Do you enjoy visiting new cities and countries but hate sitting on long, crowded flights to get there? If so, you’re not alone. Unless you’re lucky enough to travel on a private jet, squeezing onto a long, crowded flight is just a necessary part of the travel experience for most of us. Even so, there are at least five ways you can make your long flight more comfortable:
Strategically Pack Your Carry-On Luggage
How you pack your carry-on luggage can make a huge difference in your comfort level both before and during a long flight. Start by compartmentalizing your carry-on items so they’re easily accessible before and during the flight. By placing liquids and electronics in plastic bags or packing cubes inside your carry-on, you can quickly find and place these items in x-ray bins at the airport security checkpoint.
Similarly, once you’re on the plane, make sure to have your most frequently-used items at the top of your bag or in an easily-accessible pocket. Your trip will be more comfortable if you have all of your comfort, work, and entertainment items at your fingertips. Don’t bury your sweatshirt, earphones, and sleep mask in different areas of your roller board. Instead, make sure these items are grouped together and easy to find once you board the plane.
Many airlines also allow passengers to carry a “personal item” in addition to their carry-on luggage, so you may want to consider placing the items you need to access on the flight in a small briefcase, backpack, or purse that’s separate from your main carry-on bag. This will allow you to place the “personal item” containing the items you need to use during the flight under the seat in front of you rather than in the overhead bin. You’ll have a much easier time finding the things you need to be comfortable during the flight, and the people seated around you will be grateful you’re not pulling a bulky roller board or giant duffle bag down from the overhead bin every time you need a new item.
Wear Comfortable and Practical Clothes
It’s best to stick with wearing comfortable, layered clothing on the flight. Start with wearing something sleeveless or lightweight and layer a sweater over it for easy adjustment to the temperature. Even in the heat of summer, the air conditioning in airports and on airplanes can make traveling in just shorts and a t-shirt very uncomfortable, so it’s a good idea to bring that jacket or sweatshirt along just in case you do get cold. It’s also important to make sure your clothes are comfortable enough to sleep in — especially if you’re flying on a red eye or otherwise trying to sync your sleeping schedule to the local time of your destination.
While comfort is important, it’s also a good idea to think about whether or not your clothes are practical for airport as well as the flight. It’s easier to manage airport security checkpoints when your clothes have plenty of pockets that provide easy access to your boarding passes, passport, and other identification items you need to have handy while you’re in the airport. Even if you normally carry these items in a purse or briefcase, it’s usually easier to find them when they’re kept in one or two go-to pockets that are easily accessible to you at all times.
Plan and Compartmentalize Your Time on the Flight
Your flight time will go by much faster if you devote certain segments of the flight to particular activities or tasks. One example would be to spend a couple of hours reading, three or four hours watching movies or TV, and a couple (or more) hours napping. Don’t forget to pack a sleep mask – it’ll do wonders with helping you get some sleep onboard, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling refreshed.
It’s also a good idea to plan your bathroom breaks during the flight. Since there’s usually a rush to use the bathrooms right after the drink and meal services on a flight, you may want visit the lavatory before the meal carts come rolling down the aisle. This way, you’ll spend less time awkwardly standing in the aisle waiting for the “vacant” sign to appear on the lavatory door.
Bring Your Own Entertainment and Use the Free Entertainment on the Plane
If you’re on a long-haul flight crossing an ocean, it’s likely that the airline will provide some free entertainment on the trip, but it’s still important for you to bring along your own entertainment items to make the trip as comfortable as possible.
A smartphone or tablet loaded with eBooks, movies, and television shows can make any long flight more enjoyable — especially if you use the time to read or watch something you normally wouldn’t have the time to explore in your normal everyday life.
Even if you bring your own entertainment, be sure to check out the free entertainment offered on your flight. Some airlines provide personal screens with a variety of current movie, television, and music options at no additional cost you as a passenger.
Exercise and Stay Hydrated
It is possible to do some light exercise on a crowded plane without bothering your seat neighbors too much. Exercise will help your body feel better during the flight, and it will help to keep you healthier. One example is to do some seated yoga positions like simple ankle rolls, torso twists, and thigh lifts. Another example is to walk up and down the airplane aisle every half-hour or so. These simple exercises may not be strenuous, but they can make a big difference in your health and comfort level before and after the flight.
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) says that passengers on flights lasting 8 or 10 hours or longer are at greater risk of developing blood clots due to sitting in the same position for several hours in a row. ASH recommends that passengers stretch their legs and change seated positions throughout the flight.
In addition to exercising on the flight, be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages from the drink cart. If you do partake of a couple of adult beverages, make sure to drink at least one non-alcoholic beverage for each alcoholic beverage you consume. It’s also a good idea to limit the number of caffeinated beverages you consume, since caffeine is a diuretic that can also cause further dehydration.
I hope these tips come in handy when you embark on your next travel adventure! If you have any other tried-and-true advice for fellow travelers, please leave them in the comments below.