How to Save Money and Time on a Long Haul Flight

how to save time and money on a long haul flight

Joanne Poh



If getting on a flight at Changi Airport feels more like entering Changi Prison, you probably spend entire flights plotting revenge on the person in front of you for reclining his seat into your face.

Unless you’re taking a budget airline, a plane ride is actually the perfect chance to get free stuff you would otherwise be paying for elsewhere.

In addition, don’t let the fact that you’re stuck in one place for hours stop you from doing something productive. You’re not forced to cram eight movies into your flight, although technically that’s a freebie too.

Make the most of your time onboard by doing the following.

1. Ask for extra food

If you step off the plane starving and ready to race to the nearest tourist trap restaurant for a $30 sandwich, you’re doing it all wrong. No, in case you’re wondering, you can’t demand a whole other meal. But there’s lots that you can ask for, including the following:

  • snacks – packets of peanuts, chocolate bars, even ice cream or cup noodles depending on the airline
  • entire drink cans
  • bottles of water

It makes sense to save a bit of food for your travels, as you never know when you’ll need to nibble on something while you’re on the road.

2. Stock up on toiletries

If you had a sneaking suspicion you forgot something, you’re probably right, and it’s probably either your comb or your toothbrush. Take a trip to the airplane toilet and open one of the little drawers above or below the sink.

On most airlines, you’ll find toothbrushes with little sachets of toothpaste and plastic combs. One tube of toothpaste is only good for one or two brushes, so if you’ve forgotten to bring yours and it’s a weekend trip, you’ll need two or three to survive. The toothbrushes are spindly and will bend under pressure, but using them still beats using your finger.

3. Charge your devices

Not having your mobile phone with you when you land can be a real pain as you might have no way other than telepathy to communicate with the person who’s picking you up or your hotel.

Poke around your arm test and you’ll eventually find the plug point somewhere, or your neighbour will tell you where it is so you can stop moving around so much.

I always try to charge my laptop and mobile phone to maximum while I’m on the plane as it makes me feel a bit more prepared to make up for the mild panic of having done no planning for the trip.

4. Get some work done

Considering a person who sleeps 8 hours a night is awake only 16 hours each day, a 12 hour flight basically means you spend your entire day on the plane.

If you’re stressing out about being bombarded with piles of undone work when you get back to the office, it makes sense to get some work done on the plane instead of watching 5 blockbusters back to back or reading the in-flight magazine from cover to cover.

If you are self-employed or a freelancer, you don’t need me to tell you that any time you spend working while chained to your seat is time that’s freed up to do as you please or take on new projects when you’re out of there.

If you need information from the Internet to work, take screenshots of what you need beforehand, or download web pages using an app like Pocket. Rather tragically, without the Internet there’s a 99% chance you’ll be more efficient than you are at the office, even if you have to work in rollercoaster turbulence with an oxygen mask over your face.

5. Ask for free medical supplies

I have travelled with people who packed enough medicines to start their own clinic, and even someone with his own syringes (true story). If that sounds like you, you can disregard this tip.

If you’re not that paranoid, you might want to take advantage of the fact that you can ask for free band aids and basic medicines like Panadol on the plane, though you might want to feign illness first.

If you are looking to get away, make sure you’re able to travel with peace of mind with a good travel insurance plan. You can check out all the best plans available on MoneySmart’s new Travel Insurance Comparison Page now!

How do you survive long haul flights? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.