Last week I found myself in the rear coach cabin for a 14-hour journey from Hong Kong to Chicago. Here are seven tips for how to survive long flights in economy class.
1. Drink Gallons of Water
Staying hydrated is key to combating jet lag and actually remaining comfortable. I recommend bringing your own bottle, but most airlines are good about making hourly water runs on long overnight flight. Plus, you can always stretch your legs by making your way to the rear galley and asking for a glass of water or other beverage.
How safe is tap water on airplanes? I don’t know and I don’t really care to find out. All I know is that I will only drink water that comes from a bottle. Ever wonder why airline coffee tends to taste funny? One reason is the tap water.
Don’t drink too much, too quickly though…there are often long waits to use the lavatory.
2. Bring Your Own Snacks
Don’t rely on airline food…you’ll be left hungry. I’ve flown so many airlines behind the curtain and rarely am I ever satisfied after the meal service. And I don’t just mean with the taste, but with the quantity. My flight from Hong Kong to Chicago included lunch, a mid-flight snack, and breakfast, but the portion sizes were meager.
Bring non-messy food like fruit, nuts, granola bars, or beef jerky. It is a far better alternative to being hungry or resorting to bag after bag of airline pretzels.
3. Get Up and Walk Around
With both the size and legroom of economy class seats shrinking, stretching is vital to staying sane on a longhaul flight behind the curtain.
You can do the foot-twirling exercises outlined in many airline magazines, but better to get up and walk a lap around the economy class cabin.
4. Bring Hand Sanitizer
I’ve been sick a lot this year, unfortunately. While airplanes are ideal germ factories, you can insulate yourself (somewhat) by frequently sanitizing your hand with liquid sanitizer (unscented please) and also wiping down your seat, tray table, armrest, and seat-back monitor to minimize your contact with the biological agents that cause sickness.
5. Dress in Layers
You never know how warm or how cold the cabin will be. My flight from Hong Kong to Chicago last week, as if to prepare us for the freezing temperatures that would greet us, was frigid onboard. In addition to my pajamas (I change into pajamas even on economy class longhaul flights), I wrapped myself in a sweater and blanket. Even then, I was still cold!
Sometimes airplanes are too cold, sometimes they are too hot. Be prepared for either situation.
6. Bring Your Own Headphones
Airlines give out cheap headphones in economy class. Not only do they work poorly, but they often hurt your ears even after wearing them for only short periods of time. Bring your own.
7. Charge Your Devices Prior to Your Flight
Sometimes airline electrical outlets work, sometimes they don’t. While even a full laptop charge won’t get you through 14 hours, it will certainly make your life easier if you find your power ports not working. Sometimes every two seats must share an outlet, which means you may be fighting your neighbor for one.
Consider a portable charger than can charge laptops, phones, and other devices simultaneously.