Surviving a Long Flight: When You are Stuck in Economy

Surviving a Long Flight(2)

How to Survive in the Cheap Seats

Traveling overseas generally means an international flight. Over the years, I have had my share of these long haul flights. Luckily, I have picked up tips from fellow travelers and would like to help you make your flight more comfortable in the cramped quarters of the economy section. Hopefully, some of my advice will help you relax, stay healthy and pass the time on your flight.


Here are some of my tips for surviving a long flight:

Seat Choices

  • Book Early – By booking earlier you have more choices with your seat selection.
  • Seat Guru – Enter your flight number into Seat Guru before or during the booking process of your flight. They have a great website that will show you the best and worst seats to select. Also, you can check to see other options available on the flight, including if you will have personal entertainment and power adapters.  It will help you decide where you want to sit.

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    Seat Selections
  • Seat Selection – A window seat means nobody will wake you up when they go to the bathroom, and you can wedge yourself against the wall of the plane to get more comfortable. But you will have to climb over others when you have to go. I prefer the aisle so I can get out and move.  If you are prone to motion sickness, sitting over the wings gives you the most stable ride.  The back of the plane has the most motion and will bother some people.
  • Beware of Exit Row and Bulkhead Seats– Exit row seats have more leg room but have the drawback of having nowhere to stow luggage except overhead.  These seats are also narrower due to the tray tables and entertainment being stowed in the armrest. Seats that sit in font of the bulkhead also are set up like exit row seats.  These seats also will have passengers using that space to cut across the plane. Seats in front of a bulkhead benefit because there is no seat behind you so you don’t have people pushing on your seat when they get up and down. But you will have traffic due to the location close to the galley or bathrooms.

Comfortable Clothing Choices 

  • Layer, Layer, Layer – Make sure you have dressed in light comfortable layers, you can always remove and add clothing dependent on the cabin’s climate.
  • Slip-on shoes –  Not only will slip on shoes make it easy to get through security, you will be taking your shoes off and on many times during the flight. Make sure you wear shoes that are loose, your feet will swell on the flight.
  • Compression Socks –  these socks simulate good circulation in your feet and legs and help reduce the risk of blood clots, they also help with swelling a bit as well.
  • Warm socks –  to slip over your other socks when you are in your seat.  Remember to slip your shoes back on to go to the restroom. Always wear your shoes, never go to the restroom in just your socks. Turbulence people, Turbulence.  People miss their marks. It’s just plain gross.

Sleep Basics

  • Pillow –  I always pack my own travel pillow. I have a U-shaped one that supports my neck. Taking my own also means I can wedge the airline pillow behind my back for lumbar support.
  • Large Scarf – To avoid using the itchy airplane blanket, take a large scarf. You can use this later in your trip for layering or a sarong.
  • Eye mask– If you’re planning on sleeping on the flight, you will want to have something to cover your eyes. Not all people shut their window shades and depending on when you are flying, it might be light out. Help you body adjust by wearing an eye mask.

What to Pack for Entertainment

  • Smart Phone and / or  Tablet –  load these with digital books, your favorite music and some non wifi games. Possibly download some podcasts, tv shows or movies. Don’t forget to download your airline’s app, if they offer streaming service and choices.
  • Chargers/USB cables– Bring your chargers/ USB cables to charge your electronics.

    Pack your own ear buds
  • Noise Cancelling headphones (or earplugs) – yours will be better than the ones that the airline provides.
  • Power Bank,  Power Bank,  Power Bank – most long haul flights now have seats with a USB charger or old school power outlet under your seat. But don’t count on it working if it does have one. Planes get swapped out due to mechanical issues – bring that power bank or 2 and make sure you have your electronics charged up before boarding.
  • A good book or magazines – in case you get tired of your screen or you are running low on power.
  • Puzzle Book – Pack a Sudoku, Crossword or Word Search book to occupy some time

Toiletry Kit

  • Toiletry Kit – Make sure your liquids and gels are packed according to the TSA liquids rule. The toiletry kit will stay with me in the seatback pocket.  To counteract the dry cabin air, keep applying your  moisturizer during the flight. I pack my toiletry kit with the basics: toothpaste, lip balm, hand cream, contacts, deodorant, face moisturizer, dry shampoo, foundation, concealer, toothbrush, eye glasses, hair brush, tissues and lots of hair ties.
  • Medications – I pack all of my prescriptions in my carry on, but make sure I have what I need to take on the plane packed in my toiletry kit. I also have some ibuprofen in there as well just in case of any aches.

Bring your own snacks

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Chocolate is always good!
  • Mints – will help you feel fresher
  • Gum – helps keep your ears from popping.
  • Snacks – Pack your own healthy snacks. Try and pack items that aren’t perishable.  See my post on snacks that you can pack in your carry on bag.
  • Water Bottle – Don’t forget that large empty water bottle to fill up with water after security.
  • Pre Booked Meal – When booking your flight, try to preorder a low salt or vegetarian meal. This will help avoid as much salt as you can, sodium just makes you retain more water and you will be puffy from the altitude and cabin pressure. You’ll also be served first which will get allow you to get settled in a bit sooner

Staying Healthy

  • Anti-bacterial wipes– wipe down your tray table and armrests. Airlines do have cleaning crews but they are on a tight schedule. Not sure how many times I have found surprises in my seatback pocket.
  • EmergenC –  I take packets of EmergenC to put in my water. There isn’t any scientific proof that they help, but it doesn’t hurt.
  • Fight off dehydration – You need 1 liter (33 oz) for every 4 hours flying – that means 3 liters (99 oz) on a 12 hour flight.
  • Avoiding Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)  – DVT can develop if you have certain medical conditions that affect how your blood clots. Deep vein thrombosis can also happen if you don’t move for a long time. The airline magazine may have an illustration of in-seat exercises to follow to help your blood circulation. Make sure you are stretching, and walking around the cabin. This is also where those compression socks help as well.

More Tips for Your Trip

Anxiously Waiting: the Pre Board

  • Get to the airport early  – or at least on time. Travelling is stressful enough without having worrying if you are going to make the flight. Airlines require a two-hour check in before an international flight, allow yourself a bit more time to get around and to get through security.
  • Move – Don’t sit while waiting at gate for you flight because you’ll be sitting on the plane for 8+ hours. Use this time to stretch your legs and get your circulation moving.
  • H2O- If you haven’t packed a large water bottle, buy one now. Yes, it might be $10.00, but trust me you are going to want to have water rather than waiting on the cabin crew to come by every few hours.
  • Use time to Charge – power up your electronics. Take a mult USB charger to share with other travelers so you don’t fight over the outlets.
  • Avoid caffeine if possible sometimes this is hard depending on your flight time

Early in the Flight: Getting Comfortable

  • Observation Pays Off – Always be on the lookout for free seats – sometimes whole rows are empty on the flight and three seats are better than one. You will be able to possibly lie down across a full row. So keep your eyes open and ask the cabin crew if you can move.
  • Change your watch or phone clock to your destination’s time zone. Do this as soon as you board. Try to pattern your sleep vs wake time on the plane to the time at your destination. If it’s evening at your destination when you board, try to sleep through the first half of the flight. That way you won’t be exhausted and sleepless when you arrive there in the morning.
  • Get your feet comfy – Slip off your shoes, put on your extra socks
  • Gain some leg room – Stash everything that you need for your flight in the seat pockets if possible, and stow anything else in the overhead bin. Everything that is under the seat in front of you just means less leg room and a more cramped space. More room = more leg room
  • Keep on Hydrating – Drink your water (remember that 32 oz rule per every 4 hours) again avoid caffeine. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to the new time zone and prolongs jet lag. You can ask the cabin crew to refill it with drinking water mid-flight.

Middle of the Flight: Relaxing & Sleeping

  • Avoid Alcohol – Even though airlines are returning to complimentary beer and wine, alcohol will only make your sleep worse on a long haul flight.
  • Relax – listen to some calming music, do some breathing exercises, stretch, or meditate
  • Sleep – pull on that eye mask and fix you pillow and blanket and try to get some sleep
  • Read – make some progress on that novel you brought
  • Watch a movie or two  with the inflight entertainment or some that you downloaded
  • Play a game – either on your smart device, inflight or one in a puzzle book
  • Exercise – Because of all that water you have been drinking you should have gotten up a few times to go to the restroom.  Use some of your time to stretch, stand by the galley and in the aisle if not bothering others.

Last Hour: Are we there yet?

  • Freshen up – Get out your tolietry bag, pop in those contacts,  throw on some makeup and brush your teeth. You will feel a little less grungy.
  • Be prepared – Make sure you have a pen to fill out arrival forms.
  • Drink up– Time to have some coffee if you need a little perk up
  • Get organized Time to prepare your documents ready for Customs and Immigration.  Pack everything back in your carry on and stow your bag
  • Almost There – Put your seat in the upright position and get ready to land!

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Hopefully these tips help you survive your flight.  If you have any tips to add, please comment and let me know!  Happy Travels, Tava



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