11 Tips to Surviving Long-Haul Flights in Economy

Flying to paradise shouldn't feel like hell on Earth.

Flying to paradise shouldn't feel like hell on Earth.


Flying messes with our mind, body, and spirit in all sorts of crazy ways. And if you’re stuck in economy for hours, it can feel downright painful. Here are 11 top tips to survive long-haul flights that my friend, Kelly, and I came up with after our recent 25-hour journey to Bali. 


Subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast to hear the whole story (and to hear what we got up to in Bali during our first days. 



Select the right seat. When checkin in, sites like SeatGuru let you know the plane’s best and worst seats in economy. 


Dress in comfortable layers. Flights can go from hot to cold and back again. Make sure to carry a cardigan or even a scarf. If you’re wearing sandals, keep a pair of socks in your bag.


Avoid carbonation. Flights make us feel bloated because the change in atmospheric pressure expands the bubbles in our stomach (that sounds better than gas, right?). Don’t drink soda or anything carbonated before or during your flight.


Stay hydrated. You lose a lot of water on planes. Minimize headaches and dry skin by sipping on water throughout the flight and applying moisturizer and chapstick. Drinking alcohol before or during the flight isn’t the best idea. Top tip: Bring an empty, refillable water bottle and fill it up after you go through security. 


Bring snacks. If you’re flying late-night, chances are the airport’s restaurants and shops will be closed. Bring enough snacks to satisfy you at least until the flight’s meal service comes around. Nuts and other protein-rich snacks are a good idea (though I am a sucker for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers). Top tip: If you want to be served first, order a special meal. 


Sanitize everything with wipes. From your seatbelt buckle to the tv screen and tray table, your living space on the plane is full of germs. Wipe everything down as soon as you get there.


Walk around. Sitting too long can cause blood clots in some people. It can also hurt your knees and cause other achy issues. Walk the aisles every few hours and stretch to get your blood flowing. Compression socks can also help prevent blood clots. Top tip: Choose an aisle seat so you don’t have to straddle people when you want to get out.


Don’t watch films. If your goal is to sleep, don’t watch movies. Instead, cover your eyes with a mask and listen to a podcast, setting your smartphone’s timer to turn off the pod after 20 minutes (hopefully you will have nodded off by then). Top tip: Bring noise-canceling headphones and a smartphone charger and cable.


Try a 360 pillow. To help you sleep, these work better than regular neck pillows. They wrap snuggly around you with no gap at the throat, so you stay better aligned and don’t wake yourself up every time your head falls. 


Bring your medicine kit. Carry headache medicine and any other pills or prescriptions you might need. Women, it’s also a good idea to carry panty liners/tampons even if you don’t think you’ll get your period because surprises happen. Also, comb, toothbrush, and toothpaste are nice ways to stay civilized. 


Chew gum. If your ears tend to pop as the plane lands, chewing gum can help.






If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 7 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.