Economy class seats have a reputation for being a little uncomfortable and certainly don’t have the most glamorous services. So we totally understand if you’re thinking about how to survive a long-haul flight in economy. After all, you’ll be spending hours sitting in that little seat that doesn’t recline properly and maybe doesn’t have as much legroom. To ease those worries, we’ve put together a list of tips that you can follow to make that long-distance flight in economy class a comfortable and, perhaps, even an enjoyable experience.
When you don’t have much vacation time or your budget is somewhat limited, learning some tricks to have a better time on long flights in economy can help you start your trip off right. Most of it boils down to being well prepared and trying to take your comfort with you for the time you’re going to be flying. Since everyone’s comfort is relative, the exact list of how to make the most of your flight can be a little different for each traveler. But, there are some general tips that can surely work for most people. To survive a long-haul flight in economy, here’s what you have to do:
Airline food isn’t exactly the best food in the world, so it’s best to bring your own snacks from home to avoid disappointment. Protein bars are a great on-the-go option.
By bringing your own snacks, you avoid the inconvenience of discovering that the airline does not serve the best food or if the options they offer are not appealing. If you want to broaden your menu of options, you can check this list of the best healthy snacks for plane travel.
When you spend too much time in one position, your body becomes susceptible to deep vein thrombosis or DVT and poor circulation, leading to blood clots. That is why it is so important to stay active during flights, especially when they are very long. But you may be wondering, what types of exercises you can do in-flight and inside the plane without disturbing other passengers. Well, it turns out that there are a lot of options such as:
- Walk regularly: Do this when it’s safe and the seatbelt sign is off. Walking will help you stretch your legs and keep your blood flowing through your extremities.
- Stretch your torso: Sitting in an awkward position for a long time can affect your posture in the long run. To avoid any muscle soreness, deeply stretch your shoulders and back muscles without getting up from your seat. To do this, stretch your arms up, grab one of your wrists, and bring one of your arms over your head, tilting to the side. Repeat the movement to the other side.
- Squeeze your butt: This may sound a bit funny but it works to get the blood flowing. Contract your butt muscles while sitting. Keep them contracted for 5 seconds and repeat about 10 times.
- Stretch your neck: When you spend too much time with your head unsupported and upright or sleep for a long time in an uncomfortable position, your neck will start to hurt. To avoid this, stretch your neck muscles regularly. Tilt your head to the side and apply a little pressure to the top of your head.
- Forward-fold: If you have a chance to get up and go to the back of the booth, you can release tension in your back by gently rolling your neck and spine down until you reach the ground with the tips of your fingers. If your hamstrings are very tight, slightly bend the knees. Repeat this movement 3 to 4 times.
If there is something worth investing in for your trip, it is your comfort, especially for long trips. An airplane cabin can be a much noisier place than you might imagine, especially when traveling on cheap flights. The noises of the airplane engine, the babies screaming, and the sound of the toilet flushing can be a significant impediment to your rest.
The best way to learn how to survive a long-haul flight in economy is by bringing your own noise-canceling headphones to ensure that you can isolate yourself a little from all the annoying noises that can interrupt your rest.
Comfort is key on any trip and it is even more so when that trip involves spending several hours in a small airplane seat. You will likely want to get some sleep during your time on the plane. So try to dress comfortably in an outfit that feels as comfortable as pajamas while still looking presentable.
One of the best ways not to end up exhausted after a long flight is to sleep as long as you can during your trip. There are a few things you can do to make the process of sleeping on a flight more manageable and more enjoyable and one of those things is to take your sleeping essentials to pack with you. A neck pillow is a must during a budget flight and if you’re having a hard time falling asleep, an eye mask and noise-canceling headphones can go a long way. If you’re one of those people who have a hard time falling asleep, you might consider bringing some extra help like melatonin, a dose of Benadryl, or maybe something a little stronger prescribed by your doctor. Resting during your flight can make a big difference to jet lag upon landing.
Although the seats in economy flights are not the best in the world, try not to choose your seat assignment blindly. After all, you don’t want to end up in the last row of seats or in a seat that doesn’t recline, is next to the bathroom, or in the middle of a 2-4-2 configuration.
Make sure you choose your seat when you book your flight and if you cannot choose it online, call the airline to select the seat you want. We also recommend checking the Seat Guru portal to verify the pros and cons of all seats before clicking “confirm.” In this way, you will be able to see which seats have more or less space for the legs, which ones do not recline or are uncomfortable or inconvenient, and thus evaluate which seat is best for you.
Travelers should always dress in layers, especially when wondering how to survive a long-haul flight in economy. Inside the plane’s cabin, there can be wild temperature fluctuations, so it is best to be prepared and dressed in layers to take off or put on when necessary. It is also preferable that you wear slip-on shoes to easily take them off or put them on when you go to the bathroom or go through airport security. Put on socks to keep your feet warm and clean when you take off your shoes.
It is often freezing in airplanes, especially on international flights and the airlines (especially the economy ones) will not give you more than a thin sheet to wrap you up. So consider investing in a nice cozy scarf, fleece, cardigan, or bring your travel blanket.
You can also bring a good sweater for when you get cold or something you can roll up and use as extra support for your head while sleeping.
If you didn’t manage to reserve the seat you wanted when you purchased your flight, don’t worry. But do not wait until you are at the airport and the day of your departure to check in for your flight. During the check-in period, which is usually 24 hours before departure, check and refresh the airline’s website. A better seating option may open up during this time. If you can get a better seat, like a solo seat or one with more legroom, the quality of your flight can be significantly improved.
Unless you really plan to sleep the entire trip, try not to show up with just your bags, especially for long-haul flights. Even the most privileged travelers carry their own amenities to have a better time during long trips. Try putting together your amenity kit before you leave home and take it with you in your carry-on. Whether your amenities are a neck pillow, the aforementioned sleeping essentials kit, or a sling, try to bring everything you need to feel as comfortable as you are at home.
There will always be items you want to have on hand. So, try to make it pleasant for you. Create your amenity kit with the items you think you need to be comfortable, and be sure to pack hand sanitizer, lip balm, wired headphones, napkins, mouthwash, toothbrush, and a travel-size toothpaste.
Although many long-haul flights include food, others do not. Some airlines do not provide food on flights within North America and even between the United States and Central America. So it’s best not to rely solely on airline food or snacks to sate your hunger, especially when flying economy. Although you can take your snacks with you, it is vital to have a more balanced diet, especially when the flight is very long. Eating well during your long-haul flight can make the difference between feeling good or feeling exhausted or irritable in the long run.
You might be surprised at how dry the air inside the aircraft cabin is. You may not notice it, but the air is quite dry and can suck all the moisture out of your body. This is why it is best to drink as much water as you can and stay well hydrated. When you think you’ve had enough water, drink some more. Flight attendants sometimes don’t deliver enough water but don’t be shy about asking them for what you need. Another viable solution is to bring your bottle of water. This way, you don’t have to depend on the attendants to hydrate you. The dryness of the airplane cabin air can mess with your body if you don’t attend to it. When you stay hydrated while traveling, it can make a big difference to your well-being and help you start your journey off on the right foot.
If you are a coffee lover, it can be tempting to enjoy a delicious coffee while you fly. But, we recommend not consuming caffeine in excess since it actually dehydrates you and can cause insomnia when traveling. A lot of caffeine can even make you feel sick to your stomach or make you take several trips to the bathroom. So, try to limit the amount of caffeine you ingest.
The dryness of the cabin air can dehydrate you from the inside, but it can also affect your skin’s moisture. We recommend taking lip balm with you and some type of travel-size moisturizer for your skin. You can also apply a moisturizing face mask or your favorite moisturizing oil if you’re feeling more daring.
Airline entertainment systems aren’t always exactly the most entertaining. That’s why it’s better not to rely on them entirely, especially during long-haul flights. Get prepared and download that podcast that you like or all the episodes of that series that you’ve wanted to binge. If you plan to watch something on your phone, you can bring your phone mount to make it much more practical and comfortable for you. If you are unsure which movie or series to watch, a good book is always an excellent choice for a long flight and it doesn’t need to be charged. You can also make a playlist with your favorite songs and just listen to music while you enjoy the scenery or while you lay your head down to rest.
Think about how you will feel when you land. This can ensure that your trip gets off to an excellent start. It can be tempting to fill up on junk food, and unhealthy snacks or spend time drinking alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated beverages. But making the right choices about your diet will help you feel better when you land. It is also not good to abuse the entertainment you brought. For example, if you spend the 8 hours of your flight watching movies without resting for a while, you will likely feel exhausted and irritable once you reach your destination. In short, you can plan how you want to feel when you arrive and do the things you need to do to make yourself feel that way.
When you have flights with stops or connections in which you have to be in the terminal of an airport before boarding the other flight, you should spend that time actively walking, and exploring. Whether your layover is one hour or four, you’ll be glad you spent that time standing up once you have to sit down again on your next flight, especially if the next flight is long-haul.