Whether it’s a quick flight across the state or a string of flights around the world, comfort can make or break your travel experience.
For those of us who aren’t flying first-class—gasp—here are a few insightful tips for the best ways to make economy seating comfortable.
1.) Plan ahead to know your options and snag your preferred seat(s).
Accommodating for comfort begins with the purchase of your flight. For those whose travel is not within the upcoming weeks: take the opportunity to research not only prices and schedules of flights but to also get familiar with the airlines’ seating and in-flight options.
Most flight arrangements and purchases are available online, and many airlines offer the option of choosing your seat from whichever seats are available. Therefore, the earlier you purchase your seat, the more seats you have to choose from.
Do you like the window? If you’re flying solo, the window provides the best surface to lean on for sleeping. Or maybe you want the coveted aisle seat for extra leg room and easy access to the restroom. How close do you want to be to the restroom? These are all questions to ask yourself when choosing your seat.
If you’re looking to fly across the country, for example, the flights will vary in price according to the time of day for departure and number of flights in-between your location and your destination. Consider comfort in addition to your wallet. Maybe you don’t mind flying out at 6:00 a.m. Maybe you prefer a non-stop flight—or maybe you would rather divide the travel into two shorter flights.
Regardless of your preferences, planning ahead always ensures more options.
Here’s a fun fact for travelers looking to save money: the least popular days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday. Translation: the cheapest flights are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, especially when traveling internationally.
For those who have no choice—because they have obligations Monday–Friday that not even cheaper airfare can pardon—and must fly out on a Friday or weekend day: don’t worry, you can still find comfort in your travels with these tips.
2.) Prep for the big day.
The next tip for maximizing comfort during your travels in economy seating is to prep your trip with good rest, diet, and exercise. You know, like you always do!
If you’re traveling especially long distances, you will need all the energy you can get from natural remedies like decent sleep and plain foods that won’t cause you physical distress during impractical conditions.
For many, this tip can be easier said than done. And for those who are traveling into drastically different time zones, maybe you want to be tired during your flights to get a head start on your new sleep schedule.
However, nobody has ever regretted getting adequate rest before travel.
3.) Dress to decompress.
Once you have your seats and have initiated the self-care pre-flight, choose your traveling attire. While many of us may feel obliged to look our best, oftentimes our “best” isn’t our most comfortable. Unless you are expected to dress professionally in your travel to a work-related event, you should always consider comfort first.
Another fun fact: while you may be easily cold or stuck on an overly air-conditioned flight, your body may experience slight swelling or bloating due to changes in pressure during air travel. This means that your mildly tight-fitting pants or shoes can become quite constricting by the time your plane lands.
To prevent this, choose looser or stretchier pants and comfortable shoes for your flight.
If you’ve decided to go with sandals to save time and effort in the TSA line, bring a pair of socks onboard, too. Even if you don’t have a carry-on, socks are an easy addition to your in-flight belongings.
What you choose to wear and bring with you in-flight should correspond to the weather or climate of your destination. If you are arriving in a very warm, humid climate, bring along a change of clothing. Or if you are traveling from a hot climate to a frigid environment, pack a change of clothes.
Of course, you’ll probably want to wait until you’re off the airplane and into the airport restroom to change…
Other wardrobe items to consider for travel are sunglasses, beanies, and scarves. These are also easy to bring aboard.
The biggest make-or-break wardrobe item for travel is the kind of shoes you wear, especially for long, all-day travel. Do yourself a favor, wear exercise shoes.
The only people who look glamorous during long flights are the flight attendants and maybe the pilots—but that’s just because their uniforms are cool. And even they would probably rather be wearing yoga pants, sweatshirts, and sneakers.
Forget what the magazines say: comfort over fashion.
4.) Tune in or tune out.
Depending on which airline you use and the duration of your flight(s), you may have entertainment options on a miniature TV in the headrest in front of you. These could include movies and TV shows, trivia games, interactive games to play with other passengers, and a live map with an ETA of your arrival.
Some planes even provide Wi-Fi—which is how you know we are living in the future.
If you are on a shorter flight or a plane without these devices, you will want to bring quality headphones, earplugs, and content to sustain you.
Plenty of people capitalize on the opportunity to disconnect, too. Flying is a great way to catch up on some reading or start a new book, write, study, or even draw.
Keeping the mind busy and happy, as we know, makes the time fly by—no pun intended.
5.) Eat, drink, and be merry!
Depending on the length of your flight, you might need to eat a meal or two. While you may be limited to airplane food, you can bring along your favorite snacks. You can also opt for treating yourself to coffee, soft drinks, and if you’re really wanting to relax, booze. Of course, you’ll need to be of age and have a proper ID.
While in-flight food and drink items can be pricey, your alcohol tolerance is much, much lower.
This is due to the decrease in pressure reducing the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, producing light-headedness.
This means two things: you can drink less for the same effect, and, please be careful.
Nobody wants to deal with a belligerently drunk passenger on a plane. Especially when their behavior—or unconsciousness pre-takeoff—negatively impacts anyone else’s traveling experience.
If you drink responsibly, an in-flight buzz can ease stress and nerves, helping you feel more comfortable.
6.) Take breaks.
No, not from being on the plane, but from sitting in that chair.
While you may think you usually spend a good amount of your day sitting, it tends to be a bit more tedious and unpleasant while on an airplane, especially during long flights. Many large airplanes provide a “hallway” next to the bathrooms where you can stand and stretch.
Without upsetting the aisle-seated passengers too much, take long stretch breaks. Walk up and down the aisles. Stretch your legs and back. Stand so long that you actually desire sitting again.
Just remember to adhere to the “stay seated” alert during takeoff, landing, and turbulence.
7.) Meditate or medicate.
For those who really hate to fly or are easily airsick: you are not alone. Traveling by aircraft isn’t exactly a natural phenomenon. Don’t feel silly or embarrassed for having flight anxiety—in fact, accepting it helps soothe the beast.
Facts you probably already know: flying is the safest form of travel. No, really.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, the chances of dying in the air are 1 in 9,821.
Additionally, in 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented new rules to limit the hours that pilots spend in the cockpit to ensure that they receive enough rest prior to flights. This minimizes fatigue-associated incidents and ensures safer air travel for everyone.
Facts you may not know: turbulence is not dangerous. It’s merely the plane undergoing the atmospheric changes from high pressure to low pressure. Or disturbance in the air from intersecting airflows. Or flying over any kind of natural or manmade structure that disrupts the airflow. Turbulence is caused by many things, and a damaged or unsafe aircraft is not one of them.
Additionally, according to the TSA website, all prescriptions are allowed aboard in your carry-on baggage.
- Take a nap.
This is typically the toughest goal for flyers. The best way to snooze is with a memory-foam neck pillow, which ranges in price from $12–30.
Depending on who you travel with, you might also be able to snag a shoulder or even use a neighboring food tray as a surface.
If you are a light sleeper, try putting in your headphones to soft, soothing music.
According to experts, even grabbing 10–20 minutes of sleep is adequate for a nap.
With these tips in mind, you will be able to kick back and relax from point A to point B.
And remember: flying is not mandatory, it’s optional. If you still find yourself not as comfortable as you’d like, you can always choose to travel by other means, like by ship, train, or horseback. Just remember to bring enough food for the journey.