How to survive long flights in economy is a million-dollar travel question. To make intercontinental journeys in coach more bearable, check out these 10 long-haul flight tips.
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Long-haul coach flights have never been fun, but there are some great tips for long flights in economy. If you don’t have enough miles to upgrade to business – and don’t want to pay for it, you’re stuck with economy.
As with most things, practice makes perfect, and that also applies to intercontinental economy flights. On this basis, here are some of my top tips on how to survive long flights in economy.
My Top 10 Long-Haul Flight Tips
After more than 50 long-haul flights in economy, this is my economy flight survival kit.
1. Try to get the Best Economy Seats
Not all economy seats are created equal.
Which seat is the best for you depends on several aspects: your height, your bladder, and your willingness to sit in the middle.
Personally, an aisle seat on a side row is the best option. Not only can you stretch your legs, but you can also go to the bathroom without thinking twice about waking up your neighbor. They might wake you up at some point, but that means they’ll bear the shame.
Of course, if you’re a tall person, you might want to choose a premium economy or comfort seat with extra legroom.
If you choose your regular economy seats early, you generally only pay 10-20 dollars extra, and it’s worth it.
Upgrading to premium economy, on the other hand, only makes sense if you’re really tall. On most airlines (Emirates is a notable exception), premium economy is just economy with a bit more legroom, so don’t bother. If you genuinely want an upgrade, opt for business class.
2. Pack Long-Haul Flight Essentials – But Not More
When it comes to the best long-haul flight tips, carry-on packing is a significant part.
The golden rule here is the following: bring long-haul flight essentials, but nothing more.
You don’t want your carry-on bag to be super heavy, but you still need some entertainment, water, and gadgets.
As a photographer, I always carry my camera gear because I don’t want to leave it out of sight. I use a PacSafe VentureSafe 45L as a carry-on bag as it’s well divided (to access different items during the flight) and fits into any overhead compartment.
When it comes to clothing, don’t bring an entire week’s worth of clothes, but think about some underwear and an extra t-shirt. You never know if your luggage is late, so be prepared.
Finally, bring a small toiletry set with a toothbrush and toothpaste, some skincare, and maybe mouthwash.
I use the TSA-approved Lermende Essentials Clear Washbag to store these, and it has been with me on 20+ long-haul flights.
3. Bring Your Own Entertainment – Don’t Rely on the Airline’s Movie Selection
Some airlines have vast offers of films from different countries – like Emirates and Qatar, while others have lots of TV series and Hollywood movies. I recently flew KLM from Mexico City to Amsterdam, and their selection was impressive.
Other airlines, however, don’t have much in terms of movies. A friend recently flew Condor (German low-cost) from Frankfurt to the Dominican Republic, and all they had were two free movies on a 10-hour flight.
As a consequence, think ahead whether you have enough entertainment. Another factor to consider is that you might not want to watch TV for 10 hours straight.
That’s why my long-haul flight tips include diversifying your entertainment. Switch between movies, audiobooks, and ebooks to avoid being fixated on one screen.
I also like to get some work done during long flights. Unfortunately, the Wifi offer is catastrophic on most airlines, so you’ll need to focus on offline work.
4. Try to Get at least Some Sleep
No matter if you’re flying during the day or at night, getting some sleep is indispensable.
Even if you’re merely resting your eyes, don’t try to stay awake for 11 hours straight. I don’t use pills to fall asleep. In my case, green tea usually does the trick.
5. Wear the Right Clothing
To survive long flights in economy, wearing comfortable clothing is essential. That doesn’t mean you should wear jogging pants and a tank top.
Think about comfort, but also respect. The best clothes are the ones that you’re comfortable in but also look presentable. You wouldn’t want to sit next to someone who looks like they just got out of bed.
Aside from that, it’s best to dress in light layers. Planes get cold, but also hot. That’s why the best choice is to have a light sweater ready for temperature changes.
6. Plan Your Hydration Ahead
A simple but crucial long-haul flight tip: bring extra bottles of water. They never give you enough to drink during services, and it’s annoying to call the flight attendants for water.
7. Check Your Food
How you’ll feel during a 10, 11, or even 16-hour flight is highly dependent on what you eat. In this regard, don’t force yourself to eat all the food that the airline gives you.
If you’re in economy class, the food won’t be spectacular, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t bring your own snacks. My go-to snack is a packet of nuts and dried fruits.
8. Don’t Forget Your Skin
When it comes to overlooked long-haul flight tips, skincare is undoubtedly one.
Twelve hours on a plane irritates your skin, so it’s essential to moisturize it during the flight. In this regard, I always take a Brickell Face Moisturizer to keep my skin fresh.
9. Minimize Caffeine and Alcohol
We all know that free alcohol is tempting, but on a long flight, it’s best to refrain from downing gin and tonics. It will get your blood pressure up and disturb your hydration.
In that same vein, too much coffee will make it harder to sleep on a plane.
Getting some cocktails in an airport lounge before the flight is a much better option, in my view. That way, you’ll enjoy a drink before boarding, and you can focus on staying hydrated in the air.
10. If you Have a connection, Utilize the Time to Walk
Finally, if you have a few hours in an airport, don’t just sit there. I always like to walk for at least 15-20 minutes before heading to the lounge. That way, you’ll get some exercise in, and you’ll also feel more tired on the plane.