How to Be Comfortable on a Long Airplane Trip

Four Parts:Preboarding TipsFlight Time TipsThings to Bring on an Airplane ChecklistThings to Do on an Airplane

A long domestic or international flight can often sour what should be a pleasant holiday or business venture. These guidelines can help your necessary travel time be as comfortable and painless as possible - for you, and for your fellow travelers.

Part 1
Preboarding Tips

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    Reserve a good seat. Even within the same class and fare, some seats are far superior to others. Consider an aisle or exit row seat for leg room, or a window if you want to sleep. Try to avoid seats near the toilets/lavatories, as other passengers will be accessing these regularly. It is common on long-haul flights for there to be lines, and people walking to or from the toilets may bump or knock your seat. Also keep in mind that the noise and light that escapes when the door is opened may be disturbing, particularly when trying to sleep.
    • However, remember to never choose an exit row seat if you will have an infant or small child with you.
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    If you plan on trying to sleep, come prepared. Bring a travel pillow or head restraint, and try to avoid using the inflatable ones.
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    Bring something to entertain yourself. Usually, movies don't start for some time, and the built-in music/movie selection can be quite poor, so bring an iPod (the night before you go away try to download some of the latest songs or movies as it will be more entertainment than the old movies you already have), iPhone, iPad, Game Boy, Nintendo D.S, or CD player. You could also bring a new book that you like or portable game.
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    Always have a couple of recent magazines with you. Pick out some new magazines at the airport before you leave, it is a fun way to start your trip!
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    If possible, go with an airline that offers .A.V.O.D (Audio Video on Demand), which is a TV screen in front of your seat that lets you choose what you want to watch, play or listen to. It is very useful to help let time pass by. But be careful - this can be VERY expensive!!
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    Bring your own headphones. The headphones, usually available on the plane (whether for purchase or for free) are usually of poor quality. Noise-canceling headphones and in-ear headphones are great if you have them, and can help block out engine noise.
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    Minimize your carry-on luggage. One backpack is fine for the plane, and it is easier to find a place in the overhead bins or under the seat for a small backpack than for a larger roller bag.
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    Bring a toothbrush, lip balm and anything else that isn't a liquid or a gel, that you need to help freshen up before meeting your loved ones at the end of your long flight. They, and your neighbors in-flight, will be glad you did.
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    Consider bringing your own food on board if you care about taste or health. On some airlines, plane food is quite poor. Check before and look through the reviews and decide if you should buy food before the flight.
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    Contact your airline in advance to find out if they still offer free meals and potentially request a special meal. Many airlines offer vegetarian, Kosher, Halal and other "special" meals if you order up to two or three days in advance. And because the airlines have to specially prepare your meal, it is usually better than the standard food fare. Plus, passengers with special meal requests are almost always served first. If your airline doesn't offer a free meal, be sure to bring your own or buy one at the airport.
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    Take some sweets or other snacks with you. Protein bars are particularly helpful if on a long-flight. Most airline meals tend to be low in protein and high in carbohydrates.

Part 2
Flight Time Tips

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    Move around. This is especially important on longer flights, to prevent your body from aching due to poor circulation. Some airlines provide guidance on in-seat exercises you can do (such as circling ankles and stretching arms). The long mid-flight stretch on overnight flights is an excellent time to take a stroll up and down the aisle a few times. There is usually room to do some back stretches at the back of some of the cabins.
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    Opt to sit near the back of the aircraft for long haul routes, if you don't mind the extra noise produced by the engines. Certain aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 series, have a large area behind the last row of seat in the back of the aircraft that give you plenty of space to stretch.
    • However, do not sit in the absolute rear of the plane. There will undoubtedly be noises and smells from people using the bathrooms and other areas in the plane's rear. Also, these seats might not recline.
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    Participate in the in-flight exercise video, should your flight provide one. These are designed to help with body circulation and reduce fatigue. If your flight does not include such a video, you can still do your own stretches and exercises.
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    Take steps to protect yourself from the dry air on board the plane. The air in a plane is very dry and may dehydrate your system.
    • Drink plenty of water. Although you can request water from your flight attendants, it is a good idea to bring plenty of water on board with you. You may either purchase bottled water once you pass security or bring an empty bottle with you to fill from a water fountain. Remember that you should never drink the water from airplane bathrooms; it may contain bacteria.
    • Use eye drops (eye drops may now be carried through security) whenever your eyes feel dry. If you are really uncomfortable, don't hesitate to inform cabin crew.
    • Consider saline nasal gel if your nostrils feel uncomfortable breathing dry air. Saline nasal gel, which can usually be found near the saline nasal wash at a drugstore, can help keep the inside of your nose moist and make breathing more comfortable. Apply in the restroom and wash your hands before and after. You can put it on a cotton swab and coat the inner 12 inch (1.3 cm) of your nasal passages. It may seem gross, but it really works for preventing your nose from painfully drying out.
    • Bring lip balm in a 3 oz or smaller container and use it to protect your lips from becoming painfully dry. Bring a small container of hand lotion or cocoa butter if your skin dries easily.
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    Don't look at the time during the flight. You can't do anything about it and the flight will feel a lot longer if you keep looking at the time. Don't check your watch regularly and avoid looking at the in-flight map showing the current position of the plane.
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    Find a way to sleep comfortably. If you brought a pillow, put it on the tray in front of you and rest on that. If you have a window seat, leaning against the wall or window can be much more comfortable than leaning back. Recline your seat as far as possible to make leaning back more comfortable.

Things to Bring on an Airplane Checklist

Things to Bring on an Airplane

Things to Do on an Airplane

Sample Airplane Activities

Sample Ways to Be Comfortable on a Plane


  • Make sure the night before you go on the airplane, you charge your laptop/ iPad etc,etc.
  • Chew gum to prevent ears from popping.
  • Wear comfortable clothes on the plane. Take a travel pillow with you.
  • Try to obtain a seat on the aisle if you need to use the restroom a lot.
  • Plan for airport layovers, too. They can take time, but they are also a good opportunity to stretch your legs.
  • Stretch often during your flight. It helps to avoid deep vein thrombosis and blood clots.
  • Drink lots of water in the week leading up to the flight. Many people feel the constant need to pee when dehydrated,even if they don't need to. Be well hydrated, and spare yourself awkward moments.
  • Bring a lollipop or a mint to suck on when taking off and landing. It will stop your ears from popping! Chewing gum works too!
  • Relax and don't stress about bad things that could happen to the plane. (This includes not looking at crash reports or watching Air Crash Investigation)
  • When you are tired or sleepy, ask the passenger behind you (be careful to ask the parent if it is a child )if you can push your back rest a little bit back and rest it back and go to sleep.
  • To relieve pressure in your ears, research the Valsalva maneuver (holding your nose and blowing) beforehand and know how to perform it correctly.
  • Keep moving to avoid aching or cramped muscles.
  • If the airline you are traveling with provides blankets, it is a good idea to sleep with the blanket over your head to block out light and also if you like privacy.
  • This may go without saying,but this does happen. Do not attempt to shave in an airplane! Do not also brush up on your hygiene in the bathroom. Not only is it disgusting, you will also cut yourself if there is turbulence.
  • Try downloading a few podcasts to your MP3 player before you leave. There are loads of them around, and there should be one that suits your interests. If you're traveling alone for a while, a podcast or two should keep you company.
  • The last row of seats usually do not recline.
  • If you have a strong fear of flying or have troubles falling asleep during the flight, you could ask your doctor for a benzodiazepine medication [Valium/Xanax/Restoril(c)]. These will lower your anxiety levels and are sedating. Do not use alcohol to sleep.
  • Short flights may take longer than driving when you consider airport parking, security lines, waiting for boarding, luggage pickup, car rental, cost, etc.
  • WetOnes are one of the best inventions ever: a self contained bath. They are pre-moistened anti-bacterial towelettes. They sell a small pack about the size of your palm for a couple of bucks.
  • Keep a photocopy (or more) of your main passport page spread out through your luggage. If your passport is lost or stolen, having the copy will make it much easier to straighten out. If your bag is misplaced, it's more likely to be returned to you.
  • Some airports have a rental kiosk for portable DVD players and DVD movies (about $10). Just drop it off at your destination airport.
  • If you start to feel sick, drink more water or stay still. If you are still having trouble, just let all the vomit out in your vomit disposable bag.
  • Be sure to get a window or an aisle seat! (Window if you want to sleep, aisle for stretching.)
  • Don't worry about getting up to use the restroom often; the walking about will be good for the blood flow in your legs.
  • If the plane is a little smelly or the person next to you is, then take some vapour rub and put some under your nose.
  • If first (or business) class isn't completely sold out, boarding crews occasionally invite some coach class customers to move up. Your chances of this happening are best if you are dressed appropriately—this means no jeans or sweatshirts, no open-toed sandals, and no backpack or other unwieldy carry-on luggage.
  • Armrests can be raised (even on the aisle) but some have a hidden release latch. Ask flight crew.
  • Take antihistamine before your flight for relief from the air pressure. It helps keeps the sinuses open and reduces pain in the ears and face.
  • Don't be bashful about asking for extra napkins and cups of ice when drinks are offered. You might be given the whole can of a less-popular beverage if you ask. Hydrate! Soda is a bad choice because of all the sugar.
  • Pressure relieving earplugs (a brand name is Ear.Planes) also help to relieve air pressure changes during flights.
  • Get a NadaChair S'portBacker. It allows you to sleep sitting upright. It prevents slouching, which strains the lower back. Put this on, raise your seat almost upright, put the seatbelt snug across your lap, and you can sleep for hours with no discomfort. It folds up into a self contained bag about the size of a paperback book. Sitting with better lumbar spine posture, which is what the Nada Chair helps with, can also lower your blood pressure (NadaChair's BackUp, not as compact, is recommended for larger frames.)
  • Get the wax moldable over-the-counter earplugs. They work better than the cheap foam ones and are less expensive than the custom made ones. If you are concerned about noise, try to sit forward of the engines.
  • Some flights have leg rests so pull up the leg rest and relax.
  • Remember to carry earbuds or headphones with you, whichever you prefer.
  • If you want earplugs but didn't bring any, use tissue.
  • Alaska Air usually has "Digiplayers" that are very similar to AVOD on cross-country flights. For $10 you get about six movies, four TV shows, and a bunch of music videos.
  • Turn off all Wifi/Bluetooth/Cellular communications in your phone. most smartphones have the aptly named airplane mode.
  • Bring a bag of lollipops or fruit.
  • If a kid is kicking your seat, ask them politely to stop. If they sass you when you were being polite, tell them it wasn't very nice. If they still don't stop, ask their parent to please ask them to stop.
  • If you aren't in a hurry, consider the sleeper carriage of a train. Although the price is similar to a flight, you'll get a horizontal bed, meals and a shower on board.
  • (Sud.a.fed) to help relieve pressure in your ears during takeoff and landing. Please note, however, that if you fly to Japan or New Zealand, cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine are considered controlled substances and are illegal to bring into the country. Pseudoephedrine is also an "upper," and may prevent you from napping.
  • If you are a reader, download Wattpad on your device. You can download free books and fanfiction, and read them without wifi. It's really useful.
  • Go to the bathroom/toilet right before you leave. This will decrease your chances you will have to go on the plane. The bathrooms on an airplane are small, and they don't have the most pleasant smell.
    Image titled British Airways Concorde First Class Lounge Heathrow Terminal 5

Things You'll Need

  • Book, magazine
  • Sudoku/logic Puzzles
  • Toothbrush
  • Wet Ones/wipes
  • A clean pair of underwear, a clean pair of socks, and a clean shirt
  • Tissue mini-pack
  • Deodorant stick
  • Gum, breath mints(to chew when your ears pop)
  • Laptop
  • Movies to play on your laptop
  • iPod/mp3 player
  • Batteries
  • Pen and paper if you like to draw
  • Snacks, chocolate or candies
  • Small Hairbrush/ties
  • Some bottled water bought or filled after clearing security.
  • The latest security listings about what is allowed on the plane and what is not
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Pain tablets, Sudafed/ benadryl tablets (earache, cold), antacids
  • Soft pillow, blanket throw (in case the airline stops offering it for hygiene)
  • Foot elevator or duffel bag to put your feet on
  • Eye shade/patch, noise canceling earphones/ earplugs
  • Adapter to plug in your earphones to watch inflight entertainment - earphones on planes usually have two-prongs and so your regular headphones may not be able to be plugged in without an adapter
  • Pressure socks/slip ons
  • Face moisturizer cream travel size, lip balm
  • Mouthwash
  • Sanitary pads
  • Clothes that are comfortable

Sources and Citations

  • TSA List of Prohibited/Permitted Carry On Items
  • LoveMySeat - Your resource for the best airplane seating information, advice and user generated comments on the best and worst seats. International and domestic airlines included
  • - Site with specific feedback on the quality of individual seats on each plane type for major airlines.

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Categories: Flying Comfort and Enjoyment