“Sir, would you like champagne, orange juice or water?”

Such a tough choice I thought to myself.  Where was this service when I typically flew economy flights?

Acting as if I was a professional sommelier, I told the stewardess I’d be partaking in the champagne. I took a sip and glanced out my window with anxiety.

“Care for a magazine, newspaper, NY Times, US Today, Sports Illustrated?

Ummm, what?

You mean they’re giving these to me for free?

“Sir, did you select your first out of 4 in-flight meals?”

You mean I will be getting 4 meals on this flight?

Is that normal?

What is this bizarre place?


That was the first ten minutes of me attempting to fly business class for the first time. I say attempt because I was actually in first class instead of business class.

(Someone must have liked me because I don’t know how the Singapore Airline gods bumped me up to first class for my first international flight.  I guess it paid to pay attention to the airport’s screening process)

I knew that my trip’s entire flight time was exactly 18 hours. That trip marked the longest flight I had ever been on in my life at that time.

I had no idea how I would kill the time when preparing for that trip.  Once I was physically on that flight, it was easy.

Given that I was in first class, I didn’t even notice the length of the flight.  I was more focused on finishing all of my delicious food!

What about those times when you don’t have a company paying for your business class ticket?

You know those times you like a “normal” person in economy class. How do you handle going from flying like a king, to living like a peasant?

This article is all about what I’ve learned over my years of flying long economy flights. Use these 14 tips to survive your next long haul economy flight!

How To Survive Long Economy Flights

1. Pack Your In-Flight Essentials

Whenever you fly, you should always have the following in your carry on
1. Headphones
2. Smart Phone
3. Smart Phone charger
4. Dedicated e-reader
5. Healthy Snack(s)
6. Water bottle

2. Take the Aisle Seat

The worst place to normally sit on economy flights is the middle seat. If you’re a person that has to go to the bathroom, you’re always going to be at the mercy of your seat mates. If they are deep sleepers or constant eaters, you will always be inconveniencing them.

It’s much easier to get up and go to the bathroom or walk around when you are in an aisle seat. Aisle seats are great for taller individuals because you can get more legroom by stretching into the aisle.

If you really want to find the best seats on any flight and/or plane, check out Seat Guru. Great tool!

3. Stretch & Walk Around

Long economy flights contribute to tense muscles due to your body being in a cramped position. It’s crucial that you get some blood circulating in your body. Here’s some simple exercises from PopSugar and Lavinia Magliocco you can do while on the plane.

4. Read

Knowledge is power! Take advantage of this time to develop a great habit. If you find yourself always watching TV or engrossed in social media during economy flights, take a break and just read for pure enjoyment.

This is where having a dedicated e-reader comes into play. Sure you can use an app on your phone or laptop. But having a dedicated e-reader makes reading more enjoyable and efficient.

For years, I use to pack a book and/or magazine only to see them destroyed by the time my trip was over. With an e-reader, you can have thousands of books in one small device. One of the best tools to use while stuck on a long flight!

I personally prefer the black & white e-readers because it’s easier on your eyes. Test some out and go with what you like.

Kindle ebook
Barnes & Noble’s Nook

5. Listen to Books/Podcasts

Since you have packed your headphones (see tip#1), you can just close your eyes and listen to books as well. The same information is going into your mind whether you’re reading the book or listening to the book.

Podcasts have taken the place of radio. There’s a podcast for everything! Use a music app such as iTunes to find a variety of podcasts that peaks your interest.

Personal development, comedy, history, cooking…. whatever you’re into, you’ll find a podcast for it!

6. Pack A Healthy Snack

You can’t always be sure what food substances will be provided during long economy flights. Make sure you’re not at the mercy of typical economy airplane food. You have no idea how long those sandwiches have been sitting around.

The majority of airplane food is filled with preservatives and other additives. Uncover better options by looking at TSA regulations to see what you can/can’t pack in your carry on.

Square bowl of kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries

7. Eat Wisely

When you forget to pack your lunch, you’re at the mercy of your traveling environment. When stuck on a plane, you need to make sure that the food options available will agree with your stomach.

If blessed with a decent in-flight meal, be cautious! Always think about how your stomach will feel after eating nuts, eggs, cheese, wine, beer, yogurt or sugary drinks for hours.

Take it from someone with experience. You’re on that plane for a long period of time so you don’t want to be known as Mr. Flushy Flush!

8. Listen to Music

While not reading a good book, relax and listen to your favorite tunes. Make sure they are all preloaded in your smart phone or IPod like digital music device

9. Drink Water To Stay Hydrated

Free soda and juice sounds awesome when flying economy class. Free wine, beer and spirits are even better when flying business and first class. But remember you should be about your health too!

Don’t forget to drink your water! The more you drink, the better.

(No need to bother a seatmate with going to the bathroom because you should be in an aisle seat remember?)

10. Get Some Sleep

Remember when we took naps in our pre-school/kindergarten years. There’s nothing wrong with getting some shuteye on long economy flights. Pop your earplugs or headphones in and get some Z’sss.

11. Play A Game

For convenience, you can have games on your smart phone. You just want to make sure you have access to an electrical outlet because you will be draining your battery pretty quickly.

Also remember, you can pack a puzzle book, cards or whatever as well. Not all games have to be electronic!

Pen writing on a notebook paper pad

12. Create and Work on Your Procrastination List

If you always wanted to do something but constantly find yourself with nothing to do, being stuck on a long flight is the perfect time to do it! If you claimed to be too busy to even put together a list, flying is the time to do it!

Just put together a list of EVERYTHING you would like to do to de-clutter and improve your life. Then while on that plane you can start working on bits and pieces of that list.

13. Save Old Business Class Gifts

If you have had the privilege of flying business class, you know that you will be given a free amenity kit. Inside the kit you will find items like, walk around socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, eye covers, lotions, Chap Stick, earplugs, comb, pens, etc.

When having multiple stops there’s a great chance you will be exposed to several of this gift bags on each flight. Instead of just tossing them to the side, keep them. Reuse the contents inside for your future trips when you will be stuck in the back of the plane.

These items will help you accomplish some of the tips in this article.

14. Watch TV/Movies

I put this last on the list because this is what most Americans spend their time doing when they are home. You should try to read and make your mind muscle grow before going the easy route and drowning in visual stimulation.

Flights over 3 hours long most likely will have some in-flight entertainment options. If not, you could always save some on your laptop and/or tablet device for easy viewing during the flight if no streaming is available.


Did I miss anything? What’s some of your favorite ways to survive long flights? Leave a comment below.

Categories: Business Trips

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