Best Tips for Long-Distance Flights

How to Survive Long Flights in Economy

I regularly fly, though I do not think of myself as a frequent flyer. And, to be honest, long-distance flights are a bit of a pain for me. Though I am not a fan of long-haul flights, I have learned to deal with them and, with some tips/tricks, I sometimes realize they really are not that bad! Here are my tips on how to survive long-haul flights (if you do not have a business or first-class ticket)


Preparation – Before Check-In

Before getting on a plane, try to be best prepared.

1. Get an Upgrade

Okay, I wrote I would give you tips to survive a long-distance flight without being in first-class, but if you can try to get an upgrade. The reality is: I have never gotten any, nor did I ever book a business or first-class ticket (so, I will tell you more about it once I know how to score an upgrade). But I have read a bit on how to get an upgrade. These tips apparently were not successful as I have not been successful, but it does not hurt to ask for an upgrade once you are at the airport.

2. Check in Online and Choose the Perfect Seat for Yourself

Window or Aisle seat? What do you prefer? What makes you more comfortable?

I prefer a window seat, some prefer an aisle seat, but apparently, no one likes the middle seat.

  • Pro window: Good view, easier to fall asleep, no one disturbs you when they get up
  • Pro aisle: Easier to get up and walk around

Close to the wings, at the end, or front?

Apparently, sitting near the wing has the advantage that the flight is smoother (especially if there is turbulence).

I personally try to have a seat at the end or front of the plane since it is easier and quicker to get out of the plane (at the front of economy class are often families with children, so this might be worth considering as well).

13 Tips for Long Haul Flights @shutterstock

3. Order a Special Meal

Since I am vegetarian now, I order a vegetarian meal, but I had always ordered meals without fish and pork even before I became a vegetarian/vegan. So, what does this have to do with a comfortable flight?

So I basically have always gotten my food first and could go to sleep quickly. If you do not eat airplane food, you could try to fall asleep straight away, but you do not want to wait for food impatiently if you are like me.

4. Move and Rest Before a Flight

If it is a night flight, try to rest a few hours before the plane takes off. Thrombosis is real, and putting your legs up helps prevent swollen legs (and serious health issues), though some light activities/exercises before a flight are also important. I actually try to avoid night flights these days because my legs just cannot handle 24 hours or longer of standing/sitting these days anymore. This might be something you want to consider, too.

What to Do to Survive During the Flight

Here are a few tips that help you survive once you are on the plane.

1. Clothes

If you want to feel good on a flight, dress comfortably. Long-haul flights are not about looking perfect (maybe just a bit) and being stylish. If the style is important to you, combine it with casual clothing.

Wear layers and wear comfortable clothes. The right choice of clothes is the foundation for a good flight:

  • Sweatpants. Nothing beats sweatpants, pants should not be too tight to allow good blood circulation and cotton is the best material to feel cozy and comfy.
  • Warm socks. Have you ever had cold feet during a flight, making you wear your shoes non-stop? Then I feel you. Shoes are the death of being comfy, so you should be able to take them during the flight. If you want warm feet, you need warm socks.
  • A big and warm scarf is my absolute must-have (which I can use for different purposes) – I use it as a scarf, as a blanket and pillow, or whatever. One of my must-have items on a flight.
  • Flat shoes that can be easily taken off. Bulky shoes that take forever to be put on and off are such a turn-off. I am less likely to get up and walk if it takes forever to put my shoes on.
  • A cardigan which I occasionally use as an extra blanket. I love something that can be easily taken off and that does not have too many buttons or even a zipper, so a minimalistic cardigan is another must-have for a good flight.

2. Snacks

I have to admit that I love airplane food (even in the economy class), and I strongly assume it is because I am bored and look forward to being busy. However, many people dislike airplane food and snacks and wind up staying hungry, so pack your snacks (I have a sweet tooth, so I always look forward to having my favorite snacks onboard).

By the way: Do you have food allergies? Then read this about tips for people who travel with food allergies.

Long-haul flights are not the time to worry too much about the healthiest food – so, bring snacks you really enjoy and look forward to eating. However, keep in mind that too unhealthy food can make you feel sick (especially on flights).

3. Stay Away from Certain Food/Drinks

Yes, good food can make you handle long flights better. But everybody should know their bodies. For me, this means no alcohol, no caffeine (I do not want to go to the plane toilet all the time), and nothing I do not tolerate well in general (everything seems to be worse up in the air). Does this apply to you, too? 

4.  Sleep

If you are a lucky person, you will be able to sleep most of the time. Since not all people actually have the talent to fall asleep wherever they are, there are also some other things you can do to keep yourself happy during a long-distance flight on this list.

Taking a neck pillow is actually my most important travel tip for long-distance flights. It is often my lifesaver (extra tip: I do not wrap it around my neck but put it on backward, so my head won’t fall forward during the flight and wake me up, and it is way more comfortable).

I personally do not use a sleep mask but a must-have for many travelers. I often fall asleep before the plane even takes off  – so I seriously miss the take-off. I am aware that I am fortunate and know most are not “gifted” with such a talent, so some might need an eye mask and earplugs.

5. Entertainment

Before Netflix allowed offline downloads, I was sure that my iPad had been my worst “investment” ever – now that I can download my TV shows and watch them offline, long-haul flights have become much better!

Music: I could not survive a long time without my own music, so my iPod is one of my favorite items.

I have to admit that I still don’t have a, so a “real” book is often an essential as well as some other electronics (check which ones are allowed to take on board) since I never rely on the entertainment program of the airline, sometimes they are awesome (hello Emirates Airlines), sometimes they are not. So be prepared and take your own entertainment.

6. Pack all Necessary Items in a Carry-On Bag

Organize your carry-on like a pro, so you have easy access:

Find Out My Tips For a Perfect Carry-On

7. Stay Fresh

You are how you feel – so being hygienic makes you feel better for sure, so a toothbrush and toothpaste are my essentials, as well as some Refreshing towelettes and peppermint drops.

8. Change Your Watch Ahead of Time

Prepare yourself mentally, and adjust for the time difference. 

9. Exercise

It is important to get up and move so your blood can flow, and you´ll feel better (and kill time). Try to avoid crossing your legs as it is not good for your blood flow, and if necessary, get some compression socks.

I hope these tips on long-distance flights help you to enjoy your next long-distance flight more.


More travel tips: How to Travel for Free Using Miles and Points

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