Surviving Long Haul Economy

Do you ever look back in your drafts and find random posts which you started and never went back to?  “Surviving Long Haul Economy” was one of those, dating all the way back to 2014.
Its contents?
“Make more money and fly business class instead.”
Good job Amy. Solid advice.
One can only assume that I wrote this whilst I was sat cramped up in my middle seat too uncomfortable to sleep and desperately needing the loo but too awkward to ask the person next to me to move again.

But it did get me thinking, how does one go about Surviving Long Haul Economy?
Well, despite what bloggers who quite clearly never fly economy would have you believe, popping on an eye mask and noise cancelling headphones isn’t going to transform your experience from third to first class.
Instead, what you need is to plan ahead! Starting with:

Booking Your Flight

It starts with booking your flight and not just for that ever-craved window seat! If possible try and get a flight which coincides with the timezone you’ll be landing in. For example whenever S and I fly to Thailand, I make sure we’re on a 9pm flight. This time works for us as we can get to the airport and have a nice dinner before boarding the flight and sleep around the same time we usually would, whilst waking up at an appropriate hour the other side before landing (9pm flights usually land around 3pm Thai time).

Choosing Your Outfit

Choosing an outfit when flying long haul is a mission in itself, yet alone when you’re travelling to a a county whose temperature is much different to the one you’re leaving. I opt for baggy t-shirts and jeans at the airport, as it’s what I’m most comfortable in, but I take a loose dress/shorts in my hand luggage to switch into just before landing. I’m also a big fan of packing pyjamas. Not just because pyjamas are life but because economy is hardly comfortable on short haul and you pretty much need to be a contortionist to be able to get to sleep so those jim-jams sure do help by giving you the flexibility needed for those weird angles. Shoes are also something super important to consider because feet and ankles tend to swell (or at least mine do) so wear something that enables you to adjust the tightness, such as converse.

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Packing Your Hand Luggage

I’ve noticed that SO many people take things in their hand luggage that they never end up using and I’ve never quite understood that myself. I like to be able to get something out of my hand luggage without having to rummage through millions of things so my advice is when packing your hand luggage, don’t pack it to the brim and make sure everything has a purpose. Comfortable ear/headphones are a must (especially if you have a pea-head like me because the ones the airlines hand out never fit) as well as a comfortable travel pillow, a blanket that doesn’t leave you covered in static, if you have the space (I usually just wear a scarf), hydrating face mists/moisturisers (which sound fancy but make SUCH a difference to your skin) and anything you want to distract yourself with throughout the flight such as a book/kindle/laptop/colouring book.

Distracting Yourself.

Long haul wouldn’t be called long haul if you were there in a jiffy, and not everybody can sleep through the entire flight. I’m a big fan of eating. Mainly in general but also before I fly long haul because carbs make my sleepy so I usually spend the first part of a flight in the land of nod, but I’m yet to meet anybody who can sleep through an entire flight so distraction is key. Watching movies back to back can get a bit tedious so be sure to pack something else to distract yourself. I tend to pack a notepad for doodling, set up a relaxing playlist, download some interesting games and pack the laptop just in case inspiration strikes mid flight.

Getting Comfortable.

Always get up and go to the loo before you get comfortable. Sods law has it that if you don’t you will *always* need the toilet and you’ll spend the rest of your flight missing how comfortable you were in those seconds before the urge appeared. Night flights are my fave because yano, sleep is ace, but also because you can maintain some semblance of a routine, such as slipping into your jimjams and brushing your teeth after you’ve eaten. Whilst I’m up I’ll usually take a little wander along the aisle to stretch my legs then once back in my seat I’ll either curl up in a ball if I’ve got the window seat, or if I have the middle seat *shuddder* I’ll either use a travel pillow or pop the table down and lean on that for head support. It pretty much varies depending on what (if any) is most comfortable.

If you really can’t get comfortable in your allocated seat it can be worth asking the cabin crew if there’s anywhere you can move too. We’ve done so previously and ended up with wing seats with ALL the legroom and having a different row to ourselves. Availability will vary hugely depending on how busy the flight is but it can be worth asking just in case.

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is something which is key to surviving long haul economy flights. It’s so easy to forget when the drinks are free, but drinking at a high altitude is even worse than drinking on your bog standard Saturday night (because you get drunk *way* quicker). I always take a bottle of water with me on a flight because you can’t always time your thirst to coincide when the cabin crew are offering beverages, and let’s face it – those fiddly plastic pots are never enough!

Stretching Your Legs

Stretching out and moving is so important on a flight and helps to decrease the risk of DVT. I make it a habit to get up every two hours and take a walk up and down the plane. Sometimes there will be bit of extra space on the wings and I’ll utilise this space by having a good stretch. Does it look weird? Probably. Does it bother me? Nah. Being scrunched up in a ball for hours as you sit there frustrated that you can’t sleep isn’t ideal and if you’re awkward and don’t want to bother the person next to you too often, you might as well utilise the time that you’re up and about!

Stretching your legs once you’ve landed is just as important. I find that doing a ten minute HIIT session or going for a swim helps to use my muscles without over-exerting myself, because let’s face it – we’re usually flying because we’re going on holibobs and who really wants to exercise on holiday?

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What do you think? Any tips for surviving long haul economy?
Let me know in the comments!

  • Karoliina Kazi

    Fantastic tips and following them will definitely make the experience little more bearable. I would add avoiding airline snacks, especially the salty stuff, because they might make you feel uncomfortable and will make your feet swell on long hauls. I really like the idea of overnight flights, will definitely look into that next time we fly somewhere far.

    • Ooooh great advice about the salt!
      Overnight’s are the best, definitely something to consider!

  • Denise M

    Yep I too have posts from waaaaay back in my drafts! ? Really good tips on travelling long haul, never actually thought about booking the flight at a time that it would coincide with the time zone (although seems pretty obvious!). Also staying hydrated as my skin dries out so quickly when travelling, I have to apply moisturiser before and after.

    • So glad I’m not the only one who forgets about posts!
      Dried out skin is the absolute worst – might be worth trying some oil. I’ve been using Bio Oil for a while on my hands and legs and find it so much more moisturising than moisturiser (which sounds weirder than it is haha)

  • Jasmin N

    Wonderful post!
    I tend to have a few posts in drafts that aren’t scheduled to published well, ever. Or I’ve been thinking if I should or not haha 😀

    ~ Jasmin N

    • I have a few fully written ones which just don’t feel like the right time to publish, so I feel you on that!

  • Katja Knox

    Great tips hun. I’m planning a trip to ‘Murica in the new year and was dreading how I would survive such a long flight… I’ve only ever travelled in Europe. Thanks for sharing hun 🙂
    Katja xxx

    • Ahh it’ll be ok and so exciting! I haven’t been to the U, S of A yet but I’m forever drooling over the donuts there :’-)

  • Great post! I hate long flights but I always try and walk around as much as I can and have a cheeky beverage or two!

  • Jocelyn Figueroa

    Awesome tips – flying can be really rough. These are some awesome tips I can keep in mind next time I fly.

    • I quite enjoy flying (mainly for the views and inaccessibility!) but it can be such a pain (literally) when it’s often so uncomfortable!

  • I am constantly flying between the USA and Europe…and please don’t hate me but I can usually sleep all 7-10 hours! haha, I’m not sure how but my sister says I’m literally the only person she’s ever met that can do it. I usually end up sleeping through all the meals. My key is an eye mask, ear buds/plus, multiple layers, comfy socks, and my own pillow 🙂

    • omg HOW!
      I have never heard of anybody sleeping that long on a flight (without popping a sleeping tablet!). Love your key things – I think the secret to long haul is to be as comfortable as you can in whichever way takes its form for you. Taking your own pillow is a good shout. Mine was so massive that i found a super soft memory foam travel pillow instead (it’s like 1/4 of the size so actually fits in my hand luggage!) but there’s nothing quite as comfy as a well worn pillow!

  • would it be too much to say just fall asleep the whole time? haha .. although not everyone can fall asleep the whole time!

    • Ahh if only…
      You are a rare sleeping breed whose skills I envy! Think the most sleep I’ve ever managed in one stint is five hours!

  • These are good tips. Had to laugh at the drafts thing – can relate to having some weird stuff in my drafts!

  • Beirutibrit

    Good post! yes i always try to fly long distance so i arrive somewhere in the morning and then i haven’t wasted a day of my holiday, I’m lucky though as weird hospitality hours mean i dont really have a regular sleep pattern. I always request an aisle seat as i don’t like the thought of being trapped by the window (or in the middle *shudder*) and in desperate need of the loo – Ive never been woken up by anyone was wanted me to move for them and I’m generally up and down enough to get into a routine with my seat mates. A good book(or 2) and some trashy magazines, lip balm, tiger balm and eye drops (although i never actually remember the eye drops sadly) and my gorgeous travel blanket – i don’t care if i look like a grandma, its handwoven and super snuggly and i cannot travel long haul without it. I always request the vegetarian meal as I don’t eat much meat but its handy as you get your food (and by default, wine 😉 ) first and it tends to be something tastier i always think. Movies are also a must and i aim to watch at least 2 a flight, especially as the cinemas here are full of rats and i am NOT going!!

    • Ooooh eye drops are a good shout – I’m absolutely shocking at them though – can never keep my eye open to put them in haha. I agree about the grandma blanket – I honestly think they’re the best, especially when they’re well worn, they’re so snug and there’s just something incredibly homely about them.

      Funnily enough I ordered vegetarian for my flights when we were in Thailand last month and i agree it’s definitely tastier! Only down side was I appeared to have been given vegan instead of vegetarian, which for mains wasn’t a problem, but man did I miss out on some good pudding (which S took great pleasure in eating and not sharing… *gah!*) x

  • Georgina

    I love the PJs tip! I’ve not done that before haha
    http://www.georginadoes.co.uk

  • These are SUCH good tips (I really, really need to factor in the first “make more money & fly first class”) – I’m also one of those people who packs a change of clothes for each flight (going to NZ is usually 2 or 3) in their carry-on – too many memories of lost and delayed luggage haunt me…

    • I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t experienced lost luggage yet but have been with people who have and now I always swap half a suitcase with S now as it’s my biggest fear of being stuck without anything!

  • Great tips, thanks! I always take earplugs with me that control the pressure in my ears, so the air pressure doesn’t bother me. I NEED them for every flight or I will go nuts and won’t survive.. Besides that I always have a blanket, comfy clothes and shoes and moisturizer when on long flights. X

    • Those earplugs sound awesome!
      With you on blankets – honestly my favourite thing to travel with – cannot emphasise how much I *hate* being cold! x

  • Great tips! Thanks for passing on, I hate flying so appreciate all the help I can get! xx

    • Awh Sophie – must be hard to fly when you have a phobia, try not to focus on the journey but the destination you’ll be arriving at xx