

F x

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