Survival Tips For A Long Haul Flight.

Long haul flights can be brutal on your comfort, your health and even your sanity, but with these simple survival tips for long haul flights you can make things if not better, then at least bearable until you finally get to your destination.

We are long, long past the golden age of travel now, and for anyone who can’t afford the ever increasing luxuries and costs of first class and is forced to endure economy class travel, we seem to have regressed into a free for all cesspit of pain, misery and suffering.

A lot of airlines have come under increasing fire recently, with dramatically increasing passenger dissatisfaction levels, ever shrinking seats, increasing costs and extra add on expenses for every little aspect of travel they think they can get away from charging us with, constant delays and problems, and even cases of actual abuse toward passengers are becoming increasingly common.

But despite the best efforts of the airlines who seem to want to make economy long haul as horrible an experience as possible, there are ways to make your journey just that little bit easier on yourself.

Wear Comfortable Clothes. 

Despite that moronic myth passed around by snooty idiots with their head up their proverbial that wearing a three piece suit or dressing in your smartest ballgown at the airport will bag you a free upgrade (it won’t), the best thing you can do for a long haul flight is dress comfortably. Remember you will be wearing your choice all day or night (maybe even longer), so you want it to be loose, comfy and layered so you can cool down if needed, cover up if the air con gets too much and sleep in it without feeling restricted.

My personal choice is always cargo shorts, a loose t shirt and flip flops. Easy and comfortable.

Get Yourself Ready For A Long Sleep.

Okay, I know the cramped conditions aren’t ideal, especially when the selfish idiot in front of you crushes your legs with their reclining seat and the wide load to your side is constantly oozing over into your personal space, but there are things you can do to make it a bit better for yourself. Basically this means bringing ear plugs (the best invention ever on flights with a lot of kids) and some form of mask. Personally I use my shemagh (an old military version of a shawl or scarf), tie it round my head and pull it down over my eyes. Instant blackout.

Time Your Sleep Well.

Depending on where you are going you will have to contend with different time zones and possibly jet lag. One of the best ways you can beat jet lag is try and set your body clock to the country you are going as quickly as possible, so try and sleep at the normal times for the country you are heading to (and aim to wake up in the early morning of that destination if you can).

Stay Hydrated.

This really is an essential one. Aircraft cabins are notoriously dry places, and with the times between the crew bringing you out that ridiculously tiny plastic carton of water seemingly lasting a lifetime, you need to stay hydrated.

Get yourself a good sized bottle of water and a bottle of your favourite juice at the airport after you have gone through initial security, you can keep these in your bag for when you board because for some reason we all know sealed bottled drinks bought in the airport are far safer than drinks bought in a shop outside. Or better yet, get yourself a refillable water bottle. That way you won’t be beholden on waiting to see a crew member so you can beg for a drink.

When the crew do come round don’t be afraid of asking for extra drinks too. You paid enough for the flight dammit, they can spring for some extra water or juice!

With a combination of these you should be able to drink small amounts constantly, keeping yourself relatively well hydrated through the flight.

And lastly try and avoid excessive amounts of alcohol or coffee. I’m not saying avoid them entirely, just remember that these drinks will dehydrate you and they should be limited. Best to stick to water and juice as much as possible.

Bring Snacks.

On a long haul flight it is not possible to avoid the gas inducing, tasteless concoctions that they pass off as airline ‘food’ entirely, as you will need a meal at some point, but let’s face it they are hardly great are they? And the fact that your hunger will be a slave to when the crew can be bothered to bring the trolley to you isn’t ideal either.

So bring snacks.

Good, healthy choices like slow energy release cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit are always ideal, but a good bag of harribos never goes amiss either!

Try And Reserve A Good Seat.

Okay, I know this one is almost impossible, especially if you are tall. With airlines reserving any seat at the front for those with babies or young kids and seemingly having preferential treatment for 5″4 short arses who don’t need the space in seats with extra leg room, not to mention the fact that most airlines now charge extra for that privilege too in the huge con they call ‘economy plus’, it is always worth trying to reserve the best seat as you can as soon as you are able. If you manage to get yourself an exit row or the holy grail of a front row seat (with no babies next to you), then congratulations)!

Use Your Time Productively.

Let’s face it, no matter how comfortable you can get you are still stuck in one place for a very long time, and that can get very tedious very fast. So why not use the time productively? Use the time to practice a hobby, read a book you have always wanted to read, learn some of the language of the place you will be visiting, or do as I do and try and write a few chapters for your next novel.


But don’t forget to relax too. Take advantage of the fact there are no mobile phones going off every five minutes, no mountains of emails to crawl through and just relax! Some of the better airlines have a great selection of movies and box sets on those tiny little screens that will definitely kill a few hours, but failing that go all retro and pick up a good old fashioned paperback to lose yourself in.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

10 Commandments Of Jetiquette. (Or How To Behave On A Flight!)

How To Beat Jet Lag.

Is It Time Airlines Banned Reclining Seats Completely?

Is The United Airlines PR Debacle A line In The Sand For Passenger Rights?

The 10 Most Annoying Things About Flying.

Why United Airlines Basic Economy Tickets Worry Me.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Travel Tips
28 comments on “Survival Tips For A Long Haul Flight.
  1. bcre8v2 says:

    Another great article! I love to travel, but with every horror story I read, I become more concerned about what could happen in the air. I used to be afraid of the plane crashing. Now I’m more concerned about physical abuse from crew or passengers (only partly kidding!)

    • Aww thank you I’m glad you enjoyed it! Haha I know what you mean, the plane crashing is the least of all our worries now. Maybe we should get together and do a safety video for all airlines warning passengers about the crappy service! Haha

  2. Amanda McTuerney says:

    So true, flying is a real ordeal now thanks to the airlines. Not just flying, the hell starts when you get to the airport (especially leaving the UK) and having to go through security.

  3. Paul C says:

    Air travel has deifinitely turned into something to be endured and not enjoyed if you are travelling in cattle class (god forbid us peasants ever want some decent service). It is impossible to book seats at the front with decent leg room now too, especially as you know you’ll be bumped for mums and kids who don’t need the space!

  4. Another great post, I agree flying is not a nice experience in economy now but I love your tip about staying well hydrated, I always take water on with me and make sure I drink plenty before, during and after my flight (and no alcohol), and it is shocking how much of a difference it makes to how your body feels when you land.

  5. Jim says:

    Ive never understood how anyone can fly in suits, especially in economy! Comfort all the way.

  6. Frankie says:

    Airlines are making economy more and more horrible. Especially long haul. Anything anyone can do to make it just that little bit better is worth it.

  7. maninahuff says:

    It’s anyone who reclines into me who’d need any survival tips!

  8. Emily says:

    Flying economy is more like a form of endurance torture now. I know that they put all their efforts into first and business because that is where the rich people are, but c’mon, that’s no reason to make economy increasingly worse.

  9. Clarissa says:

    Can you imagine the difference it would make if airlines just for one split second thought about customer care? The loyalty they would get would surely offset any cost?

  10. Jen says:

    Airlines don’t care at all about customer comfort or care. They just want to squeeze as many people for as much cash as they can.

  11. Laura says:

    Great tips, long flights can be so hard now with airlines cramping everyone in and reducing services to practically nothing.

  12. Mark Barrington says:

    I’m like you, I just wish airlines would stop shrinking the seat sizes and room we have! Give me some Hal decent leg room and pretty much everything else becomes tolerable!

  13. Jack says:

    I think it is almost impossible to be comfortable at all on a flight now unless you are rich and can afford the mini luxury apartments the major airlines all promote in first class. For the rest of us in economy it is just a case of putting up with it until you land.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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