They say that the best part of any experience isn’t the destination – it’s the journey. “They” clearly haven’t taken a long-haul flight in economy class.
To start, you’re expected to remain relatively still for eight-plus hours, a radical feat of inactivity that might make even the most ardent meditators restless. Next, you have to contend with one – sometimes two – seatmates vying for legroom, breathing space and the coveted armrests. The food is cafeteria-grade, the air is dry, and the in-flight entertainment (while improving in the past decade) leaves a little to be desired.
And yet, despite all of that, it’s still possible to have a pretty good time. Provided you follow some traveller-tested tips, you can survive – and possibly even enjoy – your next long economy flight. Here’s how.
Wear the Right Clothes
First thing first: to be comfortable for extended periods, you have to dress for comfort. The clear winner in this department is merino wool. Merino has long been a traveller’s secret (albeit not well kept) for its breathability, insulation, sweat-wicking and antibacterial properties. And maybe more pertinent, merino wool is incredibly soft to the touch. It feels great and regulates your body temperature – ideal for long-haul flights.
If you don’t have any merino in your wardrobe, check out these merino wool t shirts from Unbound Merino. They’re popular with frequent flyers and digital nomads, and they look great too.
Drink Plenty of Fluid and Time Your Rests
Airplane cabins are infamously dry. If you’ve ever felt woozy, groggy or icky after a long flight, chances are that it’s the dehydrative effects (more details) of the airplane causing your discomfort.
To counter the dry environment, drink plenty of water, recommends CnTraveler. Pack a collapsible water bottle – one that folds neatly into a side pocket of your carry-on bag – and don’t be shy about asking the flight attendant for top-ups. If you don’t own a collapsible water bottle, a regular bottle is fine. Or, you can check out this article on the best collapsible bottles.
Set a Movement Timer
Sitting sedentary can wreak havoc on your body, causing sore muscles, achy joints and, in some cases, serious thrombosis.
Don’t forget to get up and move around once in a while. Set a timer on your phone to ring every hour, and pace the aisles for a couple of minutes. If you feel sheepish about waking your neighbour, you can always stand in place and stretch. Any movement helps!
Reserve a Seat for the Journey You Want
Do you want to gaze silently out of the window at the blanketed clouds while resting your head on the cabin walls? Or would you prefer the freedom of mobility that the aisle seat affords?
There’s no wrong answer. Provided you are getting up and moving regularly (see above), either seat is acceptable. (Just don’t choose the middle, which is the worst of both worlds). Before you fly, reserve a seat for the journey you want, whether it’s quiet and contemplative or open and unencumbered. Some airlines charge a modest fee for seat reservations, but it can be well worth it to avoid the dreaded middle seat.
Follow these simple tips for an enjoyable economy flight. And if you’re someone who can’t stand airplane food, remember that you can always bring outside food on a flight – just no drinks. Happy travels.
Last Updated: October 14, 2022