Travel Tip – Surviving 15 Hour Flights in Economy

how to survive long flights in coach

Many writers have recommended their top items for surviving long flights.  I’m no exception.

But no one has written an honest post on how to survive those long flights.  In economy.  With no in-seat entertainment or power outlets.

It’s a bitch.

Especially when you’re on one of the longest flights in the world.

Before I hop into my tried-and-true tips on this highly requested topic, I need to be honest with you.

Your sleep will be restless.  Your muscles will ache.  Your skin will be dried out and you will feel disgusting as you deplane.  There is no magic pill for enjoying a long-haul flight in economy.  But I will teach you how to survive it.  Because, after all, you requested it.  And I aim to please.

Prep your entertainment.  Charge up all your devices.  Download movies or seasons of your favorite shows (I highly recommend The White Queen and Continuum).  Stock up on paper and books on your e-readers, as internationally departing flights don’t allow the use of small devices yet.  Invest in a quality pair of headphones.  And don’t plan on getting any work done on your laptop – there’s no such thing as elbow room.

Get comfortable.  Change into a super comfortable outfit before you board.  I opt for stretchy leggings (Lysse are my favorites), a long tank top and long-sleeved tee, a lightweight blazer or cardigan, and compression socks.  Layers, baby.  I also carry a pair of cashmere socks if my feet get cold (common for window seat afecionados) and a scarf to use a blanket.

How to actually get some sleep.  Speaking from personal experience here – alcohol will only make your sleep worse on a long haul flight.  Do.  Not.  Drink.  Booze.  Chamomile tea actually proved quite helpful in lulling me to sleep, as did the world’s best eyemask and neck pillow.  I use the airline provided pillow as a lower back support, my own neck pillow to cradle my head, and will apply eye masks (I love these and these) before I slip on the eyemask.  The skin under your eyes is the most delicate, and this tip significantly helps keep it hydated in flight.

Quench your thirst.  I purchase the largest bottle of water available before boarding the flight, and will usually have it refilled by the flight attendants during the flight.  Hydration is everything.  I try to avoid heavy foods (read – bread, rice, meat) in flight as well – you’re not burning many calories by sitting on your bum for hours on end.  Pre-ordering the strict vegetarian/vegan option is key – the food is usually decent (and vegetable-rich) and it’s served before everyone else gets their meals.  As for snacks, I’ll bring along vegetable sticks, fresh fruit (NOT bananas – the smell is too strong), and almonds.

Stay healthy.  Planes are incubators for viruses, and I’m all about prevention.  I wipe down my arm rests, seat belt fasteners, tray table, window pull, and wall next to my seat with these sanitizing towels.  I’ll add an EBOOST to my water bottle after I’ve woken up for a boost of vitamins.  And I ALWAYS use a paper towel to open the bathroom door from the inside as I’m leaving.

Pre-pack THIS.  An in-flight toiletry case with the basics (toothbrush and toothpaste, your eyeglasses, face care items (I pack this entire set), lip balm, hand cream, a spare set of contacts) is something you should have with you on any flight longer than 5 hours.  Mine is an old United BusinessFirst toiletry kit, but you can use any waterproof-lined bag (or even a Ziploc baggie) to make one of your own.  I’ll also throw some makeup (concealer, powder, eyeliner, mascara, and eyebrow pencil) into it.  This case, along with my tablets and headphones, stay in the seatback pocket in front of me.

Pack it best.  If you don’t read anything else, READ THIS.  I keep a Baggu pre-packed in my travel bag.  Prior to boarding, I’ll put everything I’ll need during the flight inside it – my iPad and Kindle, headphones, snacks, water, my in-flight toiletry kit, neck pillow, eyemask – and place the Baggu in the space in front of me.  My other bags go in the overhead bin, thus yielding more leg room AND with everything easily accessible.  To prevent items from falling out of the Baggu, tie the handles closed.  Also, lie a magazine flat at the bottom of the bag, to ensure it stays upright.  There are few things worse than rummaging through your bag, looking for something lodged at the very bottom, while jabbing your neighbor.  Being in the middle seat may be one of them.

And there you have it, folks.  My tried-and-true tips for surviving those awful and long flights, culled from over 1 million miles flown over the past 2o years. I hope this helps you on your next flight!

This post goes hand in hand with packing your personal item, so check out that post if you haven’t already! You can find all my travel tips here, and get a copy of my book here.