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First Time to Australia: How to Survive the 14-Hour Flight in Economy Class

Where: Australia
January 7, 2014 at 11:52 AM | by | ()

Australia is one of those destinations that can take a little more planning and a little more money to make happen, but it's worth it the moment you set foot on Aussie soil. All this week we'll be sharing our best tips for taking that leap for a first-time trip Down Under.

14 hours, 20 minutes is the average flight time for a nonstop between Los Angeles or San Francisco and Sydney. By the time you're onboard, all the stressful packing is behind you, you've already applied for the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) a while ago, and it's time to fully focus on adventures ahead.

Still, the long distance over the Pacific between continents is a destination all its own. If you're flying in Economy Class, it's a challenge to get comfortable for even a moment, let alone enjoy the flight, but these tips will definitely help:

· Stow all carry-ons in the overhead bin
To make the most of the little space allotted you, resist the urge to keep your carry-on under the seat in front of you. We recommend stuffing a zip case with the necessities, your wallet and passport, and keeping that hooked onto the seat in front of you. Throw all bags in the overhead. Really. Otherwise you'll find there's pretty much nowhere to slide and stretch your feet when it comes time to attempt a nap.

· Resist the urge to watch the moving map channel
Flip channels on your seatback screen to watch the live camera (if available), but don't linger too long on the moving map. The hours tick away so slowly, and that "time to destination" reading is only a reminder that you've paid four digits to sit upright, in awkwardly minimal personal space, for what amounts to more than half a whole day.

· Guard your pillow and blanket
It's every man for him/herself onboard a long flight to Australia, as we found out for ourselves. After returning to our window seat from a walk to the lavatory early on in the flight, we discovered that our blanket had been swiped! No sign of that thing anywhere, and with more than 10 hours of flight time yet to go. A request for another one was met with a frown from a flight attendant (even though we explained it had...disappeared), and a good hour-long wait until another blanket miraculously could be located. Learn from our mistakes and guard those little pieces of comfort.

· Take your time with the in-flight meals
When you consider the flight length, doing everything at a leisurely pace is to your advantage. In-flight meals may feel rushed on most other routes, but there's no reason to hurry up on a 14-hour nonstop. We recommend eating the salad and entree when it's served, but then remove the dessert and coffee cup from the tray so you can enjoy later on, such as during another movie. This is even more important for those stuck in window seats, who may have two sleeping passengers blocking the way to the aisle and, thus, the snack bar.

· Visit the snack bar
Should you be flying on an A380, take advantage of every nicety that newer, double-decker airplane affords. In the case of Qantas, there's a small snack area stocked with complimentary nibbles. Offerings on our flights included Anzac biscuits, oatmeal cookies, non-alcoholic beverages, and tiny nutty granola bar things. You can easily while away an hour hanging out back there, snacking and socializing.

· Know your aircraft type
Don't book that ticket without comparing aircraft types! This doesn't necessarily mean choosing between different airlines, since some operate different aircraft on the same route, just at different times of the day. For example, we specifically chose Qantas' A380 departure from LAX over the 747 because of the improved personal space, guarantee of new seats and new in-flight entertainment (plus USB ports!), and the aforementioned snack bar. To quickly check each aircraft's amenities, search RouteHappy and they'll have all the details, plus a general happiness rating for each flight.

Please share your own tips with our readers by leaving a comment below, and happy travels!

[Photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

One more important advice

My flight took 24 hours .
Lucky for me plane was 1/3 full so I had 3 seats to myself (could sleep stretched out)
This advice might save your life :

- drink plenty of water ( bring your own bottles )
- whenever you have a chance go for a walk ( it helps when you have isle seat )
- take Aspirin every 3-4 hours ( consult your doctor first if you can )

All this could help you from getting a blood clot in legs during flight.

Other things that might help you kill time are :

- bring tablet ,laptop etc for watching movies ,listening to music ,playing games but also surfing the web ,e-mailing and texting.
- bring your own food ( sandwiches ,snacks etc. )
- Learn " How to speak Australian " ;)

Movies and wine

I flew LAX-SYD back in 2007 and nearly seven years on, I don't remember much of those 14 hours. Thank god! But I did like how they kept feeding us. I felt like there were at least 3 food services. Anyways, I would use this flight to watch long movies you've been putting off--anything over two hours. And enjoy some wine.

Stay Fresh

I used to fly from the U.S. to Japan frequently and I found the following tips to make the journey much more pleasant:

- Take your toothbrush and toothpaste on board and brush up every couple of hours.

- Take a pair of comfortable slippers and change into them immediately after boarding.

- Take your favorite soap or a mildly scented astringent and clean up periodically.

Read a book

reading a good book, or any book for that matter, won't give you a sense of time passing unlike a movie (movie ends, you know it's been 1:45 later).

If you're weird...

The moving map is my best friend on 10+ hour flights, but I'm not normal. I hate the window seat on these flights. As much as I love to stare outside having to crawl over awkwarly positioned sleeping neighbors every couple of hours is the most annoying thing ever. But then there's no wall to lean on when you want to sleep...so there's that. I think it's also a great idea to pack a small amenity kit to keep with you after you tuck away your carryons overhead. I stuff an obusforme inflatable pillow, quality eyemask and travel sized must-haves like toothbrush/paste, etc. It's nice to just have most of those things ready to go and not having to get up, take out and dig through your bags. You'll still likely want to get up to brush your teeth though.

27 hours start to finish

From our hometown to Cairns takes 27 hours. We've been fortunate enough to fly business class on our previous trips but since we retired we're running out of airline miles that we stockpiled while working. Thanks for the article about what we're have to look forward to.

billow and blanket

thanks for informations


I'm sorry .... travelling cattle-class on QANTAS A380 is simply horrible!!! Not that it's a whole lot worse than cattle-class on any other airline of course but QANTAS is my most recent experience. If you want to simulate the trip, position a recliner chair right behind another and recline them both back about 45 degrees, then push them so close to each other that your knees actually dig into the back of the chair in front. Strap a small tablet computer to the back of the front recliner so it winds up about 1/4 arms length in front of your face. Invite about 20 people to use your toilet for the day, then sit in the rear recliner for 14 hours. About half way through this ordeal, use the tablet computer to check out Premium Economy on QANTAS, Air New Zealand and a few others .... if you book at the right time, it's not completely out of the question and you'll enjoy the flight well enough to come visit us again some time.