Surviving Long Haul Economy

Do you ever look back in your drafts and find random posts which you started and never went back to?
For me, “Surviving Long Haul Economy” was one of those—dating all the way back to 2014.
Its contents?
“Make more money and fly business class instead.”

Good job Amy. Solid advice.
One can only assume that I wrote this whilst I was sat cramped up in my middle seat too uncomfortable to sleep and desperately needing the loo but too awkward to ask the person next to me to move again.

But it did get me thinking, how does one go about Surviving Long Haul Economy?
Well, despite what bloggers who quite clearly never fly economy would have you believe, popping on an eye mask and noise cancelling headphones isn’t going to transform your experience from third to first class. Instead, what you need is to plan ahead! Starting with:

Booking Your Flight

It starts with booking your flight and not just for that ever-craved window seat! If possible try and get a flight which coincides with the timezone you’ll be landing in. For example whenever I fly to Thailand, I make sure I’m on a 9pm flight. This time works for me as I can get to the airport and have a nice dinner before boarding the flight and sleep around the same time I usually would, whilst waking up at an appropriate hour the other side before landing (9pm flights usually land around 3pm Thai time).

Choosing Your Outfit

Choosing an outfit when flying long haul is a mission in itself, yet alone when you’re travelling to a county whose temperature is much different to the one you’re leaving. I opt for baggy t-shirts and jeans at the airport, as it’s what I’m most comfortable in, but I take a loose dress/shorts in my hand luggage to switch into just before landing. I’m also a big fan of packing pyjamas/loungewear. Not just because pyjamas are life but because economy is hardly comfortable on short haul and you pretty much need to be a contortionist to be able to get to sleep so those jim-jams sure do help by giving you the flexibility needed for those weird angles. Shoes are also something super important to consider because feet and ankles tend to swell (or at least mine do) so wear something that enables you to adjust the tightness, such as converse.

Packing Your Hand Luggage

I’ve noticed that SO many people take things in their hand luggage that they never end up using and I’ve never quite understood that myself. I like to be able to get something out of my hand luggage without having to rummage through millions of things, so my advice is when packing your hand luggage, don’t pack it to the brim and make sure everything has a purpose. Comfortable ear/headphones are a must (especially if you have a pea-head like me because the ones the airlines hand out never fit) as well as a comfortable travel pillow, a blanket that doesn’t leave you covered in static, if you have the space (I usually just wear a scarf), hydrating face mists/moisturisers (which sound fancy but make SUCH a difference to your skin) and anything you want to distract yourself with throughout the flight such as a book/kindle/laptop/colouring book.

Distracting Yourself

Long haul wouldn’t be called long haul if you were there in a jiffy, and not everybody can sleep through the entire flight. I’m a big fan of eating. Mainly in general but also before I fly long haul because carbs make my sleepy so I usually spend the first part of a flight in the land of nod, but I’m yet to meet anybody who can sleep through an entire flight so distraction is key. Watching movies back to back can get a bit tedious so be sure to pack something else to distract yourself. I tend to pack a notepad for doodling, set up a relaxing playlist, download some interesting games and pack the laptop just in case writing inspiration strikes mid flight.

Getting Comfortable

Always get up and go to the loo before you get comfortable. Sods law has it that if you don’t you will always need the toilet and you’ll spend the rest of your flight missing how comfortable you were in those seconds before the urge appeared. Night flights are my fave because yano, sleep is ace, but also because you can maintain some semblance of a routine, such as slipping into your jimjams and brushing your teeth after you’ve eaten. Whilst I’m up I’ll usually take a little wander along the aisle to stretch my legs then once back in my seat I’ll either curl up in a ball if I’ve got the window seat, or if I have the middle seat *shuddder* I’ll either use a travel pillow or pop the table down and lean on that for head support. It pretty much varies depending on what (if any) is most comfortable.

If you really can’t get comfortable in your allocated seat it can be worth asking the cabin crew if there’s anywhere you can move too. I’ve done so previously and ended up with wing seats with ALL the legroom and having a different row to myself. Availability will vary hugely depending on how busy the flight is but it can be worth asking just in case.

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is something which is key to surviving long haul economy flights. It’s so easy to forget when the drinks are free, but drinking at a high altitude is even worse than drinking on your bog standard Saturday night (because you get drunk *way* quicker). I always take a bottle of water with me on a flight because you can’t always time your thirst to coincide when the cabin crew are offering beverages, and let’s face it – those fiddly plastic pots are never enough!

Stretching Your Legs

Stretching out and moving is so important on a flight and helps to decrease the risk of DVT. I make it a habit to get up every two hours and take a walk up and down the plane. Sometimes there will be bit of extra space on the wings and I’ll utilise this space by having a good stretch. Does it look weird? Probably. Does it bother me? Nah. Being scrunched up in a ball for hours as you sit there frustrated that you can’t sleep isn’t ideal and if you’re awkward and don’t want to bother the person next to you too often, you might as well utilise the time that you’re up and about!
Stretching your legs once you’ve landed is just as important. I find that doing a ten minute HIIT session or going for a swim helps to use my muscles without over-exerting myself, because let’s face it – we’re usually flying because we’re going on holibobs and who really wants to exercise on holiday?

over and out,
Amy Morgan