Long haul holidays – Tips on surviving the flight (and being a good air passenger too)

I’m lucky to have been on many long haul holidays, but boy do I dislike long haul travel these days.

long haul holidays

Terrible conduct, unruly kids, drunkards, un-thoughtfulness and arrogance – I’ve seen it all.

Believe me, if I could have been tele transported – I would have chosen that option over long haul economy air travel many times.

It’s true there’s little romance in air travel these days, and forget the 5 mile high club. Man, those toilets are titchy. (Gawd – did you? Could you? Ever?)

Long haul economy class air travel is like being stuck in a metal tube with a whole bunch of aliens, in cattle class. Flying can bring out the worst in people, and okay, sometimes the best too, but mostly it’s cattle class and you’re potentially with some rather badly behaved cows.

Getting to the other side of the world as fast as possible for  long haul holidays is the only reason I choose to be cheek to jowel sitting next to someone I’ve probably never met before in my life, who might end up lolling and dribbling on my shoulder to boot.

So you don’t have to take my word for it, but I promise you their (bad) habits at will be magnified, and can be remarkably upsetting when you know you’ve got 11 or so hours to put up with them.

Perhaps flying used to be a luxury experience, and maybe if you’re one of the privileged few who have money to burn in order sit in one of those little pods with a seat which almost totally reclines with your own office area to boot, and you’re offered champagne and blinis, then maybe it still is a luxury experience.

But if you’re not in the pointy end of the plane then air travel is a means only to get you from A to B as fast and painlessly as you possibly can.

So how can you be a good air passenger, and not upset your fellow flyers or the crew?

Long haul holidays. 17 tips to help you survive long haul travel.

You might also like : Travel advice from a savvy ex flight attendant

Long Haul Holidays – Air travel etiquette

Here’s what I’ve learnt from my various long haul travels.

  1. The plane isn’t your living room. So don’t treat it as if it is. Taking your shoes off to wander around is not recommended, and if you have smelly feet don’t take your shoes off and put them anywhere near the passenger sitting next to you. Don’t stick your bare feet into the corridor or put them up on the arm rest of the person sitting in front of you.
  2. Wear the socks you’re given in the inflight vanity pack if provided, or take a spare pare with you in your hand luggage.
  3. If you have to burp and fart. Do it silently. Silent but deadly is preferable to loud and haranguing. Preferably hold your farts for the loo. Everyone suffers from gas on a plane.
  4. Don’t remove outer garments which will display more flesh than necessary. Especially do not remove your trousers and lounge around in your underpants boys, oh and heaving cleavages, or worse spaghetti strap tops on anyone older than a child girls, is just not nice on a plane. Think about it – Just Not Nice to be rubbing against someone else’s sticky, flabby flesh for 11 hours or so.
  5. Store your hand luggage neatly and compactly in the overhead locker, and leave it open for other people to put theirs in too. Don’t assume the overhead locker above your seat is reserved especially just for you. People on long haul holidays always bring way to much hand-luggage with them, so be prepared to compromise.
  6. When storing your hand luggage in the overhead locker don’t make a meal of it and hold up the passengers waiting to get past you to their seats. Duck into your seat and wait for a gap in the passing parade, or run the risk of being one of the reasons the plane is late to take off.
  7. Don’t recline your seat as soon as the plane takes off. Have the decency to wait until the first meal has been served.
  8. Do not let your children play with the tray table, or constantly empty the seat pocket, or kick the seat in front of them. You might think it’s nothing, or that it’s better they’re occupied doing this than screaming their heads off, but the person in front of will feel as if they are being constantly knee’d in the back.
  9. Do say hello to the person sitting next to you and strike up a little bit of conversation before the plane takes off. After that it’s completely acceptable to put your headphones on and ignore them for the rest of the journey.
  10. I’m pretty sure that we’ve all taken notes of the healthy living tips for plane travel and know that keeping our limbs moving, and our circulation going on a long haul flight is very necessary. But how to do it? The flight attendants will not beam in a kindly way at you if you block the gangway or the galley doing your downward dogs. Best to do your yoga poses when all is quiet, in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping and perhaps the galley offers a little bit of unhurried space. Other than that do your neck rolls, ankle bends and knee lifts sitting at your seat, and be careful not to bump the passenger sitting next to you.
  11. If you’ve been handed menus at the beginning of the flight, don’t wait for the jaded flight attendant to ask: “Chicken or beef, Madam?” Have the humility to understand you are one of over 300 people and you could just say, “I’d like the chicken curry please,” rather than wait to be asked.
  12. Don’t get on the flight with a humungous amount of hand luggage, unless you are a single mother with toddlers in tow. It looks bad, and it makes everyone else wonder if the plane will come down due to your excesses. Plus it makes everyone else feel embittered – and mutter, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” (After all the kitchen sink was begging to be asked to travel to Timbuktu.)
  13. It’s only fair that those who choose window seats should have strong and stable bladders.
  14. Selecting an aisle seat does not mean that you can stick your feet out into the aisle for everyone to trip over.
  15. If the plane hits turbulence try to look confident and unperturbed. There’s nothing worse than looking around the cabin to see people twitching, or gazing out at the wing to check the rivets, or looking out of the window for smoke, or staring intently at the flight attendants for signs of agitation. Yes, I am guilty of all these fails.
  16. Don’t hog the toilet. Your teeth and your beauty routine are not as important as the urgency others are feeling to pee.
  17. Oh, and do leave the toilet and sink clean. Give the hand basin a wipe with a tissue (normally stated clearly in the loo), and don’t leave your suds and toothpaste waste in the sink because you can’t be bothered to figure how to clean up after yourself. So don’t be a teenager will you?

Looking for more tips? You might like this post by well known travel blogger Aleney at Boy Eats World.

I’d love to know what tips you might have for long haul holiday travel.


  1. I really enjoyed your post Jo, and as one who is about to take a long haul flight I think I might be taking notes as to what people do. Luckily, according to our seat allocation, we won’t have to a) climb over people to go to the loo – do you do a front towards them move, or your bum? either is awkward. and b) won’t have to rub shoulders with someone we don’t know…. especially when the lights go out…. and we are trying to sleep. What I want to know Jo is how to go to sleep? Any tips on that?

    • Hi Jill, oh how exciting. Where are you going? Hahaha, yes going to the loo if you’re on the inside is tricky. You have to hope your neighbour is kind enough to get up 😉 Going to sleep – ahhh, not so difficult when you are a) bored b) your eyes won’t stay open because they’re dry from watching too many movies and c) I have a sneaky suspicion they put something sleep inducing through the a/c system – joking! But it’s a thought, because I always sleep a few hours when the lights go out.

  2. Take one of those peanut shaped neck pillows! Essential for a comfy snooze.

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