1 — Adjust your expectations. If you are used to being pampered in business class, recognize that in economy you won’t be. Making the best of what you have is the way to survive. Forget the “Do You Know Who I Am” attitude (DYKWIA) – it isn’t attractive even among premium passengers.
2 — At check-in, ask if there are any spare seats and, if so, whether you can move so that one of them is next to you – giving you more room to spread out.
3 — Build status with your airline and alliance of choice – this will increase your chance of an upgrade and provide you with lounge access before the flight.
4 — Invest in Priority Pass membership ($399 annual fee for unlimited visits) – lounge access is good for loading up on food and drink before boarding if you travel in economy often.
5 — You may enjoy ignoring fellow passengers in business class – after all, it’s all about space and privacy – but in economy, be polite to the person you are rubbing shoulders with for ten hours-plus. The occasional smile and remark will help make the enforced proximity a lot more bearable.
6 — Pay for an exit or bulkhead seat. On a long-haul flight the cost is worth it, particularly if you are tall.
7 — Seat choice is personal. If you don’t want to be disturbed and are confident about not wanting the bathroom on a regular basis, then window seats are for you. If you like getting up and stretching, then an aisle will be the better choice. Avoid middle seats at all costs.
8 — Be aware that some airlines cram in more seats than others – ten-across instead of nine-across on a 777, for instance, will be more claustrophobic. Do your homework on cabin layouts in advance.
9 — If you can, choose a carrier with new seating, which will be more ergonomically comfortable.
10 — Try to get on board early so you can find a place for your bags in an overhead bin that is reasonably close to your seat – ideally, directly overhead. It will lessen hassle when you need to get things out during the flight, and also help when it comes to deplaning.
11 — Dress in loose-fitting clothes – you’ll be sitting down for hours. Bear in mind that the temperature at your departure point is unlikely to be the temperature of your destination, but if the airline loses your checked bag, you’ll be wearing them for even longer.
12 — Wear layers. Cabin temperatures vary hugely, even during the course of a flight, so make sure you have ways of keeping warm or cooling off without a change of clothing – the airline will provide a blanket (probably), but it’s a good idea to have a pullover or hoodie to keep warm if necessary.
13 — Compression socks are important if you think you may suffer from DVT – and since you’ll want to kick your shoes off during the night, having a couple of pairs of old flight socks from business class (or just old socks) is a good idea to keep your feet cozy.
14 — Wear slip-on shoes – or, at least, not boots. They are a pain to lace and unlace at security, and the same applies on the flight if you want to take them on and off.
15 — Carry a small toiletry bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturizer, facial mist, lip balm, eye mask and maybe some eyedrops or saline nasal spray to help with dehydration.
16 — Take a pack of wet wipes for hands and surfaces. Tray tables can be sticky and some people like to lean forward and sleep on them.
17 — Invest in a good neck pillow – being able to sleep without nodding forwards or sideways is all-important.
18 — Take along some snacks of your own – it’s a nice treat and you can’t rely on all airlines to serve food you like.
19 — Consider upgrading your meal – some airlines offer the option to pre-order choices. Alternatively, buy something after security at the airport and bring it on board – although try to avoid anything smelly that might upset your neighbors.
20 — Bring your own ear plugs in case the airline doesn’t provide them, and also headphones – preferably noise-canceling – along with your own choice of music to help pass the time and block out sound while you are sleeping.
21 — Consider airlines that offer WiFi or good in-flight entertainment to while away the hours. Alternately pack a good book. If you can’t sleep, you’ll get the benefit of finally finishing that tome you’ve been meaning to. If you fall asleep reading it, then it did the trick.