Essentials for surviving a long haul flight in economy class

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Water

Here’s a little known fact about airlines, the cabin air is kept at extremely low humidity in order to prevent any corrosion to the aircraft. While this is great for the structural integrity of the plane, guess who its not so great for – you.

Dry skin, dizziness, irritability and of course headaches are all things that most seasoned flyers have experienced at least once on a long haul flight. They also happen to be, you guessed it – symptoms of dehydration.

The general guideline set by the Aerospace Medical Association is 8oz or 236ml per HOUR. If you are on a 10 hour flight this means drinking over 2 litres of water. You think you are getting 2 litres of water from those tiny plastic cups that the airhost/esses bring round after a meal – me neither.

Sure the tightened airport security means that its impossible to bring water through but do yourself a favour and buy a bottle of water after security or better yet bring along an empty water bottle and fill it up after the checkpoint – after all we’ve got a planet to look after.

Aisle seat

It’s the age old debate between aisle and window seat and there are fierce advocates for both. Your preference will obviously be up to you but I personally prefer the aisle for a number of reasons. All this water that you are drinking (you are drinking water right) needs to go somewhere and I find it easier to be able to hop to the restroom whenever I want without having to step over or disturb the other passengers.

I also like to take the occasional walk down to the back of the plane to stretch my legs which helps with feeling cramped on long haul flights. Last the aisle seat also gives you easy access to the overhead compartments should you need to get something out midflight.

Earplugs

The engines on a Boeing can generate up to 66 000lb of thrust, but that’s not all they generate. A jet engine is absolutely deafening and can reach up to 140db. To put that into perspective, standing next to a rave speaker going at absolute maximum volume would by around 100db.

Even with the increased cabin in insulation over the years and the development of quieter engines, the noise is still enough to drive anyone crazy on a long haul flight. My first line of defense is a good pair of earplugs which drown out a fair amount of the engine noise as well as the inevitable baby crying. However earplugs alone will not suffice in bringing zen to economy class, which brings me onto my secret weapon.

Bose QC 35 over ear headphones

Okay these are not exactly a secret but Bose do have, IMHO, the best noise cancelling tech when it comes to reducing the noise of jet engines. They have active noise cancellation which means that they actually monitor the sound waves around you and generate the exact wave needed to cancel out the noise. Now this cancels out some things better than others, repetitive noises – like jet engines – are greatly reduced. However other things like voices or announcements are not handled quite so well by the active noise cancelling (which may actually be a good thing if you are worried about missing an announcement). But besides the impressive active noise cancellation they also have pretty good passive noise cancellation thanks to their large over ear cups.

Now they do require batteries, but they are really juice sipping. I got through two long haul flights without having to change the single AAA that powers them. The case also includes space to hold a spare in case you do run out of charge halfway through a flight. Even with no battery though they are able to still play music which is great.

If you can’t tell by now, I really like these headphones. But really choose whichever ones tickle your fancy and fit your budget, over ear is nice because it allows me to wear earplugs and headphones at the same time. But headphones are nothing without tunes, which brings me onto the last item in my tri-fector of noise busting arsenal.

Classical tunes

Yep, get some relaxing tunes that you can listen to for hours without getting sick of. At the moment I am listening to a combination of classical music and in game music (specifically the To the Moon and Finding Paradise soundtracks).

“But wait,” I hear you say, “you are wearing earplugs, how can you be listening to music?”. Well that’s really the key, its all about signal to noise ratio. Yes the earplugs cancel a bit of the headphone music but just increase the volume a bit and you are good to go.

Now lets review this potent combination shall we? Any ambient noise needs to make it past the active noise cancelling and passive noise cancelling of the headphones, it then needs to compete with some classical music as well as finally get past the earplugs. Together this combination almost completely eradicates all the engine noise which makes for a much more peaceful flight and even lets me catch some half decent sleep.

USB cable

Many modern(ish) planes have finally cottoned on to the fact that passengers want a way to recharge their devices during the flight and have started to install USB ports in the inflight entertainment console. So make sure that you bring along a long enough USB cable so that you can keep your devices topped up. This is especially useful if you are going to be listening to music or watching Netflix on your phone. These days your phone is your lifeline, want to call a cab – Uber, Online checkin – just scan your phone, taking pictures – phone, telling loved ones you’ve arrive safely – phone. You get the point, keep your phone charged.

I carry around two USB cables with me. One is a long 3m USB C cable that I have found extremely useful not just on the plane but also at my destination. Many times the only plug is across the room from the bed and having a long USB cable gives me a bit of flexibility.

The other charging cable that I always carry with my is a great little 3 in 1 (USB C, Micro USB and Lightning) charging cable that I picked up off Amazon. It’s designed to be carried on a keyring and goes pretty much unnoticed until I need it which is the sign of good design.

Modern laptops also allow you to charge via USB, however the power that is provided from these entertainment systems is a trickle at best so don’t expect to be charging a laptop quickly. If you think that you will need to charge your laptop on the go I would bring along a powerbank.

Battery Pack

If you think that you may run out of power or are not sure if there will be a USB port on the plane then investing in a battery pack is a good idea. These days they can be bought practically anywhere and are great, not just for on the plane but also if you are going to be wandering around all day sight seeing. This is one of the most essential gadgets that gets brought along on all my trips.

Bonus points if you get a battery pack with two USB ports so you can helps someone out as well.

Neck Pillow

I don’t know about you but I have never been able to sleep sitting upright. I’ve tried out a number of neck pillows that all promise a great nights sleep but have yet to find anything that lives up to even half of its claim.

In the end I moved back to a simple inflatable neck pillow which packs away into almost nothing when I am not using it and allows me to get a bit of sleep on long flights so I don’t arrive totally wrecked.

Eye mask

An eye mask is a must if you are going to be flying during the day and want to get some sleep. I dislike the pressure the normal eye masks on my eye lids and didn’t use one until I discovered this baby.

Besides looking like a tiny bra, the molded form really does stop any of the fabric from touch your eyelids and has given me hours of sleep that would otherwise not have been possible. I recently left my first one on the plane and as soon as I landed ordered another one.

There is still a little bit of light leakage around my nose, but it blocks out 95% of the light. I have yet to find a mask that blocks out all the light and am beginning to think I must have an unusually shaped face.

Besides the small amount of light leakage, I honestly cannot speak highly enough of its design and don’t know why all eye masks aren’t made like this,

Laptop/iPad/Mobile

Inflight entertainment systems are actually pretty good now a days with a decent selection of movies. But one flight just after take off, I heard the dreaded, “We are experiencing an issue with our inflight entertainment systems and will be restarting them” over the PA system. Needless to say this did not resolve it and I spent most of the flight relistening to old podcasts on my phone. Since then I always make sure that I have at least a couple of movies downloaded from Netflix in case this happens again.

Besides entertainment; being on a plane, isolated from the outside world can actually be a really good time to get some work down. I like to bring along my small laptop (GPD Pocket 2) and work on some personal projects during the flight. Just make sure that you have a battery bank and charging cable if you think that you will be using it a lot.

Audiobooks/Podcasts

On late night flights I often find myself drifting somewhere between awake and asleep. The dry air makes my eyes tired but it takes me a while to drift off thanks to the extremely spacious and comfortable economy class seats /s. Podcasts are great for this, you can close your eyes and listen to something while you drift off to sleep. I always make sure that I have at least a few interesting podcasts loaded onto my phone before I leave on a trip.

BONUS Tip: If you are travelling a partner/friend, invest in a headphone splitter so you can both listen at the same time.

Headache tablets

Dehydration, lack of sleep and the baby in 34D that keeps crying is a great combination for a headache. Think ahead and bring some headache tablets along with you just in case.

Wet wipes

Lack of sleep and not showering can make you feel like death. I keep a small pack of wet wipes handy to clean my face and feel slightly less like death. What more needs to be said.

Toiletries

Toothbrush/Toothpaste – Just because you are on a plane doesn’t mean you should neglect your hygiene. The person sitting next to you will thank you.

Moisturiser – The air in a plane is super dry which can wreck havoc on your skin. Bringing along a good moisuriser can protect it and stop breakouts from occurring.

OPTIONAL

So there you have the essentials that I will always carry with me on long flights, below are a few other items that I sometimes carry with me depending on space and how I am feeling.

Snacks

Airlines give you meals but they are not exactly gourmet and if you think that you will still be hungry and need to keep that blood sugar up then it can be a good idea to carry some snacks with you.

Chewy sweets

Nothing ruins a flight like having blocked ears, taking along some chewy sweets or chewing gum can help keep your ears unblocked. You are also going to be sitting in very close proximity to strangers for hours so having minty breath doesn’t hurt either.

Sweatpants

You wouldn’t sleep at home in your clothes, so why would you do it on an airplane? Bringing along some comfortable clothes can help make you feel more relaxed.