10 useful tips on how to survive a long haul flight in economy class

These nifty tips and tricks will help you to stay comfortable when you are 35,000 feet up in the air, even through the most gruelling of journeys


If I could have a superpower, it would without a doubt be the ability to teleport. I love travelling but unfortunately, air travel is the absolute bane of my existence. No matter how great the destination waiting at the other end is, the sheer thought of spending an entire day cramped in an airplane makes me feel miserable and totally detracts me from the excitement and fun that a holiday should entail.  [Nice!]

Restless sleep, dry awful skin, aching body … and the “best” part? Jet-lag waiting to be served up fast and cold when you land. Bottomline: Long-haul flights are exhausting and a brutal test of endurance – more so when you’re flying economy! 

If you know exactly how I feel, this one is for you. While I can’t completely eliminate all that painful in-flight drama, here are some things you can do to at least survive it and emerge as a winner. 

1. Skip the window seat
A good seat is paramount to a pleasant journey, so please pick the aisle seat. I know many people has this “thing” for window seats, but if you are on a transcontinental or transoceanic flight that spans over 12 hours, trust me, the window seat is not going to do you any good. In order to keep your body happy, you will definitely need to visit the bathroom multiple times during the flight, and you don’t want to have to be squeezing past your fellow passengers to relieve your bladder!

2. You need pillows and blankets  
We don’t have the luxury of a sleeping pod in economy class, so the next best thing is to bring a neck pillow on board. They might not be the most stylish looking accessory, but your neck is going to thank you, as it helps to create a more comfortable sleeping posture. Avoid using inflatable ones, they will do you more harm than good as they are too stiff and rigid. You should also ask for pillow and blankets from the flight attendants. Wedge one of them behind your lower back to keep your spine in its natural shape while you snooze. It helps to counteract the C-shape of the airplane seat and keep backaches to a minimum. 

3. Noise-cancelling earplugs and eye mask
I have to sleep in complete darkness and silence, so these little items function as an invisible wall around me, helping to block out all the agonising background noise that would otherwise keep me awake: Think crying babies, loud conversations, and crunching of crackers. 

4. Choose the right type of food 
Sticking to fairly light and healthy meals prior to and during the flight is definitely your best bet. It would be awful to have to deal with a bout of constipation in flight with zero to no movement and food is generally harder to digest in the air. Remember to opt for warm foods as these tend to sit better in your tummy and are easier to digest.

Keep your carb intake to a minimum because they can cause water retention. This explains why you tend to look and feel puffy and bloated after a long flight. Choose protein-packed airplane meals like fish or chicken instead of the pasta or rice. If you need a snack, avocados, nuts, dried fruits, turkey ham, and cheese will do just fine.


5. Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate
This is one of the most important points you have to remember. The air in this airborne metal tube is extremely dry and will dehydrate your system if you don’t keep your fluid volume in check. Drinking water before the flight, regularly on board and even after the flight will help with the texture of your skin and blood flow. It will also prevent your muscles from stiffening, saving you from painful cramps. A good rule of thumb is to drink one litre every five hours.

Your sense of taste can be dull and deadened on the flight – this explains why sometimes you have a dry mouth and crave something with a stronger flavour like a sour soda or sweet juice – so some good alternatives to water are fruit juices, smoothies, isotonic drinks or coconut water. 

6. Limit your alcohol consumption
I know that the free flow of beer and wine might be hard to resist, but do keep the amount you ingest in check. If a glass or two helps you to fall asleep more easily, by all means do so. Just remember that too much alcohol will dehydrate you and might cause you to feel sick and groggy. 

7. Avoid coffee 
Caffeine is very dehydrating and can also keep you awake and mess up your sleep cycle. Also, did you know that water only boils at 90 degrees celsius due to the reduced cabin air pressure (instead of the usual 100 degrees Celsius)? That interferes with the brewing process, so the taste is of the coffee may be compromised. Why bother downing an inferior cuppa? Wait until you land for your caffeine fix. 


8. Entertain yourself 
Prep plenty of things to keep you entertained in-flight, like books, movies, and games. Remember – don’t watch the clock on on the flight like a hawk! It’s going to make you feel that time is passing even more slowly. 

9. Get moving
You have to keep the blood flowing, so don’t be shy to walk around the aircraft or perform some in-seat exercises. Some of these actions can include rotating your feet in circles, keeping your legs outstretched or rolling your shoulder forwards and backwards. 

10. Moisturise your face and entire body 
You need to drink up to maintain your inner hydration, and the same logic applies externally. On a plane, the recycled and pressurised air has almost zero percent humidity, so it can leave your skin very dry and shrivelled up. Counteract this by thoroughly moisturising your body from top to toe before you board and bring handy tubes of lotion to top up in-flight. 

Want some more tips on travelling? Read our stories: 6 ways to travel in style on a budget without breaking the bank10 items you must ALWAYS carry in your handbag when you travel and How to earn frequent flyer miles with your credit card.