11 Ways to Travel in Economy (And Actually Enjoy It)

Feb 23, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

As much as we enjoy first- and business-class rides in the sky, it’s not always possible to get the best seat in the cabin. Whether you want to save your points and miles for more trips, or can’t justify the couple-thou-upgrade, we are here to say: There is zero shame in flying coach. In fact, it can be downright decent — if you board with the right mindset. And gear. And snacks. So buckle up and take our advice for your next flight.

1. Watch Your Seats Like a Hawk

If you’re unhappy with the seat you selected during booking (and honestly, who would be happy with 23B?!), keep your eyes open during the 24-hour check-in. Be sure to look on SeatGuru before your flight to scope out your dream seat. An hour before flying, something better could open up — hopping one row or one seat over can make the difference between a miserable flight and a decent one. Or, if your wallet’s feeling fat, spring for an exit row seat during a long haul.

2. Try to Board Early

Look, there’s no helping you if you’re Group 7, but if you do have status on the airline (but, sadly, no upgrade), make sure you’re at the front of the boarding line when the time comes to, well, board. Getting settled in early will ensure your baggage can sit nice and comfy in the overhead instead of being cruelly gate-checked, and you’ll have a few extra minutes to mentally prepare for the flight.

3. Keep Yourself Occupied

Bring all the books, download all the movies, and do not — I repeat, do not — depend on the in-flight entertainment. Because you could easily sit down and realize, Oh, there is no in-flight entertainment system! And then you’ve got six hours to kill and absolutely nothing to do. Learn from my mistakes, please, and bring enough brain-fillers to make you pass for a public library.

4. Write a To-Do List

I will never understand the people who sit on very long flights and simply stare into the headrest in front of them the entire time. (Who are you? Who hurt you?) Making a plan the day before you fly is a nifty little trick I started when I flew often for work. I’d write down a to-do list for the plane, even if it’s as simple as “watch an episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “edit story.” (Aren’t I fun?) But this always prevented me from getting sucked into a movie I knew would be awful and allowed me to leave the flight feeling, if not relaxed, then at least like I accomplished something.

5. Clean Up Your Corner

To enjoy yourself you have to enjoy the space you’re in. Time to pull out the Swiffer! Just kidding. But seriously, wipe down the tray table with an antibacterial towelette — why not hit the seat while you’re at it — and your little (and we do mean little) cubby will be more bearable.

6. Don’t Forget to Get Off Your Butt

Being cramped isn’t an excuse to curl up like a desert tortoise and hibernate until your destination. Even the laziest turtles need to get up and crawl to the bathroom once in awhile. Frequently roaming the aisles is good for you. Don’t be obnoxious though, and for the love of all that is holy, don’t hover over someone in an aisle seat.

7. Tip Back One (or a Few)

We’re not going to say imbibing onboard makes the flight better, but it certainly can’t make it worse. Also, hydrate. With water. Early and often. More than you think you can or should. And if the booze doesn’t knock you out, bring along melatonin or NyQuil if you have a moderately long flight.

8. Organize As If Your Life Depends On It

A few must-haves: a plastic bag for your trash, so you’re not littering your seat waiting for the flight attendant drive-by to collect your garbage. Bringing your own little organizational pack that holds your headphones, snacks, Kindles, iPads, and the like can give you a sense of order, even in the middle seat. And don’t forget a homemade amenities kit with lotion and chapstick. See, who needs first class anyway?!

9. Invest in Good Gear

There’s a reason business-class cabins often come with Bose headsets — blocking out the rest of the world is crucial in keeping calm on a flight. If you fly coach more than a few times a year, invest a couple hundred bucks in noise-canceling headphones, which dramatically improve the quality of your flight and tune out the rest of the cabin. A similar investment could also be made in a neck pillow you’ll actually use, earplugs, eye mask and compression socks, and any other creature comforts you may need to get cozy.

10. Eat Like a Queen (or King)

Nothing’s going to live up to the multi-course first-class menu that you’d stab someone with a salad fork to get. But instead of settling for the turkey wrap or hoarding four bags of Popchips, take matters into your own hands. Choose your own meal! Treat it like a picnic and bring some nice treats from home, or arrive early to the airport and treat yourself to the best meal you can find. Even better: Stuff yourself silly in the lounge if you have access. Just because you’re sitting in coach doesn’t mean that’s where your head has to be.

11. Think About the Destination

When all else fails, TPG reader Michael F. has a great attitude about hanging out in coach, which he shared in the TPG Lounge on Facebook:

“When I am forced to fly coach I concentrate on the excitement of travel, destinations and possibility of making new friends or business contacts. Works for me?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Featured photo by slobo/Getty Images

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.