General Travel Tips

5 Tips That Will Help You Enjoy A Long Coach Flight

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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 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 more comfy 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-cancelling 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 download 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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Why be uncomfortable when you don't have to be? These tips will make sitting at the back of the plane so much better.

 

 


Up Next:  My Trick For Beating Jet Lag (I Swear It Works)

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94 replies »

  1. Pack of M&Ms for everyone! Sending out the perfect vibes. Though.. I wouldn’t give em to the person on the adjacent seat who kept playing irritating songs on his cellphone and glancing at me every now and then in one particular 3 and a half hour journey -.-

  2. Agree on the snacks. I also make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for long flights. It sees me through in a pinch and if I don’t need it, it’s not a big waste. Also have a pair of compression socks packed and put on my feet as I settle in.

  3. Great post; I’ll be back!
    I’ve been flying for 30+ years and the only thing I haven’t done from your list is give flight attendants a pack of M&M’s – great tip.
    Yes, the seats have definitely shrunk over the years on most airlines (I haven’t put on that much weight!). The smallest I’ve found so far is on Cathay.

  4. Thanks for the tips! I will definitely use them. I am going to use the tip of setting up my seat before take off as I don’t want to be uncomfortable during the plane ride or having to set it up how I want to when we are flying! I really like the idea of giving candy to the flight attendants.

  5. Good! I’ve taken a lot of long flights too! Living in Argentina is impossible to be near. Another thing I do is walking or moving. Not drink things with gas, only water. Lot of water!
    It’s really work well for me

  6. Hahahaha…l-lysine. But for me, the trick to beating jet lag is to take Benadryl about an hour (or more or less, depending upon how long the flight will be and how many time zones I cross) after taking off. I’m not sure about taking an amino acid. I tend to think that there might be more going on with the addition of a nutrient. It might seem harmless, but I don’t know. Sorry…Anyway, an antihistamine keeps me out for at least 3 hours.

    • Hmmm.. could you be mistaking this for another article. I’ve never talked about L-Lysine. I have a few friends that use Benadryl too but I find that I have a huge hangover with it. Great that it works for you. :))

  7. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for sharing. My hubbie travels a lot and I will share you tip about the candy, but I’m afraid they wouldn’t last to be a gift to the crew. I likes candy, specially chocolate with caramel.😉

    Cheers!
    Cristina

  8. Great post, and very timely. My spouse is leaving fom Australia for the UK next week. I’m sure your post will be inspirational for a couple of tips that might decrease the insanity that usually goes with long haul flights.

  9. I aim for the clothing comfort you describe but try to look at least dressy casual. Too many people look like they’re on the way to the gym or to clean their garage. It’s possible to be comfortable and at least a little bit classy. There are yoga pants that are revealing and yoga pants that could be mistaken for dressy trousers.
    I put on compression socks before the flight. They really help keep my feet from swelling. I also tend to wear ballerinas, and I slip them back on to walk in the cabin.
    Although I take toiletries, the only thing I actually use is lip balm.
    A blow-up neck pillow doesn’t take as much space as one that’s full of pellets (why do people bother with those for 2-to-3-hour flights?). It’s great for keeping your head from suddenly dropping down (I also use one on long roadtrips–when I’m the passenger of course). The little flaps on the back of the seat are good for keeping you from slumping into your neighbor.
    For snacks, I bring an assortment of raw vegetables cut into sticks (carrots, peppers, cucumbers). Usually some fruit, too. It helps keep your intestinal transit moving when you can’t move for hours on end. Remember to throw away leftovers before landing–you can’t bring fresh fruit or veggies into the U.S., for example.
    I like your candy idea, but if everybody does it, the flight attendants will be like nurses at hospitals–“oh no! Not more candy!” I suppose they could redistribute it in turn. Think what a good-humored flight that would be.
    I used to take half an Ambien for transatlantic flights but once I had a child with me I needed to be alert the whole time. Half a pill was just enough to help get past the cabin noise and fall (and stay) asleep, but not sleep so hard as to be groggy 7 or 8 hours later.

  10. Great tips! Love the idea of a small flashlight in case you need to look through your stuff in the dark. I always hate turning on the overhead light when the cabin is dark.

    Thanks!

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