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Long-haul flights are a necessary evil for any serious traveller. You know, those loooong journeys in the clouds that get you from one side of the globe to the other. Unless you’re living it up in First Class, long-haul flights can be a real pain, but with the right tips (and attitude), the experience can be a lot more bearable.
Here’s how to survive long flights in economy, plus the absolute long-haul flight essentials.
Table of Contents
Long haul flight essentials
1. Reserve a good seat
First, you need to get the best seats possible! Long-haul flights are uncomfortable – there’s no getting around that – but a good seat can mean all the difference.
This is what you do:
Avoid middle seats – Always, always try to book the window or aisle seat. I once sat in the middle seat squeezed in between two… (how do I put this nicely)… full-figured business men, and one of them kept leaning in, asking me which hotel I would be staying at. Just kill me now.
Don’t pick seats right next to the lavatory – It’s simple – it smells, people are constantly going back and forth and opening and shutting doors. Trust me, you don’t want these seats on your long-haul flight.
Avoid seats in front of an exit row – The exit row is great – there’s usually extra leg room there (which is perfect for tall people). But the row in front, for safety reasons, has seats which don’t recline. And you’d want reclining seats! So, a very simple tip for how to survive long flights in economy is to avoid that particular row right in front of the exit row.
Less turbulence at the front – Did you know that there’s less turbulence towards the front of the plane? The first six rows are a good bet. Here, the turbulence is usually far more suppressed, and it gets worse the further back you go. So, for maximum peace and quiet, go for the front few rows.
Read next: How to conquer your fear of flying
2. Wear comfortable clothes
This is my most important long-haul flight tip: wear super comfortable clothes. Clothes like yoga pants, a sports bra, mesh sneakers and compression socks (these are a must to prevent swelling in your legs and lower your risk of blood clots!). Wear your most comfortable clothes for long flights, and remember – it’s not about fashion when you’re on a plane. It’s about comfort.
The best travel outfits for long flights are the ones you’d also wear around the house on a lazy Sunday. Clothes that are soft, stretchy and warm. And compression socks are one of the long-haul flight essentials: definitely get yourself a pair for the plane.
3. Do exercise
Another long haul flight tip is to move around. Make sure to visit the toilet often, and take a good slow walk as you go. Stretch, take your time to bend your knees and work out any kinks and knots in your legs and back.
Get yourself comfortable and relaxed before you sit back down. Quite often we can be sat for way longer than we realise on a long-haul flight. So, every two hours or so, get yourself up and have a good walk of the plane, stretching as you go. It’s the best way to de-stress as the flight goes on.
4. Bring a care package
Oh, this is the big long-haul flight essential. It’s a bundle of things to help you get as comfortable as possible. Your travel essentials for the plane should include: noise cancelling headphones, plenty of your favourite snacks, an iPad or a Kindle, moisturiser, lip balm, and a toothbrush.
With noise cancelling headphones and a charged Kindle, you can survive a flight of any length. And with moisturiser, lip balm, and a toothbrush you can feel completely refreshed at all times. Your skin and lips will get dry on a long-haul flight, so make sure to have these handy!
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
And speaking of hydration… Cabin air is drier than the Sahara Desert – literally, there’s only 20 percent humidity in an airplane versus the desert at 25 percent humidity. That means your skin will dry out quickly.
So, make double sure to pack lip balm and a good moisturiser (max 100ml) for the flight. And bring a bottle of water. You can’t bring one through security so just buy it on the other side, before you board the plane.
6. Bring entertainment
As I mentioned, a Kindle or an iPad is one of the big long-haul flight essentials. Whether you prefer reading, watching your favourite TV series (hello, Game of Thrones and Mindhunter!), or playing games, a Kindle or an iPad is absolutely what to take on a long-haul flight. If there’s a short book you’ve been meaning to read, a long-haul flight is the perfect excuse to get the whole book read in a single sitting.
Likewise if there’s a show you want to binge. Just download it on Netflix and dig into it. Also make sure to bring your noise cancelling headphones so that you can really get fully sucked into whatever you’re watching, or listen to some music as you read your Kindle.
7. Pack right and light
You don’t want to overpack your long flight essentials. But you also want to make sure to have enough long flight essentials to keep you comfortable and entertained throughout the entire journey. It’s a tough balance to strike!
Read next: What to pack in your carry-on
One of my best long-haul flight tips and tricks is to bring a duffel bag as your carry-on which can fit all of your lighter essentials like a Kindle, headphones, toothbrush, and other things I’ve mentioned. It’s a comfy bag that can fit under your seat (major upside!) and can be reshaped a bit, but also fits all your travel essentials for the plane.
8. Sleep tight
Some of the best long-haul flight essentials are things to help you sleep and feel comfy while you sleep. Bring an eye mask, some earplugs or noise cancelling headphones, as well as a blanket (plane blankets can be really useless), and definitely a neck pillow.
Packing the best travel pillow for long haul flights can be key to ensuring a comfy and stress-free journey. And the best travel pillows for long-haul flights are the MLVOC Travel Pillow and the Trtl Pillow, although the latter, in my experience, can be a bit fiddly.
9. Chew gum during take-off and landing
Chewing gum is a simple and very effective tip for long-haul flights. It helps equalising the pressure as the altitude shifts. If your ears do pop; inhale, then exhale gently as you hold your mouth and nose shut. You can also try sucking on candy or simply yawn. That always does the trick for me.
10. Plan for your landing
Think about where you’re going, and what you’ll need as soon as you get there. If you’re leaving a hot country and headed for a cold one, you don’t want to be wearing shorts on the plane. And this goes the other way around, too. Dress how you want to get off the plane, not for the country you’re leaving.
Read next: The ultimate packing list (to anywhere)
So, plan ahead and think: what will I need when I land? This goes for your travel outfit as well as what’s in your bag. Is there something you’re going to need, like your passport or documents, the moment you get to the airport? If so, have it handy!
Always think ahead to where you’re going, not to where you’ve been. If that means thinking a little more and packing a little differently before the day you fly, so be it. It’ll be worth it when you land!