Heads up: some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you click and make a booking or purchase, I’ll make a commission (at no extra cost to you). I partner with companies I personally use and the $$ goes towards creating more awesome, free travel content.
I personally love the entire experience of flying and always look forward to it, but then again, I’m also only 5ft tall.
Economy Class for most people conjures up thoughts of cramped seating, little legroom and even less sleep, so I’ve put together a list of my best tips for long flights to ensure you’ll feel as comfortable as possible until you arrive at your destination. Alternatively you could just collect enough air miles so you can upgrade to the likes of Business Class or even First Class….read my guide on How to Collect Air Miles for some good travel hacks.
1. Pick the right seat
Choosing the right seat is half the battle. When you book a long-haul flight online, you will usually have the opportunity to select your own seats. Carefully look at the aircraft seating plan, and if you’re unsure where to sit, visit seatguru.com or seatplans.com for more detailed information on the aircraft you’ll be flying.
Pick a window seat if you need something to lean against so you can fall asleep. Opt for an aisle seat if you think you might need to go to the toilet frequently and don’t want to disturb other passengers. I think most people will agree that the middle seat is pretty much the worst seat you can get on a plane.
If you sit close to the galley, you might be disturbed by the smell and noise coming from the kitchen when the cabin crew are preparing meals. The same goes for sitting near the toilets. Do you really want the waft of toilet smells every time someone opens and closes the door? You also tend to find passengers congregate in these areas to stretch their legs and have a chat- not something you want when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.
Some people like to opt for the ‘bulkhead seats’, which are the seats directly behind the physical barriers that divide each section of the plane. Because these rows don’t have any seats in front of them, they tend to have extra legroom. The downside of sitting in a bulkhead seat is that the tray table and entertainment system folds out from the armrest.
Exit row seats also have more legroom, but you won’t be able to store any bags under the seat in front of you for take-off and landing- the cabin crew will put your bags in an overhead locker. Occupying one of these seats will come with a level of responsibility; in the case of an emergency you will be expected to assist with the evacuation of the plane. The are certain criteria for being able to sit in an exit seat (over a certain age, an able bodied adult in full fitness, physically able to open the exit door etc).
Sometimes seats on the very back row of the cabin have restricted recline due to having a physical barrier behind them, so it’s best to avoid these if you want your seat to fully recline. Having said that, if a flight isn’t full, you will often find more empty seats at the back of the plane.
If for some reason you have been allocated a seat that you’re not happy with, it’s always worth asking the member of staff at the check-in desk if you can swap. If the flight’s full that might be hard to do but it’s always worth a try.
Lastly, a quick note about budget airlines. Occasionally these airlines do not have seat allocation and if that’s the case, try to make sure you’re at the front of the boarding queue if you want to have first pick of the seats.
2. Charge Your Devices
The last thing you want is your electronics to die half-way through the flight. Make sure you charge devices such as your laptop, tablet, phone, iPod or kindle before the flight. Some long-haul airlines will have power outlets or USB charging ports, so bring your charging cables and worldwide adaptor in your carry on just in case. I also highly recommend investing in an external battery- I currently use the Anker® Astro 5600mAh Portable External Battery Charger with Built-In Flashlight, which I purchased on Amazon for £19.99.
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
I’m not always a fan of plane food, so I take my own snacks just in case the in-flight meal looks less than appetising. Take a lunch box with some snacks, such as dried fruit, nuts, hummus with carrot and celery sticks, beef jerky and salted popcorn.
I tend to find ‘dry’ foods are better to carry on long-haul flights, so you don’t have to worry about leakages. A pet hate of mine is soggy sandwiches, so I prefer to take bagels with cream cheese or pre-buttered crackers with cheese. Nakd Bars are also a nice healthier alternative to chocolate bars and crisps.
Lunch boxes can take up precious room in your carry on bag, so the FLIGHT 001 GO CLEAN Lunch bag is a good alternative for contatining your packed lunch. A spork (combination of plastic spoon, knife and fork) always comes in handy and this Light My Fire Spork 4 Pack comes with sporks in a variety of colours.
4. Take a Travel Blanket and Neck Pillow
On most long-haul flights you’ll be provided with a blanket, but it’s not always a guarantee. I have flown on a couple of airlines where I’ve been freezing without a blanket, so now I always fly with the Flight 001 Travel Emergency Blanket. I also take a blow-up neck pillow to help me sleep. The bean-bag type ones are more comfortable, but they also take up too much room. Try the Carlton Inflatable Neck Pillow, which also comes with a little case.
5. Wear comfortable clothes
I often see photos of glamorous celebs walking through the airport with their matching luggage, high heels, designer clothes and large sunglasses, but the reality of long-haul flights is nothing like you see in the magazines. Don’t wear your best clothes; opt for something comfortable instead. You can always bring a set of smart clothes to change into before you land.
Men should avoid man-made fabrics and go for cottons to minimise sweating. Jeans for both sexes can be uncomfortable, so opt for loose-fitting trousers or leggings. I usually wear a pair of leggings, a long top and a wool cardigan, with a pair of flats and a pair of sunglasses to hide my tired eyes when I disembark after a long journey. I usually wear contact lenses but during a long flight I wear prescription glasses so that my eyes don’t get dry and tired.
6. Bring a hoodie or sweater
With all that air conditioning it can be really cold on planes, so pack a hoodie or a warm sweater to keep you nice and warm. I often add a pashmina or scarf too because it can be worn around my neck or double up as a scarf. If you’re going somewhere hot and sunny, don’t wear your flip flops and floaty maxi dress on the flight….you’ll freeze!
7. Avoid alcohol & Keep Hydrated
It’s so tempting to drink the bar dry when there’s free booze on board, but drinking alcohol seriously dehydrates you and can make it harder to sleep. The same goes for caffeine, so its best to avoid it altogether, or stick to one glass of wine with your meal. Drinking fizzy drinks can leave you feeling bloated and gassy, so opt for water, juices and herbal teas.
8. If you see an empty row, grab it
There’s nothing better than discovering the flight isn’t quite full and there’s an empty row. Then you look around, and realise lots of other passengers have clocked it too.
Usually you’ll have to stay in your allocated seat for take-off, but as soon as those seatbelt signs are switched off, it’s game on. If you have your eye on an empty row, be prepared to grab it as quickly as possible. Then you can spend the whole flight stretched out in peace…who needs Business Class?!
9. Moisturise your skin
My skin always ends up being really dry and flaky on flights due to the lack of humidity in the air. To combat this, it’s a good idea to carry some daily moisturiser or even a richer overnight cream that can work its magic during the flight.
10. Pack pain-killers and any necessary medicines
The very dry air on flights can leave you feeling dehydrated, which can cause headaches. Carry some ibuprofen or paracetamol just in case, but if you have forgotten to do so, you can also ask the cabin crew for some pain killers. If you take any regular medication, make sure you pack it in your carry on bag and not in your suitcase, otherwise it will end up in the hold of the aircraft and you won’t have access to it.
11. Stretch your legs
To avoid the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), take of your shoes, pop some flight socks on and make sure you exercise your legs. While sitting in your seat you can move your feet in a circular motion, or just get up and walk around the cabin every now and again.
12. Set your watch to the time of destination
To beat jetlag, change the time on your watch to the time at your destination. This will help your mind and body to get used to the new time zone. As soon as you get on the plane try to match your sleeping patterns to the time in the country you are flying to.
13. Consider a sleep aid
I happen to be very good at sleeping on planes and sometimes I even fall asleep before take-off, but if you struggle to fall asleep it might be worth speaking to your doctor about prescribing a sleep aid if you have a long flight. Alternatively there are some non-prescription herbal sleep aids available in pharmacies.
14. Pack a travel kit
I always take a little travel bag and the following items with me:
Remember that you aren’t allowed to take any liquids over 100ml on board, so I suggest investing in some travel bottles such as this FLIGHT 001 Fill & Fly Travel Bottle Set.
15. Stay entertained
Long flights can be really really boring if you can’t sleep and you’re tired of the in-flight movie selection. Load your tablet with movies at home before the flight, download new titles for your e-reader, purchase magazines or books at the airport, and even take some work with you so that you have plenty to do during the flight. I personally always travel with an iPod nano, an Apple IPAD AIR, Apple iPod nano and my Amazon Kindle.
Remember, just do whatever you need to do to keep comfortable. Rest up before the journey, drink plenty of water, wear comfortable clothes and leave the make-up! Do you have any other great tips for long flights you’d like to add? If so, just leave a comment below!