Tips & Tricks For Staying Comfortable on a Long Flight

Jul 16, 2019

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Here at The Points Guy UK, we’re all about helping you maximise your points and miles to fly in business and first class. But we’ll never turn down a mistake fare or a great deal in economy, and you shouldn’t either. So if your upgrade doesn’t clear or you’re flying long-haul on a low-cost carrier, we have some tips and tricks to help you stay comfortable in a tiny airplane seat.

Know Your Aircraft and Fare Class

The single most important thing to do before travel is understand the plane you’ll be travelling on and what kind of services it offers. In order to adequately prepare for your flight, these are the things to look for:

  • The seat layout. Will you be assigned a seat? Can you pick? Should you pay extra to pick? How are the rows organized?
  • In-flight entertainment. Are there screens on the seatbacks? Should you prepare by downloading your own entertainment or bringing a book? Is there Wi-Fi?
  • Meals/snacks.  Are they included or will you need to pay to purchase? Should you bring your own snacks or food?
  • Luggage. Can you check a bag? Use the overhead bin? Is there storage under the seat? What are the carry-on requirements/limitations?

Websites like SeatGuru can help you answer some of the aforementioned questions, and know the fare class or ticket rules of what you’ve purchased. Reading this article on low-cost carriers can also answer some of these questions.

Pay for Extras

Depending on the answers to the questions above, you may want to pre-pay for some extras. Extras that may be worth adding on are priority boarding, seat selection (an exit row or extra legroom seat, window or aisle), meal purchase and carry-on or checked baggage.

Exercise Before Travelling

Getting out that excess energy before a long flight can help you be more comfortable when flying. Yoga can be especially rejuvenating, as you’ll not only strengthen and tone but also stretch your body before you get stuck in a small seat. Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow, which will help prevent things like clots and discomfort when sitting in the same position for an extended period of time.

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa - fitness center gym
Exercising before a long flight can help with blood flow and avoid blood clots. (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Prepare for Sleep

Sleeping in a small plane seat is the bane of our existence. While some people may find it easy to conk out, many people struggle to fall asleep sitting up, in a small space or in a noisy, strange environment. The best thing to do is prepare for any and all discomfort by bringing along an eye mask, earplugs, noise-cancelling headphones, relaxing music or meditation on your mobile, a neck pillow, essential oils or anything else that will help you sleep.

Get up and Move Around

Some suggest getting up every hour, some every two hours, but the takeaway here is to get up and move around as much as you can. The length of time it takes to develop a blood clot is much shorter than you might think — even just four hours of sitting immobile can increase your chances.

So get up, stretch your legs or even do some small movements and mini-stretches from your plane seat. Bringing a tennis ball along can also help with comfort — put it behind your back and move around, sit on it and wiggle or put it under your feet to help with blood flow and stiff muscles.

Eat and Drink Right

The pressure on airplanes can cause bloating and discomfort. Unfortunately, airplane food, especially in economy, often has a high salt content that doesn’t help. So, if you typically feel bloated on airplanes, bring your own food and healthy snacks. It’s important to hydrate (with water, not booze) as much as possible too. Avoiding carbonated drinks and chewing gum (which causes you to swallow more air) will also help you feel more comfortable onboard.

To avoid the questionable airplane meals, try bringing some snacks from home to make eating a bit easier on your journey. (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Skincare up High

Caring for your skin at 38,000 feet can help to relax you, and arriving at your destination with hydrated, smooth skin is a bonus. So bring along facial mist, a hydrating mask, eye patches, face cream or serum, hand cream, cuticle oil or anything else that works for your skin and use it inflight. Just make sure your liquids are all under 100ml so you won’t have problems going through security.

Gather your Gadgets

You don’t want to be caught without your ear buds or portable charger inflight, especially if there isn’t any in-flight entertainment. Make sure all of your devices are charged, packed and easily accessible throughout the flight. This can include but isn’t limited to your laptop, tablet, e-reader, headphones or earbuds, mobile phone, external charger and charging cord. Make sure to download any movies, e-books or TV series on your devices ahead of time and have them fully charged before travelling.

Make sure all your devices are charged, or check if there are plugs you can use at your seat before your flight. (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Dress Right

Airplanes are notorious for poor temperature control. Wear layers onboard to deal with temps that may be too warm or too cold. Having a scarf is always a good idea, as this can double as a blanket or makeshift pillow. If you are wearing sandals on your flight, make sure to bring socks along so your bare feet aren’t touching the plane floor or bothering other passengers.

Pack to Perfection

I’ve already mentioned bringing things to keep you comfortable and fed, help you sleep, fix up your skin and entertain you. Make sure to properly pack these items in a bag you can get to quickly with ease. Depending on your carry-on baggage allowance, it’s best to put things you don’t plan to use often in the overhead bin and have a small bag with your essentials to put under your seat. This way, you won’t have to get up frequently to open and close the overhead bin; instead, you’ll have easy access to everything you need down below.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

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