by Ally Gibson | Last Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Surviving a long-haul flight in economy is like surviving a marathon. You need to prepare ahead of time, apply your game plan, then make it through the hours of torture. 

I almost always book economy, because let’s face it—first class is crazy-expensive. Economy isn’t a huge deal on short trips but on extended ones it can be torturous.  

Over the years, I’ve developed my own routine for surviving these lengthy trips. Follow these tips and your flight will be just a little more bearable.

Packing List

These are the things I always pack in my carry-on to get through prolonged journeys.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Water Bottle
  • Pashmina
  • Moisturizer
  • Chapstick
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Alcohol or antibacterial wipes
  • Snacks
  • Sleep Mask
  • Pen
  • Passport
  • Paper with important travel details
  • Chargers
  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Kindle or book
  • Make-up Bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Prescriptions
  • Gum or mints
  • Tissues
  • Change of clothes
  • Face cleaning wipes
  • Nasal Spray
  • Neck pillow
  • Compression socks and or fuzzy socks
  • Health juice shots

Preparing For Your Trip

Step 1: Hydrate and Supplement

Traveling is incredibly dehydrating. I like to keep as hydrated as possible in the days leading up to my flight. This means making sure I’m drinking lots of water and eating lots of fruits and veggies. I also stock up on Vive shots and incorporate them into my routine a few days before my trip. Can you tell I’m paranoid about having a low immune system while traveling?

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Step 2: Lay Out Your Carry-On Essentials

You should lay out all your carry-on essentials the morning before you fly. Once everything is laid out, I can identify any essentials I still need to stock up on. For long-haul flights, I use a checklist to make sure I remember everything (if you sign up to my email list above, you’ll have it too!).

Pack in layers

Step 3: Check-in For Your Flight

Check-in early for the option to choose the aisle or window. Trust me, don’t wait until the last minute for a major trip. The last time I did, I got stuck in a middle seat crammed between two old men on a 15 hour flight from New York to Moscow (ugh).

Pro Trip: Check SeatGuru to check out seat reviews before you confirm your assignment. Plusgrade is also something to look into. You can bid on possible upgrades before you fly.

Step 4: Plan Your Travel Outfits

For lengthy journeys I plan two outfits. One for boarding and one for changing into when I arrive. I like to plan outfits that are strategically layered for the plane. Since it’s always cold on the plane, I always wear a zip-up hoodie. It’s so easy to slide on and off while in your seat.

For my second day outfit, I plan something that will be easy and quick to change into. It makes a world of difference having fresh clothes to wear after a long flight.

Pro Tip: Make sure your outfit involves socks. Personally, I prefer compression socks for long trips. They’ve been proven to help circulation. Just make sure you have something on so you’re not going barefoot through security (gross).

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Step 5: Plan Healthy Snacks or Meals

Unfortunately, I suffer from an over-packing problem and never have enough space to fit full meals in my carry-on. If you can though, plan ahead and pack at least one healthy meal. I always settle for some healthy snacks like fruit leather, pistachios, and one of those little Sabra Hummus Minis. 

Airline food isn’t healthy and is high in sodium. I always sign up for a vegetarian or vegan meal when I book. They tend to be slightly healthier, plus special request meals get served first!

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Pack Snacks

Pro Tip: I swear by having 2-3 antioxidant-filled Vive juice shots. They’re great for an added boost of health during the flight.

Step 6: Charge and Upload All Devices

Make sure all your devices are fully charged. Upload any information or entertainment you may want. 

Most planes have charging options, but some still don’t. If you want to be sure you have a way to charge, get a portable charger. It’s a small power source for all your devices. 

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I like to store all my chargers into their own little corner of the bag for easy access. Don’t forget to put any converters you may need in your carry-on for when you land.

Step 7: Write Down Important Information

Write down any important information you’ll need for your customs form on a piece of paper. Don’t rely on technology in case your device dies or needs the internet to function. I’ve had that issue more times than I care to admit over the years. Now, I always write out the following:

  • Flight details for all flights (including your return)
  • Hotel details (Name, address, phone number, and booking confirmation)
  • Directions to the hotel (if you’re planning on taking public transport)
  • Key phrases you may need (if you’re traveling to a foreign country)

Step 8: Pack in Layers

Strategically pack things in the order that you’ll need them. The last thing you want is the giant mess of digging through your bag later at security. 

I like to first pack my second outfit at the bottom of my bag, along with my deodorant, hairbrush. Next I’ll put in my make-up bag filled with essentials. Keep anything that’s a liquid or gel in a see-through ziplock bag for security.

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Last to go in the bag are my Kindle, laptop, headphones, snacks, and travel documents. The key is to have anything that you’ll need to take out for security at the top of your bag.

At the Airport

Step 1: Check Bags

Check your bags early and head straight through security to avoid stress later. Then use the opportunity to ask if you’re able to move to an empty row (assuming you don’t have one already). 

Pro Tip: Take a photo of your baggage tags in case you misplace the claims tag. You’ll want that information in case a bag gets lost.

Step 2: Hydrate and Stretch

Use any time remaining before boarding to get some walking or stretching. It’s also the perfect time to have more water or a healthy snack before boarding. You’ll be happy you did once you’re stuck on the plane.

A Quick Stretch

Pro Tip: I like to buy one of those giant water bottles for the journey. I know they’re expensive, but it makes staying hydrated a lot easier. This way you can see how much water I’ve had over the trip.

If you the space in your carry on bag you can bring your own water bottle and ask one of the shops past security to fill it up for you.

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Step 3: Use the Bathroom and Moisturize

I make it a priority to go to the bathroom and apply moisturizer to my face and hands before boarding. The same goes for using nasal spray and chapstick.

I know what you’re thinking—nasal spray sounds crazy. I thought so too, but my doctor told me you should use it before a flight to keep your nasal passages hydrated. The air on the aircraft is dry, and hydrating them helps fight any airborne germs you may encounter.

The Plane

Step 1: Sanitize Everything

Use alcohol or antibacterial wipes to clean anything you may touch during your flight. When you see how blackened with dirt the wipe is, you’ll be glad you did. Don’t forget tray tables, seatbacks, windows, armrests, and the overhead lights and air vent.

Step 2: Get Organized

Once boarded, get anything out of your carry-on bag that will make your environment cozier. I like to pull my pashmina out to use as an extra blanket since I am always cold on flights.

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Once cozy, I’ll send my family a quick text letting them know I’ve boarded. This way nobody stresses over you not being in contact for the length of your long flight.

Step 3: Be Friendly to Flight Attendants

Flight Attendants are the people in charge of your comfort for a while, so you want them to like you. The best way to achieve this is to be polite. Say hello and give them your attention when they have to do their safety instruction routine. Always say please and thank you when interacting with them.

Don’t forget these people have the power to move you to a better seat or empty row. At the very least you might get an extra blanket or mini bottle of wine slipped to you. Trust me, I get extra wine and snacks all the time by doing this. A little courtesy and a smile can go a long way!

Step 4: Get Cozy

I like to take off my shoes and slip some fuzzy socks over my compression socks. I’ll also use the first few hours to watch a movie, or read

Make sure you have your water bottle handy while you relax.  Personally, I also like to use this time to have a few glasses of wine to help me fall asleep easier later. 

Pro Tip: If you’re on the shorter side, bring a Foot Hammock. My shorter friends say it’s made a huge difference in comfort for them on longer journeys.

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Step 5: Get Ready to Sleep

I try to schedule late-night flights to pass as many hours as possible sleeping. Before passing out, follow your typical nighttime routine as closely as possible. Use a face wipe to wash your face, brush your teeth, and of course, hydrate your skin with some moisturizer.

Since the air on planes is so dry, you should also use your nasal spray before crashing. You want to keep your nostrils hydrated so they can help keep you healthy on your trip.

Get Comfy

Step 6: Sleep as Long as Possible

Grab your sleep mask, put on some music, and do your best to relax into sleep. 

I know it’s hard for most people to get comfortable enough to sleep well on the plane but try your best. Even a little sleep makes a big difference in how you’ll feel the next day.

Step 7: Morning Re-Hydrate

When it’s clear you aren’t getting any more sleep, admit defeat, and start your morning routine. I try not to “wake up” until the lights are up and breakfast is about to come around. 

Admittedly, I get very little sleep while flying, so coffee is a must. I also make sure to ask for water with my breakfast. You should drink as much as possible to re-hydrate after the time you’ve spent sleeping.

Hydrate

Pro Tip: This is a great time to crack open a juice shot (if you packed one) for an extra boost of vitamins.

Step 8: Refresh Your Look

After breakfast, take your essentials to the bathroom. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and moisturize your skin. Break out the nasal spray to re-moisturize as well. 

I also like to at least change my shirt (changing out of pants is hard in those little stalls) and re-apply deodorant. Use some light under-eye concealer and mascara for a bit of a refresh.

Step 9: Utilize the Remaining Time

Once you’ve completed your customs forms, sit back, read your kindle, or catch another movie or TV show and relax.

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When they make the seatbelt landing announcement, repack your carry on bag. You should keep any necessary documents at the top of your bag.

Step 10: Get Through Customs and Clean Up Your Look

Once you’re outside the security area, locate a bathroom to freshen up. Change into the rest of your second outfit (assuming you didn’t fully change on the plane). I like to brush my teeth again, re-moisturize a bit, and maybe throw on some chapstick or lipstick.

Pro Tip: Throw on some sunglasses for an added layer of sophistication. They also hide any tired or puffy eyes.

Screen Shot at PM

Conclusion

Obviously nobody loves flying economy, but hopefully with these tips you’ll have a slightly elevated experience. Coming from a notoriously last-minute packer, take my advice and plan out your packing ahead of time. 

I hope your trip is a slightly more bearable one after trying my recommendations.

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