On a recent trip to the Maldives I had a 30 hour trip that including a 14hour long haul flight in economy followed by 6 hour layover and another 4 hour flight. Our return trip was a 4 hour flight, 3 hour layover, 14 hour flight, 2 hour layover, and 2 hour flight. I was dreading how I would feel based on other long haul economy flights I had taken. However, in the end I decided to take it as a challenge. I had to believe there was a way to make the flight at least not horrible.
I mean there’s no getting around it. Even with the advantage of being a 5’5″ girl, these economy seats are not built for comfort. However, with a few hacks, I didn’t feel too bad after over 30 hours of traveling, and 20 hours of flying. I managed to sleep through most of my 14 hour flight and finish off the rest with a couple of movies. By the time I arrived home I was tired, but not terribly exhausted as I had felt and previous flights. A nice shower, a hot meal, and about 10 hours of sleep later, I overcame jetlag the next morning (and was ready to start working on all my Maldives articles because I was just so excited!).
What to Pack to Survive a Long Haul Flight in Economy
Before my flight I packed a small bag of essentials that made such a difference. A baggy filled with toothbrush, toothpaste, mouth wash, facewash, face lotion, Tylenol, wet wipes, and deodorant, and a small change of clothes made all the difference to stay fresh. I also brought an empty water bottle. This helped because the flight attendants only give a small amount of water and I wanted to make sure to stay hydrated through the flight. I just filled it at the refill station in the airport and the flight attendants were also willing to fill my bottle to the top.
It’s also helpful to bring a meal that will help you feel good. The airlines do provide food and while I do enjoy them, they do start to get repetitive after the 3rd meal (I think I had 6 total). Replacing that first meal with something fresh and different is helpful to make the meals not too similar on those long flights.
Before the flight I also had a vegetable heavy smoothie. Filling my body with so many nutrients was a nice little boost. One great thing we’ve taken advantage of for long layovers has also been showers at the airport. They may cost extra, but they are wonderful!
Additionally, I found some great travel accessories that really helped make the long haul flight bearable. I’ll say choosing a window seat makes such a difference for providing extra support. Since I travel with my husband he tends to get the window and I somewhat lean against him (even though he moves so much – it’s a trade off I suppose).
Travel Accessories to Survive a Long Haul Flight in Economy
I’m going to include everything I tried out, even though in the end I found my favorite travel accessories. I browsed all the articles on the best travel accessories and just got them all! It was a lot cheaper than an upgrade, and many come with a return policy. I had a couple of shorter flights before to test out what I would like best before. What works best for me still might be different for you.
The Bad – Now these are just my personal opinions, so take it with a grain of salt. I say it still doesn’t hurt to try. You can always return it. I found the first one didn’t have enough support and I felt the second one had too much support and just felt uncomfortable. Also, it’s designed so you rest your head to a particular side. I try to usually rest my head towards my partner and it feels awkward when I rest my head towards the person I don’t know.
The Okay– The TRTL pillow is a really popular travel pillow, one recommended by many travel sites, and one that I’ve owned for years. I’ve enjoyed it but still felt like it could be just a little more supportive. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but I think paired with a regular travel pillow, it would give the perfect amount of support and plan on trying this in the future. The inflatable leg rest was nice in that it was adjustable. There were two parts and so you could change the level. We actually had a flight where one of the seats was unoccupied and so I used it to lay out and get a little more leg room. It’s also very compact for my carryon. My only problem is it still wasn’t quite as useful as the one below, it doesn’t always fit perfectly between the seats, and because the air flows out so fast before you get the chance to close it, it never stays fully inflated. But also since it’s inflatable it’s adjustable. I also heard this is really great for kids!
The Best– If I could only travel with two travel accessories on a long haul economy flight, it would be these two! This foot hammock was adjustable and made such a difference. Sometimes I used it to stretch, sometimes I used it to rest my feet to where they lied normally, and sometimes I tied it extra so my calves could rest and take all the pressure off my feet. It allowed for a lot more movement and circulation in my legs. I’m bringing this on all my flights. The second one was this side pillow. I’m a side sleeper so maybe that made a difference, but I just felt so supported with the addition of the small airline pillow (I could go without, but I really liked having that small pillow and might end up getting my own). It does make a difference having something to rest it on (window seat or partner for the win!).
In the end the long flight felt completely manageable and I felt like the good (free alcohol & good movies) outweighed the bad (some discomfort, a little neck pain that went away with movement, and cramped spaces).
While I found my favorites I still packed a couple of my less favorites. They took up such little space and just having the flexibility to pull out different pillows helped. It’s hard to sit still for 14 hours and switching up positions can help.
How to Survive a Long Haul Flight in Economy: Final Thoughts
I now feel confident that long haul flights in economy can be okay and while I’d probably still prefer first class ( who wouldn’t?), I can walk off the plane, spend some time readjusting, and feel refreshed and good after a few hours.