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How to Survive Long Flights in Economy: 15 Long-Haul Flight Tips


Girl on a budget + loves to travel = expert on how to survive long flights in Economy. I would never give up the travel bug even if it means I can’t fly First Class – and I know you wouldn’t too!

So, how do we survive long flights in Economy class? It all comes down to preparation. Having the right things packed, for the right time. These tips get me through absolutely any flight, and I guarantee you’ll feel more comfortable, at ease, and ready to explore your destination when you land. These are the secrets of how to survive long flights in Economy!

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I have adopted several tricks to make flying Economy a more comfortable, and even exciting, experience. I’ve made mistakes traveling on long-haul flights before (yeah, having no headphones to watch a movie really put a dent in my plans.) But these travel tips are going to make you a master of how to survive long flights in Economy.

Buy Your Ticket & Choose Your Seat ASAP

As soon as you know your travel plans, buy your plane ticket. You can use the app Hopper to watch for flight deals over time, but when it comes to long-haul flights, the sooner you buy, the cheaper your ticket is.

Not only should buying your ticket in advance save you money on flights, but it should also mean you have your pick of seats to choose from.

You should also be able to dictate how far back you want to sit on the plane. I try to get as close to the front as possible to avoid the loud engine at the back of the plane and be able to disembark quicker once the plane lands.

Aisle or Window?

I think it’s obvious why I’m not bringing up the middle seat- it doesn’t exactly scream comfort.

Normally, I’d opt for a window seat. Resting my head against a hard surface makes me feel more comfortable while traveling and trying to sleep.

However, long-haul flights make me question my love-affair with the airplane window – controversial, I know.

The aisle seat gives you open access to your carry-on and the bathroom. Plus, you can spread your legs out a bit more to avoid feeling cramped in your row.

Overall, both aisle and window seat have their pros and cons for a long-haul flight. Besides the middle seat, the only other area of Economy that I would steer clear of is the collection of rows in the middle of the plane.

Long-haul flights almost always have two aisles – two seats to the left, four or five in the middle, and then two on the right. I always opt for sitting in rows of two seats.

Pro Tip: Is the seat with extra legroom at the front of Economy available? Snatch it up! Extra legroom goes a long way on terribly long flights.

Don Your Comfiest, Loose-Fitting Clothes

Keywords: Comfy and Loose-Fitting. Hear me out.

I like to be a fashionista, too. I love strutting my stuff through the airport, pretending I’m a celebrity, (is that normal?) and looking cute.

Even in my comfiest Lululemon leggings, I feel uncomfortable on a plane. They lay quite tight on my stomach and between the bad airport food and the bloat, we are just entering bad territory.

So, break out the sweatshirts and the sweatpants to have a comfortable experience. It’s how to survive a long flight in economy 101.

If showing up cute is important to you like it is to me, pack an extra outfit in your carry-on and you can change at the airport when you land.

Wear Layers

I love wearing layers to the airport. Although it’s annoying to take off jackets through security, it pays off to feel cozy on the plane.

I use my layers not only to keep me warm and cozy but also to save space in my suitcase. A big winter coat or even a stiff blazer takes up a lot of room and we are all trying to save space in our luggage.

Moreover, I choose layers that are multifunctional and fairly simple to take off. For example, a zip hoodie is easier to get out of in a cramped seat than a thick pullover. Then your hoodie can double up as a pillow or blanket.

Wear Socks & Bring Slippers

Of all the tips in the world on how to survive long flights in economy, this may just be my favorite. I never go on a long-haul flight without wearing socks. Firstly, I feel more comfortable with socks on because they keep my feet warm. Secondly, wearing shoes on a long flight is seemingly the worst thing ever.

Bring a pair of soft, lightweight slippers like these to quickly slip off your shoes and slip into heavenly comfort.

Now, I know you’re all thinking, what if your smelly shoes bother someone nearby? We are in Economy, after all.

I always tuck my shoes under a blanket, in a bag or in my personal item to keep form bothering anyone. Having slippers over your feet controls any unwanted fragrances wafting through the cabins as opposed to just wearing socks!

On top of your slippers, make sure you’ve packed everything else for your trip!

Bring Your Own Entertainment & A Portable Charger

Don’t be like me and go on a ten hour flight with one book of crossword puzzles. Of course, the hope is always that you’ll sleep like a baby your entire flight and wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the new day.

Rarely ever does that happen.

So, you have to find ways to keep yourself entertained. Always pack a travel journal, extra puzzles, books, notebooks, and magazines (and save money by bringing them from home.) Don’t forget a pen, too! You may need one to fill out forms required by international destinations.

Have your laptop or tablet on hand because you never know the reliability or the options of on-board entertainment.

And make sure you don’t end up with a dead phone! Bring a trusty portable charger so you are entertained for days. Well, hours at least.

Just make sure you’re overprepared to sit on that plane because you may not sleep a wink.

Download Music & Apps You Can Use Without Internet

Here’s another life lesson learned by Michela as a novice traveler: music that isn’t completely downloaded to your phone will not be available in airplane mode.

Music is key to getting through any flight for me, especially the take-off and landing process, as I tend to get motion sickness. Music is the best distraction. I use Apple Music (I know Spotify enthusiasts are judging me) and ninety percent of my songs weren’t downloaded to my phone in order to save storage. They were in my library, but I could only access them with internet.

Moral of the story is: make a playlist you love and make sure it works without internet.

The same goes for apps on your phone. Consider gaming apps or whatever you’re into as another form of entertainment to keep you busy. I’m a Solitaire lover and it’s the perfect switch-up to my in-flight routine.

Pack Wired Headphones

Another rookie mistake had been made. I got out my AirPods, went to pick a movie on the screen and it dawned on me – nothing I did would make those AirPods connect to that tiny little TV screen.

Long-haul flights should probably be less dramatic than I’m making them out to be – but we are talking survival here. It’s likely the airplane will offer you a pair of wired headphones so you can use the TV. If they don’t offer them to you, ask the flight attendants.

However, if you want headphones to be comfortable to wear, it is best you bring some nice-quality ones from home. In any case, it’s always good to be prepared.

Pro Tip: Noise-cancelling headphones are a lifesaver for trying to sleep on the plane.

Drink TONS of Water

Flying makes you incredibly dehydrated, even if you don’t notice it. There’s virtually no humidity in the pressurized cabin, so all your moisture is getting sucked up. You’re also still getting less oxygen than you would being at sea-level.

That’s why it’s important to drink a lot of water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol while flying, as neither sits well in your stomach or hydrates.

On long flights, you often receive water bottles (even in Economy, yay!) However, it might be more convenient for you to bring one of your own, like a collapsible travel water bottle.

Pack Your Own Snacks

More than ever, it seems you can’t trust the availability of food and beverages at airports and in-flight. More specifically, in-flight dining can vary widely depending airline and flight length.

You also never know what concoction they may be serving up or how it will settle with your stomach. Your body may give you signals to reactions to being in this new environment. While the chicken parm smells delicious, it could be too heavy and make for an uncomfortable experience. Or, you simply may not like any of the options on offer.

That’s why t’s incredibly important to pack your own snacks to avoid starving in the middle of the sky. Choose light and nutritious snacks, like nuts, fruit cups etc.

Skip Wearing Makeup

There is nothing that feels worse than sitting in your makeup for almost 24 hours. You’re oily, yet also completely dry from the dehydrating cabin atmosphere.

Wearing makeup is not only uncomfortable on long-flights, but it can also impact your skin. The environment is already dehydrating so your pores are looking to retain moisture and instead they are soaking up your makeup and getting clogged.

You can always bring a plastic baggy with some essential products and a tiny mirror to do your makeup right before you land.

Go To The Bathroom, or At Least Stretch Your Legs

It can feel a bit uncomfortable being in Economy and having to ask someone to move out of the way so you can get up from your seat (an essential argument for those pro-aisle seat.) But, let me tell you, you have to be selfish here.

Use the bathroom. Get up and walk around the plane. Do some fun stretches. Do anything to get your body moving, especially if your flight is 10 plus hours. Do it frequently so you get blood circulating and you get a break from sitting in the same position for so long.

Do a Pre-Sleep Routine

Sleeping on a plane is not for me. It’s borderline impossible for me to get comfortable enough or be tired enough to sleep.

To aid in getting in the sleepy mood, do yourself a favor and reenact your pre-sleep routine you do at home. Again, have a plastic baggy with a tiny face cleanser, toothbrush and toothpaste and head to that gorgeous airplane bathroom. By doing a pre-sleep routine that you are used to at home, you get your body and mind in the mood for sleep.

This doesn’t mean you’ll actually fall asleep (I am Exhibit A,) but it does give you a better chance. At the very least it forces you to try and you can get some good rest in even if it’s not a full slumber.

Embrace a Sleeping Mask

A take-along sleep mask is my other favorite trick for getting myself into sleep mode. I don’t normally sleep with one, but you’ll find it essential to wear if you’re trying to get some ZZZ’s in.

The plane will shut off the cabin lights after about an hour being in air or after the first food service (at least, that’s how it’s always happened on my long-haul flights.)

But if you’re sat right by the bathroom, like me, or the person in front of you has a reading light on, also like me, or you’re terrible at sleeping on planes (are we the same person?) then you’ll love having a sleeping mask to be able to shut one sense off and hope that the rest will follow.

Bring a Travel Pillow (Or Something As a Pillow)

You’ll usually be given a blanket on a long-haul flight and, if they’re nice, a pillow. This pillow is no memory-foamed, down-feathered relaxation device. It’s about three tissues in a polyester sack.

I’m being harsh, as I do appreciate when airlines offer these extras to aid you in feeling comfortable. But I highly recommend bringing your own travel pillow, whether it’s one of the convenient neck pillows on the market or a small homemade cushion.

This is also wear dressing in layers can come in handy. Choosing a multifunctional soft jacket or coat to wear means it can double as your pillow and you can carry or pack less things!

Refresh Before Landing

You’re almost there, you have almost survived! One of my favorite ways to survive a long flight in economy is to always refresh a bit before landing.

Plan to get up and stretch or use the bathroom before the seatbelt sign comes back on for the descent. This is where I put on some lip balm, moisturizer, and maybe even makeup. Use a small hairbrush to sort out your hair and a mint to keep fresh (although I usually brush my teeth once in the airport.)

Doing a refresh routine is the first step to adjusting to your new time zone and overcoming jet lag. It will help you feel less groggy and more ready to finally enjoy your destination!

Final Thoughts

I hope these tips on how to survive long flights in Economy class take your experience to a comfier and happier level! Have I said long-haul flight enough? I’m definitely over the word myself!

For more tips on how to survive a long flight in Economy, specifically in our post-Covid world, check out my guide to traveling with a face mask on long flights and the most fun and productive things to do on long flights.

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Good luck on your next long-haul flight!



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