How Painful Is It to Fly in Economy to Australia?

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The thought of flying from North America to Australia can be overwhelming–and for good reason. Spending 21 hours in the air and adjusting to a 14-hour time difference is not easy! On the blog I shared tips for surviving a long-haul flight. And now our family has just put them to the test on our longest ever trip. Did we follow our own advice? See how we fared, as we answer the question, “How painful is it to fly in Economy to Australia?”

Close-up photo of the face of a soft, fuzzy koala bear in Australia.
Start with the destination in mind: Is it worth a bit of discomfort to see Australia’s amazing wildlife?

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We have done it! We just survived the journey from Washington, D.C. to Sydney, Australia.

Here is how our experience stacked up agains the tips we shared:

1. Start with the destination in mind

Score: 8 out of 10. We were all pretty darn excited and made a real effort to remember what would be awaiting us at the end of our long journey.

Travel with the end in mind. It's a lot less painful to endure a long flight when you are excited about what awaits you when you reach your destination.
Sydney’s iconic Opera House was on our must-see list.

2. Build in a break

Score: 9 out of 10. We planned a 13-hour layover in San Francisco to break up the trip and allow us to spend some time in the city. The boys LOVED our day in the Golden Gate City. Our 11:00 p.m. departure time from SFO to SYD turned out to be a bit late (especially since our East Coast bodies thought it was 2:00 a.m. and our flight was delayed an hour).

How painful is it to fly in Economy to Australia? We made it less painful with a long layover in San Francisco. Here, the Trip Takes Us crew visits Fisherman's Wharf
Stretching our legs at Fisherman’s Wharf

3. Snacks and showers

Score: 9 out of 10. When we arrived back at SFO for our Sydney flight, we stopped by Freshen Up to shower and change into comfy clothes. This felt great after touring all day. It also helped us mentally transition into bedtime mode.

With still some time to kill before our flight, we used our two passes to the United Club to relax before the flight. We purchased a third pass for $59, but there will ultimately be no cost to us, as that fee will be credited (the Hilton Honors Aspire Card refunds up to $250 per year in incidental fees on your designated airline.)

We could also have used the KLM/Air France lounge through our Priority Pass, but its location was not convenient to our gate.

Access to airport lounges (for example, through a Priority Pass membership) makes it much less painful to fly in economy.
Lounge access is a nice perk!

4. Compression socks

10 out of 10. Since I started wearing compression socks on all my flights, I no longer have any ankle swelling. Also, I love the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are helping with circulation during long flights. The socks were a success!

How painful is it to fly in economy to Australia? Swollen ankles can make it quite uncomfortable for days, so be sure to wear compression socks on all your long-haul flights.
Comfy and effective! I’m a convert!

5 . Sleeping discipline 

Score 5 out of 10. I don’t know about you, but I find that my body can’t even adjust to daylight savings time anymore (what the heck is up with THAT?). So, I was a bit nervous to see how I would handle a 14-hour time change. I was hoping to start off on the right foot by getting some good sleep on the plane, courtesy of some ear plugs, comfy clothes, an eye mask, and melatonin.

In the end, we all took our melatonin, used our ear plugs, and wore comfy clothes, but we still didn’t sleep well. I had packed masks, which I couldn’t locate in my backpack at bedtime. Also, the boys seemed to have difficulty finding a position where they wouldn’t constantly be waking themselves up with a start each time their head fell. Neck pillows would have been a good idea.

6. Face mask

Score: 10 out of 10. After showering and removing my make-up, I tried the Jet Lag Mask by Summer Fridays. It went on like a thick moisturizer and kept my skin feeling hydrated and great throughout the flight. I love this product.

A long flight can dry your skin considerably. Try Summer Friday's jet lag mask on your flight to Australia. It goes on like a thick moisturizer and will leave your skin feeling great.
This rich, creamy mask can be used as an intense moisturizer in the dry plane cabin.

7. Food and water

Score: 7 out of 10. We brought water and a ton of snacks on board. This was a very smart move, as the meals served during the flight were terrible—the worst I can remember. We had plenty of our own food, but could have earned higher marks with more healthy options.

How painful is it to fly in economy to Australia? Airplane food can leave something to be desired. So, if you know you are going to be in the air for a long time, have plenty of snacks on hand.
Emergency chocolate is a thing! It can magically stop the happiness guillotine from crashing down.

8. Movement

Score 8 out of 10. We all did a great job getting up and moving around about once a hour. We did not, however, do many foot/ankle exercises in our seats.

9. Entertainment

Score: 8 out of 10. I had saved up a bunch of podcasts but found that the time went much more quickly when I watched movies instead.

We found movies helped the time pass much more quickly than did listening to podcasts.
Am I the only one who LOVES these maps?

The Verdict

Overall, we scored an 8. By and large, we did what we were supposed to do. Following our own advice made the trip much less difficult than we were anticipating.

How painful is it to fly in Economy to Australia? Honestly, it wasn’t bad and was much easier than I was expecting. If I had had enough points to book business class, I certainly would have. Instead, I paid $102.30 (and redeemed 120,000 Chase Ultimate rewards points) to fly three people to Australia. Not too shabby!

Was 21 hours in the air worth it? Absolutely! Waiting for me at the end of the flight was not only a new country to explore, but also a dear friend.

How painful is it to fly in economy to Australia? Not at all when one of your dearest friends awaits you there!
Friends for 26 years and counting.

We’ll be posting a lot of content about our Australia trip when we are back.

In the meantime, we are keeping our Instagram updated with lots of great pictures. So please follow along there!