How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy
How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy
This post is all about how to survive long haul flights in economy class. In my wildest dreams, I am an independently wealthy, jet-setting, first class flying, millionaire. I would travel where I want and when I want all in luxurious first class. You know with those fancy lay down seats and those amazing meals. I’d settle into my 10-hour flight with my amenities bag and a glass of champagne. Only to regret having to exit the plane 10 hours later because, gosh, that flight was so darn relaxing.
BUT that is not the reality for me and most of you too. Perhaps that isn’t even what flying first class is like, but hey, that is how it is in my dreams. You know the feeling of boarding the plane and making your way like cattle to the back of the plane. Not without having to pass thru the first class cabin and see how you COULD be traveling but how you are not. OR if you are on the fancier planes, economy travelers get a whole different entrance and don’t even get the opportunity to see what you are missing out on in first class.
Maybe one day I will be a wildly successful travel blogger who can either afford to shell out the thousands of dollars to upgrade my ticket to first class. Maybe I will be comped first class flights by an airline. Either way, I just want to experience it, just once. Until then I will continue to fly economy because, hey, it is all I can afford.
We all know flying in Economy is not the most enjoyable experience especially if it is a long flight. So how to survive long haul flights in economy? Here is what I have learned.
Having flown a lot, the one single most important thing to me when I fly in economy class and that I sit in an aisle seat. I HAVE to have it and always pre-book it in advance. I’ve even called the airline to make sure I was booked in an aisle seat. I am sure they have me flagged as the crazy lady who needs an aisle seat. The biggest internal meltdown I ever had before flying was when my seat reservation from Frankfurt to Seattle got “misplaced” and because of it the only seats left on the plane were in the middle. Guess where I sat for 10.5 hours? YES, in a middle seat and I almost died. OK, maybe that is dramatic, but I need my aisle seat.
I have figured there are two types of fliers when it comes to seat choice and it really helps if you decide which one you are and book accordingly.
There are the people, like myself, who prefer an aisle seat. Why do I always book my seat in the aisle? Mainly because I like to be able to get up, go to the bathroom, or just stretch my legs without having to ask anyone’s permission and then awkwardly crawling over them. The time I was forced into a middle seat was particularly bad because the girl who occupied MY aisle seat was one of those people that settles in and falls fast asleep before the plane even takes off (yes I said that with envy). So half-way into our 10-hour flight, I had held my bladder as long as I possibly could and now was on a critical mission to get up and use the restroom.
The problem was, the girl was so fast asleep that shaking her and whispering to her would not wake her up. I even tried to find a way to slip around her without waking her. However, because of her awkward sleeping position, it was an impossibility. Even the lady across the aisle gave me looks of desperation seeing that I could not wake this girl and clearly needed to use the restroom. I finally decided that, no matter how difficult, I would push past her and get out.
So here I am straddling her, one leg in the aisle, one leg by my seat with my hands forward on her headrest, boobs in her face, trying to find some yoga move that would allow me to get my other leg into the aisle and guess what; Goldilocks woke up. Needless to say, it made for a very awkward encounter with her but once she realized I was only desperately trying to get out to use the restroom I think she recovered.
No more middle seats for me. I don’t want to have to deal with someone else when I want to get up to use the bathroom, stretch my legs, or get something out of the overhead bin.
The other type of person is like Goldilocks. This person is fast asleep before the plane even takes off. We have all seen this kind of person, right? The one the flight attendant has to wake up to put on their seat-belt for take off. The one us non-sleepers are SO envious of. So even if you are not that extreme but like to get comfortable on the flight and plan to do a lot of sleeping, the window seat may be your friend. Often the window seat is great for someone who likes to sleep because it allows you to rest your body against the side of the plane giving you a little more comfort and space when you sleep.
The bottom line is decide what type of person you are. Do you want a window seat or an aisle seat? This decision should not be taken lightly. It can either ensure smooth flying or condemn you to being uncomfortable. I guess there might be a third type of person that prefers the middle seat but, well, I have never met one.
Unless you plan on quietly meditating for 10 plus hours plan activities to keep you occupied. Sure most planes have movies to watch and music to listen too, even if you do have to pay for them sometimes, but I guarantee that will not keep you occupied for the entire flight. I do plan watching a movie into my schedule, more on that below, but after a movie or two I start getting restless and need something else to do.
I bring my iPod so I can listen to my music and I always take my iPod Nano with me because it so tiny and practical. When I am listening to what I want I don’t get as bored as quickly.
I bring my iPad or laptop. Sometimes I will choose to buy in air Wi-Fi other times I won’t. I guess it just depends on what I am doing. If I want to surf the web, chat on Facebook, work, or schedule social media posts then I buy Wi-fi. If I just want to work on blog posts, play games, or watch something I have downloaded then generally I don’t need wifi. For me having my iPad or laptop occupies a lot of my time mainly because there are so many activities I can do.
One trick I like to do is to download episodes of The Amazing Race or other reality television shows that I missed out and watch them on the flight. It’s so easy to get sucked into reality tv that you often want to see episode after episode and at 40 plus minutes long after watch 3-4 of the back to back you have just eaten up a fair amount of your flight time without even noticing it.
I also bring my Kindle as opposed to physical books simply because it is more practical to travel with then 3 different books. Initially, I resisted buying a Kindle for a long time because I loved the feeling of holding and reading the actual book. I felt like if I bought a kind it would take the magic out of it. After lugging around the latest book in the Outlander Series (which if you are familiar with Outlander you will know these books are seriously thick) I knew it was time I broke down and bought a Kindle. I am glad I did because even though books are magical having a Kindle is just practical.
If you are traveling with a companion maybe even bring a deck of cards or some other type of game to pass the time.
The main thing here not to rely on the in-flight entertainment to actually entertain you the whole flight because it won’t.
OK, maybe spa treatment is a bit of an exaggeration but bring something to freshen up with. I always bring deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste, Evian spray water, basic make-up items, face wash of some sort, and my Origins No-Puffery Cooling Roll-On for Puffy Eyes . I love, love this Origins eye product and use it every day but it is also amazing for flying. It helps you feel refreshed.
I never put on makeup pre-flight. Usually, I am in a hurry but also because I know the makeup I put on in Seattle will not survive 10 hours of sweating, gross, tossing and turning in the cabin. I always opt to go to the bathroom about 1.5-2 hours before landing to freshen up and get myself in order. That way I look presentable and don’t smell at my arrival destination.
I also take 1-2 bathroom breaks during the flight to either wash my face or splash water on my face. Flying is super dehydrating and your skin needs either lotion or water. Not to mention that I have oily skin anyway, but something about flying always makes my face look like an oil slick. It just feels good to get up, stretch your legs, and refresh yourself.
I also have seen people bring face masks or cooling eyes mask to do during the flight.
Depending on the airline you are flying you might not even be served a meal. You don’t want to find this out at 30,000 feet in the air with 7 hours left on a flight when you are so hungry you could eat a dinosaur. Find out if meals are served and if not whether you can buy food items in flight; usually you can. One tip here is that ordering your food on-line up to 24 hours before your flight usually will get you a nice discount on the cost. This is true for airlines like Condor Airlines or Iceland Air. By the way, I LOVE Icelandair…look for a more in-depth blog post on the airline soon.
Not all airline food is created equal either, especially in economy class. I have had some decent meals and I have had some wtf is this meals. It is hard to tell what you are getting unless you fly the airline a lot. Regardless of what my in-flight choices are, I always bring something to munch on. I might not always eat it but at least I have that option. Fruit, a snack bar, maybe a sandwich just something snacky to tide you over in case you don’t get a meal or if you just simply can’t stomach your meal. Having something decent to eat keeps you from getting hangry and makes your flight more enjoyable.
Another thing you can do is bring tea bags with you. You can ask for a cup of hot water to use with your own tea bag. It always relaxes me sipping my Moroccan Mint STASH tea while others are drinking their airline black. Also bring your own water bottle and ask the attendants to fill it for you. As I mentioned before flying is extremely dehydrating so make sure you drink your water!
Word of caution, please don’t bring your stinky, smelly food on the plane to gag and torture all the other passengers. It is perfectly fine to grab a quick sandwich or what not from the airport to bring on the plane. However, please don’t bring your Green Thai Curry Chicken entree, hard-boiled eggs, or tuna sandwiches on board. I love these but I don’t love smelling them second-hand. Ewww. Do your fellow passengers a favor and choose something smell neutral.
I always take a change of clothes on the plane with me. Not only does it kill time getting up to go the restroom and changing into something more comfortable but it sets the tone for the flight. I usually take a pair of leggings, maybe a cozy sweater, and slipper. About an hour after take off I make my way to the lavatory and change into my comfy flight attire. I am not brave enough to change into full-on pajamas but I have seen it happen; to each their own.
Then about 1-2 hours before landing, I do this in reverse. I put back on my pre-flight ensemble with a fresh pair of socks and underwear.
You will feel slightly grimy after a long haul flight in economy no matter what you do to yourself. However, this tip can make you feel at least a little more presentable when you land. It is one of my best tips for how to survive long haul flights in economy.
For me, this is the single most important thing that helps me figure out how to survive long haul flights in economy class. Ok, yes, I am a planner. I like to plan everything. However, I am not suggesting you get all crazy here with Google Docs scheduling your bathroom breaks and what not. Just relatively know how long your flight is and plan accordingly in your mind. For me it goes something like this:
First 1-2 hours: Relax and enjoy take off! Settle in, browse the in-flight entertainment, browse the food menu, get my gadgets settled, go to the lavatory and change into my flight clothes.
Hours 2-3: Usually this is the time the crew serves the first meal. This depends on the airline but it usually seems to come 1.5 to 2 hours into the flight. I eat and I really take my time with this, after all, there is no hurry. Perhaps have a glass of wine with your meal? The key is to draw it out and try to enjoy it as much as possible. Plus, usually, it takes a fair amount of time for the crew to come collect your trash. After the meal is served I go the restroom. I am usually needing a bit of a leg stretch about now and a lot of other passengers are going to the bathroom as well before they doze off into la la land. Stretch your legs and be ready to settle in for the bulk of the flight.
Hours 3-5: Everyone else is usually sleeping except me. I normally watch a movie or programs I’ve downloaded on my iPad. A typical movie is about two hours. So, if you can find something that really interests you, take advantage of it. After my movie watching I get up and go the bathroom. Mostly to stretch and also to get up out of my seat. This is really important.
Hours 5-7: About halfway thru the flight is about the time I start monitoring the remaining flight time. Not only is it interesting to see where you are flying over BUT I am also starting to feel a bit antsy at this point. I might try to close my eyes for a few minutes but that always ends up being fruitless. I’ll have some tea, play around on social media if I have wi-fi, read a book on my Kindle, or listen to music. This is a good time for me also to maybe work on some blog posts. I just try to occupy myself as much as possible. However, at this point my attention span sucks because I am starting to get anxious to arrive.
Hours 7-8: Ok this is about the time I start going stir crazy. If I can find another movie to get interested in I do. My butt is normally started to go numb I am generally fidgety. I will take another bathroom/stretch break. I will probably try and close my eyes, again and again, it’s no use. The important thing is just to try to relax. Get some sort of rest even if it is not full on sleeping.
Hours 8-11: It’s the final countdown! Depending on the length of you flight people are starting to wake up. Flight attendants are serving the last meal or snack and people all around you an anxious AF to get off the plane. This is when I go and freshen up, change my clothes, brush my teeth, and put on my make-up. I generally try to pep myself up to get off the plane. About 45 minutes before landing I start putting all my stuff back that I drug out during the flight. I also throw away any trash I have, and prepare for landing. I like to spend the last half hour of the flight calm and enjoying the landing view.
Think of your time in smaller chunks instead of a whole whopping 11 hours or whatever your flight time is. Break the time into smaller, manageable sections. Psychologically this helps me cope and it never seems like I am on a never-ending flight to nowhere.
If you are traveling with kids (not my specialty here) Nomad Together has a great blog post called “Activities and Snacks for Long Flights with Kids“. Also, one of my favorite family travel websites World Of Travels With Kids has a really great article on how to go screen-free on flights called “21 Awesome Screen free Airplane Activities for Kids“. Check them out for more tips on how to survive long haul flights in economy.
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