I’ve taken a lot of long coach flights through the years, and while the ever-shrinking legroom and lack of amenities is frustrating for sure, here are some tips to make the trip easier to endure.
Choose your in-flight ensemble wisely
This is crucial. When choosing your flying ensemble to avoid belts, ties or big buttons, anything that can pinch, poke or constrict. Plush fabrics with stretch are ideal such as fleece, soft cottons or cashmere, any material that inspire you to hug yourself.
My go-to ensemble is a pair of black yoga pants, ballet flats, a sports bra (no irritating hooks or under-wires thank you), a silky tank top and a yummy cashmere sweater to top it off. Warm or cold, I’m prepared.
I also take my shoes off for the duration and put on warm footies. I recommend the ones with the little treads on the bottom so you don’t slip when walking around the cabin.
Set up your seat before take off
The seats in coach are shrinking but you can make the best of a bad thing by spending a few moments setting up your space. Think about what you’ll want throughout the flight and have those items easily accessible from the get-go.
I put a bottle of water and my DOP kit (more on that later) in the seat pocket in front of me.
Since my lower back suffers the most on long trips I use a cushy travel pillow for support. I bring a lightweight silk travel throw that I drape over an armrest (they’re impossibly skinny) to make it wider and comfier and if the cabin gets too cold I have a blanket handy.
Many planes have adjustable headrests that bend in on each side offering a little lip on the right and left to support your head. Once I’m seated I tweak accordingly. It’s not much but often just enough to make sleeping a little easier, especially if I’m on the aisle or in the middle (God forbid) and don’t have the cabin to lean up against.
Immediately after takeoff, I use my carry-on bag as a footrest—it makes a world of difference on my back to have my feet elevated.
Bring first class with you
Treat yourself to a little luxury and make your own customized comfort kit for the flight. Here’s what’s in mine:
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- Lotion: I put a small amount in a tiny plastic travel container and during the trip, I regularly apply it to my face to combat the dry plane air.
- Lip balm
- Travel-sized eye drops (Systane is fantastic).
- A few Ibuprofen packets
- Face wipes to freshen up before landing.
- Sleep mask if I am flying during the day.
- Melatonin to help me sleep
- Earphones (Many people like the big noise-canceling earphones. They’re great but I find them too awkward to carry around. I have a good friend and travel professional that swears by her Bose Quietcomfort Headphones if that doesn’t bother you. I use the Bose SoundSport in-ear headphones for IOS devices (there’s a style for Samsung and Android too). They’re comfortable and fit into my pocket. Yes, I can hear the ambient noise in the plane but that rarely bothers me. Plus, they’re a lot less expensive.
- A tiny flashlight (a lifesaver if you drop something on the floor or need to search your carry-on bag in the dark)
Pack some snacks
I always pack snacks for long flights. Granola bars, homemade scones, trail mix, they’ve all found their way into my bag. During a 16-hour flight when breakfast is but a distant dream, you’ll be thrilled you thought ahead.
Curate your own in-flight entertainment
Most carriers have a myriad of movies, TV shows, games and the like to keep you from getting bored but even with a lot of choices, there may be nothing you’re interested in (think Netflix on a bad day). That’s happened to me more than a few times so now I proactively schedule a half hour prior to every trip to delete anything I’ve already used and downloaded new books, podcasts, and music. A few times I’ve waited to watch a TV series I like so that I can binge an entire season on a long journey. And if you’re stuck in an airport with delays, your library of goodies will be a low-cost lifesaver.
Bonus: Bring a bag of candy for the flight attendants
This is something I read about and since adopted. I bring a large bag of individual packs of M & M’s with me on every flight. As soon as I board the plane I give it to the head flight attendant and tell her that it’s meant to be shared with the rest of the crew. It will make their day and that good karma inevitably results in a nicer, friendlier flight.
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