If there’s anything guaranteed to make you wish you were shorter, thinner and immune to aching muscles, it’s trying to get comfortable on a long plane ride. But while checking a segment of your spine with the baggage isn’t an option, other tips for long flights do work. Here’s how experienced travelers survive in comfort, even in economy class:
Choose the best seat
If you’re the type who can usually fall asleep in the air, opt for a window seat near the front. That way your seatmates won’t need you to get up each time they stretch their legs or visit the restroom. When sleep’s not likely, choose an aisle seat so you can fully extend at least one leg any time the crew isn’t pushing carts. Yes, it does seem optimistic to imagine you’d get your ideal seat, especially if you’re flying economy class. But you can increase your odds of the seat that will help you survive a long-haul flight by studying the seating chart before you choose an assigned seat. Also, if the seat you want isn’t available by the time you book, make sure to sign up for a seating app like ExpertFlyer, which is free. You can create an alert and it will notify you as soon as a better seat on your flight opens up. Then, you can grab it. Don’t skip selecting a seat during booking with the idea your flight will be so empty you’ll be able to stretch out. Airlines have gotten far more sophisticated about booking flights to near-capacity.
Wear comfy clothes
You’d think this long haul flight tip would go without saying, but even if you’re jetting off to be married at a destination wedding, don’t worry about how you look. So wear the most comfortable clothing you own. Opt for elasticized waistbands on your pants (or should we say sweatpants?), for example. Also avoid collars and cuffs that bind or have buttons, scratchy fabrics, and any accessories you’re wearing just for looks, like belts and scarves. While you might feel a little conspicuous in your workout clothing while you’re in the airport lounge, once you’re an hour into the flight you’ll be congratulating yourself for a smart decision.
Don’t put carry-ons at your feet
When you’re planning how to survive a long flight in economy class, you probably don’t want to erase your savings by checking too many bags. But don’t lower your comfort level by setting carry-ons in the space in front of your feet, either. Instead, pack everything you want to carry on in a single bag that will fit in the overhead compartment. Make sure it meets any airline restrictions on size and weight. Also, bring a very small bag that will fit in the magazine pouch in front of you and pack it with absolute essentials. It should only be large enough to hold a single-packet pain reliever, lip balm, reading glasses and your handheld device. Carry a paperback separately if you’d like to read. Just don’t sacrifice legroom for the sake of bringing more stuff in the cabin. You’ll regret that pretty quickly, even if you don’t have long legs.
Bring a make-up remover towelette
Those who leave on a long flight right from a celebration or a business meeting won’t be comfortable wearing makeup on the journey. Be sure to pack a single-use packet of makeup remover so you can get all that gunk off your face and relax. If you know you’ll have a window seat, make sure to use this towelette after boarding but before getting seated and buckling up.
Don’t drink much alcohol
It’s a myth that alcohol helps you sleep, on the plane or anywhere else. Instead, as a diuretic, it will make you wake up long before you’d like and force you to visit the lavatory. If you’re trying to get comfortable on a long haul flight, alcohol consumption will only make you have to repeat the whole process several times. In addition, low air pressure in the cabin can thin your blood and make booze hit you a little harder. That’s not good when you’re trying to stay upbeat and energized for more than a few hours. Being drunk will make you woozy and it’s not like you can head for a bed to sleep it off while you’re in the air.
Keep your eyes moist
Plane air dries out your eyes and that can be plainly uncomfortable. Make sure to pack some eye drops in your carry-on bag and use them frequently.
Pack a few healthy snacks
While you’ll need to be aware of the TSA liquid limits on flights, it’s usually pretty simple to work within them to provide yourself with a few delicious snacks for the trip. Pack at least a little protein, like a package of string cheese. Consider a treat like a square of luxury dark chocolate or dried cherries. The goal is to keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid hunger pangs without packing so much food the leftovers become a burden. And if a meal will be served during your long haul flight, see if you can’t arrange for yours to be vegetarian. Even if you’re a meat eater, this is your best chance at receiving fresh or dried fruit, whole wheat wafers and maybe a bit of cheese, instead of a tasteless entree or salty sandwich. Just make sure you don’t pack anything that could offend your seatmates’ nostrils, like garlic bread or greasy fries. The same philosophy applies to all the tips for getting comfortable on a long flight, even in economy class. Make every effort to get maximum space, the best food, and the best service, but not at the expense of your fellow passengers.