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Tips On How to Survive a Long Haul Flight...in Economy

Tips On How to Survive a Long Haul Flight...in Economy

So this little How To is for those of you who have looked up various ways of surviving on long haul flights and find, "The Perfect Plane Outfit!" or "Long Haul Beauty Tips" and are looking for something a little more...realistic. 

If you're one of the lucky ones who can afford your own suite on an Emirates flight, then this list is def. not for you. You have your own shower! You'll be okay. OR if you're like the guy who was on the 17 hour flight with me who had no carry on, slept the entire time and didn't eat anything...then you'll also be okay..because you're superhuman. 

This is for the average backpacker, expat, college transfer student, etc. who is just trying to get through a tremendously long flight without feeling like they're going to go crazy from discomfort and dry skin. 

First off, let me say that I've probably been on 30 + flights in my life so far and I have tried a lot of things and found some to work wonderfully and some to be completely ridiculous (I'm looking at you, blow up foot rest). The longest flights that I've been on are from Doha to Atlanta at 16 hours and 40 minutes and from Atlanta to Seoul at 15 hours 40 minutes. The Atlanta to Seoul flight was one of  my first "real" international flights and I was desperately unprepared with my seat pocket overflowing with stuff and my cold, no socks feet stuffed into my uncomfortable shoes. 

Through the years, I've been on many, I would say, "medium haul" flights at 6 hours, 9 hours, 4 hours, etc. and I feel like I've finally figured out how to have a somewhat comfortable flight. 

So here we go. Things that I keep in my plane bag:

1.) gum. it can help when your ears are popping with the changing altitude or if you feel like you've had some gnarly breath for a while. 

2.) lotion. the air is SO dry on planes and can cause some majorly dry skin on your hands and face. 

3.) pepto bismal or some other bismuth stomach  medicine. there is nothing more horrible than feeling nauseous on a plane...especially when that seat belt light is on. 

4.) sleep aid. it can really help to get you to sleep when you're trying to get accustomed to a new time zone or when you're just really wanting to pass the hours. a 15 hour flights goes by really fast when you're asleep for half of it!

6.) headphones. useful so you don't have to buy the airline's headphones if they don't supply theirs for free/useful to no longer hear crying babies/listen to podcasts/fall asleep to music, etc. basically a must have. i usually put two The National albums on shuffle and fall right to sleep. 

7.) eye mask. perfect for helping you to get to sleep if they haven't turned the lights off yet or if they've just turned them back on for meals. the one i have is from lewis N clark and can be found here:


8.) chapstick. see no. 2. you'll be so uncomfortable with chapped lips if you have nothing to make it better. 

9.) panadol, advil, tylenol. any sort of pain reliever. i once had a headache for hours on a plane and had nothing to take. sometimes the airline will have medicine for you to buy and sometimes they wont. best to err on the side of caution and bring your own. 

10.) tissues, rolled up toilet paper. after being on the plane for multiple hours you'll start to find that you'll have the worst plane congestion. it's from the dry, recycled air and it will cause some horrendous nose blowing sessions. keep some with you in case there is a line for the bathroom. 

11.) a book. this is one of the few times you can really get in some solid reading time and it's also great for whenever you get tired of watching movies. 

12.) nyquil/dayquil/panadol day/panadol night. if you feel like you have a cold coming on or you currently have a cold, that change in altitude will make your sinuses feel as if they're going to pop. take some cold medicine to relieve that pain and get ready for ascent and descent. 

13.) travel toothbrush & small toothpaste. you'll need to be able to have it on your carry on so make sure it's a small tube of toothpaste because i can promise you that after hour 12 of your 17 hour flight you'll really wish you could brush your teeth. 

14.) a small bag or lock&lock tupperware for you to put all your plane supplies in. it's easy to just grab out of your carry on bag, put that big bag in the overhead lockers and take your seat instead of rummaging through your carry on trying to figure out what it is that you'll need for your looooooooooong flight. 

Now as far as the like...phases of the flight go, everyone is different. For me, I usually just start watching movie while the plane is ascending (to distract myself from my horrible plane anxiety) and while the overhead lights are still on. Some people knock off right to sleep for 12 solid hours and that completely amazes me. No joke. 

Wait for the first meal service, take some sleeping medicine and right about when they're coming to pick up the trays and turn off the lights, you're ready for sleeping. Something handy to have with you is a scarf that cover your head and provide some warmth. I have a heather grey infinity scarf that feels like an old t-shirt and it's perfect for wrapping around my cold shoulders and throwing it over my face while I'm sleeping. Some of us are mouth agape type sleepers and we don't want anyone to be privy to that...

Speaking of meals, if (during your booking) you opt to have a "special" meal then you'll get yours first. I typically change my to vegetarian or Hindu vegetarian because they'll typically give you healthier options and I also just like Indian food. Although, beware..sometimes they just don't know what to do for a vegetarian meal so you'll get two pieces of bread with one sad slice of tomato slapped between the two uninteresting rolls bits. Seriously. It's happened to me and I was not happy about it. 

Right before the second meal service & after people are typically waking up and going to the bathroom. To keep from having to wait in stupid long lines, try to go when other people are sleeping and go often so you can get up and move around. It's important to keep your blood moving in your legs so you don't end up with balloon animals for ankles when you land (once more...it's happened to me). I now use compression socks to help with circulation and it totally works. 

Also, please wear your shoes to the bathroom. Sometimes there is turbulence and it just gets....gross. I didn't always used to do this but I have to now. I've seen too many unnecessarily moist toilet floors. 

Last piece of important advice. If you can choose your seat and move it around on the day of your flight, try to move it to where you see there are still empty seats. Chances are it still won't be full and you'll get another seat to yourself so you can lay across it. Speaking from experience, Justin and I changed our seats last minute on our flight back to Doha and we had an empty middle seat between us and I swear to you...it felt like being in first class. I was able to actually lay down and sleep and it made the flight tremendously easy. 

Another in-the-airport piece of advice...take a bottle of water, drink it all and keep the empty bottle. You can't take it a water bottle full of water through security but you CAN take an empty bottle that you can re-fill on the other side so you don't have to buy a bottle of water that is now double the price because they have you trapped in the airport. 

Also, bring a headphone adapter since some planes have double headphone jacks and some have single and then you're totally aggravated because you have a single and they have a double and no adapter and now you can't watch that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Sad. 

Aaaaaaand drink gatorade, powerade, something. You'll be so glad you did. 

I hope my mistakes and my advice helps to make your next flight not a nightmare in a metal tube. 



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