How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight in Economy


A question that Chris and I tend to get from friends and family is, “How can you stand long-haul flights without getting cabin fever?”

My flippant answer is, “Quite easily.”

This is because I am completely, 100%, A-okay with flying. (Shameless plug: I even wrote a book that was inspired by flying.) I’m not afraid of it, I don’t get anxiety about it, I’m able to sleep, and – this is probably the big thing – I’m petite, so I’m usually fairly comfortable in an economy seat.

That said, I definitely have a few tricks that I employ.

1) Comfort is key.



What I really wear on pretty much every flight.


This is important for any flight, but especially for ones that are over 4 hours. I advise breathable fabrics that are easy to layer. Most non-budget international carriers will provide you with a blanket and pillow, so I usually wear lightweight pants, a loose-fitting short-sleeved tee, a jacket, and easy-to-slip on-and-off shoes. I also think it’s essential to pack fuzzy socks for the flight. Cold feet = unhappy Bethie.

As for makeup: I go bare-faced on flights. That said, I do usually bring mascara with me in my carry-on, and dab some on before the plane lands.

2) Fight the germs.


Wipe down the seat arm rests, the tray table, the TV screen, the remote (if there is one) – basically any area you’ll be touching. I use the alcohol swabs on headphones/earphones (both my own and the plane-provided ones; a case of swimmer’s ear – which, if you’ve never experienced it, is truly awful – taught me that lesson!), and I also usually bring some form of Airborne with me to stave off any germs that the recycled air might bring my way.

3) Stay hydrated (and caffeinated).

Pro tip: if you bring an empty water bottle on a plane with you, the flight attendants will fill it up. Much better than those tiny cups they give you! If you are a coffee, tea, or soda drinker, also remember to have caffeine as much as you need it. I can vouch from experience that a caffeine headache on a plane is a special kind of hell.

4) Work that body.

Walking around and stretching is incredibly important, especially on long flights. If you’re not on the aisle (I’m a big believer in aisle seats for easy escape) and your row compadre is asleep, just stand up and do your best to stretch anyway. (Also, if you are of age and drink, have a glass of wine with your meals – this helps to keep your blood from pooling. Also, FREE WINE.)

5) Never be bored.

Much like pillows and blankets, most non-budget international carriers provide entertainment on their flights. This is usually chock-full of movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, and video games that give you tons of options. That said, do be aware of where your carrier is based out of – I once got on an Air China flight and was shocked to find that there were only a couple English-language options. That wasn’t the end of the world by any means because I always stock my iPad with ebooks and my phone podcasts to keep me occupied if I don’t feel like watching something.

6) Don’t neglect your hygiene.


I pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizing lip balm, face wipes, hand lotion, and moisturizer in my carry-on, and use them as needed. The recycled air on planes usually wreaks havoc on my nails and makes them really brittle, so I put a strengthening coat on prior to flying. I also usually use a deep-moisturizing sheet mask before heading to the airport in an attempt to keep my skin as hydrated as possible.

7) Rest up.



Not an ad! I legitimately use Sominex and it works well for me.


When you’re crossing multiple time zones, figuring out when to sleep can be kind of complicated. What I’ve found works for me is doing my best to keep the hours of my destination. Even though I’m probably not going to sleep a full eight hours at a time, if I can go to sleep around 9pm or 10pm at my destination’s time and sleep even for a couple hours and repeat that process as I’m able until around 7am my destination’s time, I tend to not feel like a zombie when the plane finally lands.

“What about sleeping pills?” you ask. I have become a believer in them – I usually pick up Sominex from a pharmacy (or in the airport) and take those as instructed if I’m having trouble falling asleep. That said, I’d never take one on a flight that’s less than 8 hours. Those suckers can knock you out, so to avoid having to be carried off a plane, this is a good rule of thumb.

8) Try to relax and enjoy!




Recognize my shirt? 😉 

I actually enjoy long-haul flights. You have movies to watch, music and/or podcasts to listen to, books to read, and a staff to bring you things to eat and drink at appropriate intervals. It’s not so bad! So do your best to get comfortable and enjoy the time up in the air!


Chris’s Tip

Fly business class. They have a cheese cart.


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