Whoever said that getting there is half the fun must never have taken a long flight in the coach cabin! To keep costs down, some airlines have packed more seats on their airplanes and gotten rid of many of the little amenities that made air travel a bit more luxurious. International flights might be six hours, eight hours, or even more than twelve hours long. That’s a long time in cramped quarters!
Today, we’ll share our best tips to help make your long flight as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Dress for Comfort on Your Long Flight
Once upon a time, air travel was a formal event. Men would dress to the nines in suits, ties, and hats. Women would don dresses, gloves, heels, and hosiery. Nowadays, formal wear has given way to casual wear, and you’re likely to see more sweatsuits than business suits on your next long flight!
When you choose your travel outfit, think about what’s going to be comfortable to sit in for many hours. Your favorite jeans might be your daily uniform, but after a few hours in an airplane seat, is that waistband going to start digging in? Soft, stretchy clothes like yoga pants or sweats will keep you at ease in your seat.
It’s wise to dress in layers, with a sweater, hoodie, or light jacket that you can easily put on or take off. Planes are often quite cold… but sometimes they’re too hot, so make sure you’ve got a tank or T-shirt on in case you need to strip down!
Don’t forget to dress your feet for comfort, too! Wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on, since you’ll need to remove them at airport security. If you’re like many of us, you’ll probably want to take your shoes off during your flight, too. A nice pair of socks is a must — they’ll keep your feet warm during the flight, and protect your feet during the trudge through security.
Pick the Right Seat for You
Staying comfortable on your flight starts when you book your tickets! If you have the opportunity to select your seat, choose the seat that will be most comfortable for you.
- Long legs? You’ll get the most legroom in a bulkhead seat, or in one of the exit rows. If you can’t score one of those, opt for an aisle seat. You might be able to sneak your legs out into the aisle… but not during dinner service, please!
- Sensitive to smells? Try to get a seat in the middle of the plane, away from the restrooms and galley kitchen.
- Hoping to stretch out? Every coach flyer hopes to have an empty seat next to them… or even better, a whole row to themselves! If your flight is getting full, increase your chances of having an empty seat next to you by choosing a window or aisle seat in a row that has the center seat empty. Travelers tend to avoid the center seat if they can, so who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and the seat will remain unbooked.
- Introverted? If you dread talking to a nosy seatmate more than anything else, choose a window seat. You’ll only have one seatmate to deal with, and you can always turn to look out the window and daydream.
Get the Gear to Get Some Zzzzs
The best way to spend a long flight is ASLEEP! Getting some sleep on the plane will allow you to arrive at your destination energetic, ready to start enjoying your trip right away. But sleeping sitting up, surrounded by strangers, is easier said than done!
Consider packing some gear to help you sleep on the flight. Many travelers like to bring inflatable neck pillows. You might also want to pack an eye mask to block out the light of the cabin, or soft ear plugs to muffle the noise of the engine. Some travelers even like to bring a medicinal sleeping aid, like melatonin, Benadryl, or other sleep-inducing medications. If you do opt for a sleeping aid, make sure you’ll have enough time to sleep off the medicine before you land. Observe all dosing instructions, and don’t mix your sleep medicine with alcohol!
Tune Out Noise and Tune In Entertainment
Long flights can be boring as well as uncomfortable. Luckily, these days, you’ve got lots of entertainment options other than the in-flight movie. You can easily stock your phone or tablet with books, movies, and podcasts. If you are a nervous flyer, you might even want to consider downloading self-hypnosis or meditation tracks to help you relax. There are also special recordings you can download to help you fall asleep and enjoy a refreshing nap.
Just make sure you don’t forget your headphones or earbuds! The ultimate option is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. These will block out all the ambient noise while also providing a great audio experience. Even a regular pair of over-the-ear headphones will cut down on the outside noise. But if you are tight for space in your carry-on bag, earbuds will do in a pinch.
Stay Active in the Air
We all know that sitting for long periods isn’t good for us, but on a long flight, it could be extra dangerous! The combination of sitting still and the low air pressure in the cabin can put some travelers at risk of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clotting condition. The best way of avoiding DVT – or just the normal aches and cramps from sitting too long – is to stay active while in flight.
One option is to try to get up and walk around the cabin every so often. You can also exercise right in your seat! There are lots of ways to stretch and tone on a long flight, from airplane yoga to strength training exercises.
Eat Right, Drink Smart
We’ll get right to it: we’re big believers in bringing your own snacks when you fly. Long flights usually offer meal service, but having your own snacks will mean you can eat on your own schedule, whenever your tummy may rumble! It’s not wise to stuff yourself with heavy meals or too many sweet, greasy, or salty snacks. You do NOT want an upset stomach in the air!
One of the biggest reasons you may feel rough at the end of a long flight is dehydration. The cabin air is extremely dry, so make sure to compensate by drinking water. Coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas can all contribute to dehydration, even while they quench your thirst! It’s also wise to be careful with alcohol while you fly. Too much alcohol will dehydrate you, disrupt your sleep, and potentially ruin the first day of your trip with a hangover!
Don’t forget to stock your bag with the little items that will help you be more comfortable on the flight, and to use to freshen up before you land. We recommend bringing items like:
- Lip balm
- Hand lotion (and maybe even face cream, if you have dry skin)
- Hand sanitizer or cleaning wipes
- Toothpaste and toothbrush, mouthwash, or breath mints
- Hair brush