Home Travel Advice How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy

How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy

How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy

Flights can easily become the worst experience for any traveler. Not only can the cost of booking a flight quickly eat up a lot of your travel budget, but a flight is usually not the part of the trip that someone looks forward to. No one says, “I cannot wait to sit in a cramped cabin surrounded by strangers and a crying baby.”

Almost everyone who has stepped on a plane for a long haul flight has wished for the flight to be over so they can be at their destination and enjoying their vacation. Experienced travelers know how to survive long haul flights in economy.

It is difficult to enjoy the duration of a flight, but it is possible to make your situation better. Knowing how to survive long haul flights in economy will help make your experience better. There are some tips you can follow to help you through the hours soaring through the air.

In our experience, we have done quite a few of these. Natalie was raised in South Korea and I am from Canada. We got married in Canada and visited Canada another time while living in South Korea, and then finally in 2017 we flew back to Canada to settle down. So, if you count those up you get five or six flights each that are fourteen hours long without stop. That is a lot of long haul flights within the past few years.

We have worked hard to think of the best ways to remain comfortable when taking these long haul flights, especially since we travel economy class every time. Though this list is generally targeted for the long haul flight, but some can be considered for shorter flights as well.

How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy

How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy Class

  • Pay for the Upgrade
  • Lets just get this out of the way right away. If you can afford to pay for the upgrade to business class, go ahead and do it and leave this page because you do not need anymore of the points listed below. You have likely already won in life and are able to sip champagne in luxury while the rest of us behind the curtain that separates us must live in confined spaces for half of a day while we are served our luncheon meats.

    I digress. Good for you for being able to afford these seats. These long haul flights would be the type of flights that you would want to splurge on anyways. So splurge away.

  • Collect Points and Upgrade
  • Every airline has its own rewards system. Collect the points you earn from each flight. It is worth it and they will add up quickly. You can use your points towards many things, including upgrading your seat from economy to business class. This can make a major difference, especially with your comfort levels while flying a long haul flight. For some this can be well worth the points you spend, which were free in the first place.

    Collecting credit card points is also a great way to go about getting that upgrade without having to pay. I know some people that are in to churning their credit cards to rack up as many points as they can in order to use them on travel. This is a great way to gain those points fast by applying for credit cards with bonuses, meeting those minimum spends, gaining those points, cancelling the card, and repeating when the card allows you to re-apply.

    This is a more difficult process that requires some more research, finding the right cards, and not getting stuck in paying annual fees to keep the card. Otherwise you can quickly lose money on this and lower your credit score at the same time.

  • Ask for the Upgrade
  • If you cannot afford the upgrade or you do not have enough points for the upgrade, why not ask? It does not hurt and what is the worst that can happen? The person checking you in says no. That is about it. Then you are most likely never going to see that person again in your entire life.

    Somethings to know about asking. If you come up to the check in counter and do not have everything ready like your passport and your ticket, you are off to a bad start. If you are rude to the person, you are not going to get the upgrade even if they were willing to give it away to someone on that day. Be nice. Be polite. Have everything ready that is needed to check in. Then, and only then, can you ask to see if they would be willing to provide you with an upgrade because you are such a loyal customer and would really appreciate it. Especially if you happen to be traveling with your wife for your honeymoon. For the tenth time.

  • Request the Emergency Exit Seat
  • No upgrade? No problem. The next best thing is the emergency exit seat. When you check in, ask for it. If you are uncomfortable with asking for the upgraded seats, this one is not asking much. Simply ask if the emergency seat rows are available and if you would be able to grab that seat.

    They offer more leg room for stretching out which can be extremely vital on long haul flights. The trade-off with the exit seat is that you cannot place your carry-on below your seat. So if you are okay with getting out of your seat to go into the overhead compartment whenever you need something from your carry-on, then this seat is for you.

    How to Survive Long Haul Flights in Economy

  • Using Your Carry-On
  • Always check the regulations on carry-on sizes. This will save you some headaches while checking in. Generally, airlines allow a small bag or purse that can carry a laptop or camera and a slightly larger bag. Use these bags to pack whatever will help you be comfortable on that flight. Pack your music playing device, your tablet with your favorite shows, or your teddy bear that helps you sleep at night. Be careful not to pack too much and go over the weight requirements.

    We always bring snacks in our carry-on. It never hurts to have some extra finger food that you love should you really hate the food that the airplane is serving. Ugh airplane food. It can really be a big let down.

    Slippers are a good thing to have with you. Getting those shoes off right when you get on that plane can really help your feet breath and can give you a satisfying feeling of being ready to fall asleep at any moment as if it is your own bed thousands of feet in the air with lots of people around you. Slippers are great to have should you want to walk to the bathroom or just to have on at all times.

    I always have my laptop on me to get some work done while in the air, but be sure to pack whatever else you want with you for that long plane ride.

  • Entertain Yourself
  • There are usually a couple of movies I find myself watching during these long haul flights. It is a great way to pass the time and to focus on something other than being uncomfortable. Use what is in your carry-on to pass the time or get work done like I do.

    Not much of a technology person? Talk to the person next to you and get to know more about them. Open with the, “so are you living in insert destination here or just visiting,” line and let the conversation flow from here. If the person beside you does not seem like much of a talker then maybe you can get up during one of your stretches to talk to people that may be more entertaining. Have not done this myself, but you can let me know how it goes.

    Get that window seat and watch the clouds, daydream about life, and take inspiring videos of the flight taking off and landing. These are all great ways to pass the time on a long haul flight.

  • Request Pillows or Blankets
  • Likely when you sat down you already had a pillow and a blanket waiting for you. Ask for another pillow or a blanket if it will make you more comfortable. Most airlines should have these available especially if the plane was not fully booked.

  • Get Up and Walk Around
  • When flying for a long period of time, make sure you get up and walk around to stretch out your legs. This is very important for your blood circulation. Anytime you feel you need to, get up and move around. You should really be doing this every hour. Do not underestimate a good stretch every hour after sitting in that chair in the same position for more than an hour. It can really do wonders for your body.

  • Sleep Aid or Anxiety Medication
  • If you know you have difficulty sleeping on airplanes, talk to your doctor about a sleep aid. It can be torture to have to stay awake for the duration of a long flight. Not being able to sleep can be a problem for some, so prepare in advance and talk to your doctor.

    Do you think or know that you get anxious about flying? Then do the same before you get on the airplane. Your doctor should be able to prescribe you some medication that will help alleviate these feelings and make your long haul flight more of a relaxing activity rather than a flying death trap.

  • Free Alcohol
  • Yeah, most international flights serve free alcohol. FREE alcohol. Let me say that one more time, FREE alcohol! Take advantage of this early in the flight, pass out, and wake up at the end. That fourteen hour flight quickly fades away into oblivion.

    Now this really is not good for you to do and we do not condone it, but if this is your thing then it is a good way to pass through that long haul flight right quick.

At the Airport Going Traveling


We have picked up a few tricks of the trade throughout our time traveling back and forth from South Korea to Canada. Those fourteen hour flights are now something we have learned to enjoy rather than despise. We have used many of these tactics to help pass the time, as well as entertaining ourselves and enjoying each other’s company.

Understanding ways you can make your flight more enjoyable will help start your trip on a happier note. Learning how to survive long haul flights in economy is your first step.

We would love to hear what you do on long haul flights to pass the time. Leave a comment below to let us know how your long haul flights go.


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