Many seasoned travelers have their own ideas about how to stay comfortable on a long-haul flight, with agreements and some disagreements. Unless you’re used to turning left or sitting in Club or Business class seats, long-haul flights can be a test of endurance, particularly for tall passengers. Despite all the advances in technology (and until hypersonic travel is available and affordable), it’s a fact that you have to sit in a confined space for hours on end, so it’s essential to make the journey as comfortable as possible. Economy class seats vary from airline to airline, so if you intend to fly long-haul in Coach then choose the airline wisely as a little extra expense may be worth it.
How to stay comfortable on a long-haul flight
Choose your seat wisely
The first step to ensuring comfort on a long-haul flight is selecting the right seat. If legroom is a priority, consider reserving a seat in the exit row or the bulkhead. Aisle seats also offer more freedom to move around during the flight. For those who value peace and quiet, avoid seats near the galley and lavatories, as these areas tend to be more frequented and noisier.
- Exit Row and Bulkhead Seats: These seats usually offer more legroom, but it’s essential to consider the lack of storage space for personal items during takeoff and landing.
- Window vs. Aisle Preferences: Window seats offer a place to rest against and control over the window shade, while aisle seats allow for easier movement and access to the cabin.
- Seat Selection Apps: Apps like SeatGuru provide detailed aircraft seating charts and reviews, helping passengers choose the best seat based on comfort, location, and amenities.
Dress for comfort
Wearing comfortable clothing is crucial for a long-haul flight. Opt for loose, breathable fabrics and layers to allow for temperature adjustments. Additionally, consider wearing compression socks to promote blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Stay hydrated and eat light
Dehydration can exacerbate feelings of discomfort and fatigue. Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the flight and avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol. Additionally, opt for light, healthy meals to prevent bloating and digestive discomfort.
- Hydration Before Flying: Begin hydrating the day before your flight, as airplanes have very low humidity levels that can lead to dehydration.
- Electrolyte Supplements: Consider using electrolyte tablets or powders to add to your water, helping your body retain hydration more effectively.
- Avoiding Diuretics: Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol, as these can exacerbate dehydration and affect sleep quality on long flights.
- High-Quality Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can significantly reduce cabin noise, making it easier to relax or sleep.
- White Noise or Ambient Soundtracks: These can mask the ambient noise of the plane and create a more calming environment, aiding in relaxation and sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly environment
Sleep is essential for maintaining your wellbeing during long-haul flights. To create a sleep-friendly environment, pack a travel blanket, pillow, eye mask, and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Remember to adjust your watch to the destination’s time zone and try to sleep according to your arrival time.
- Adjusting to Time Zones: Start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before your flight to better match the time zone of your destination.
- Sleep Accessories: Consider a high-quality travel pillow, a lightweight blanket, and a comfortable eye mask to enhance sleep quality.
- Sleep Aids: Consult with a healthcare professional about the use of sleep aids for long flights, ensuring they won’t interfere with your mobility or health.
Keep yourself entertained
The entertainment packages on most modern airlines are worth exploring in detail. You’ll find something in there to pass the time, whether it’s a film, audiobook, podcast, TV show, game, or just some ambient meditation music to help you to relax. I always travel with a couple of books and a Kindle reader, so that I have something to read if all else fails and there’s nothing I want to watch. Download your favourite content before your flight and you can then rest assured that you have your own entertainment resources whatever happens or is available on the flight.
- Entertainment Downloads: Remind readers to download movies, books, podcasts, and playlists beforehand, as in-flight Wi-Fi can be unreliable or expensive.
- Power Bank: Suggest carrying a fully charged power bank to ensure electronic devices remain powered throughout the flight.
Move around and stretch
Sitting for long periods can lead to stiff muscles and increase the risk of blood clots. Make an effort to stand up, walk around the cabin, and stretch regularly throughout the flight. This will not only promote blood circulation but also help reduce feelings of restlessness.
- In-Seat Exercises: Provide readers with a guide to simple stretches and exercises that can be performed in the seat to maintain circulation and prevent stiffness.
- Cabin Walks: Encourage brief, regular walks around the cabin when it’s safe to do so, to aid circulation and reduce the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).
Immune System Support
- Vitamins and Supplements: Discuss the potential benefits of vitamin C, D, and zinc in supporting the immune system, especially in the confined spaces of an aircraft.
- Hygiene Practices: Stress the importance of hand hygiene and the use of sanitizers, and consider the use of a face mask, especially during cold and flu season.
How do I stay comfortable on a long flight?
Choose a suitable seat, dress comfortably, stay hydrated, create a sleep-friendly environment, keep yourself entertained, and move around regularly.
How do I calm my anxiety before a long flight?
Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation. You can also distract yourself with entertainment or speak with a flight attendant if your anxiety persists.
What is the best outfit to wear on a long flight for comfort?
Wear loose, breathable clothing and layers to adjust to the cabin temperature. Compression socks are also recommended to promote blood circulation.
How do you prevent blood clots on a long flight?
Move around the cabin and stretch regularly, stay hydrated, and wear compression socks to reduce the risk of blood clots.
How do you not get tired on a long flight?
Boarding your flight in a refreshed state will be a good baseline from which to start. Maintain your hydration level, don’t drink too much alcohol, and get some sleep.
What position is best to sleep on a plane?
The most comfortable sleeping position varies from person to person. Experiment with different positions, using a travel pillow for added support.
Can flight attendants help with anxiety?
Yes, flight attendants can provide reassurance, answer questions, and offer assistance to help ease anxiety during your flight.
Why am I so scared of flying?
If you suffer from a fear of flying, you’re not alone. It varies from person to person, and it can be due to a combination of all kinds of other irrational fears. It may also result from a previous traumatic experience or simply hearing about aviation incidents. Whatever the reasons, the best cure for this type of fear is knowledge and understanding. There are some really good and effective fear of flying courses you can go on that are run by pilots and cabin crew. Check with your local airline or airport.
How do I stop being scared of turbulence?
Turbulence is an unfortunate fact of life in aviation but it is rarely so severe that it poses a risk to passengers. However, when it does occur in the extreme it makes headline news and that of course increases the fear of it out of proportion to the chances of encountering it. If things get a little bumpy during your flight, focus on relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, or distract yourself with entertainment.
Should I wear flight socks during a long flight?
Yes, wearing flight socks or compression socks can help promote blood circulation, reduce swelling, and lower the risk of blood clots during long-haul flights.
If you have any recommendations for making long-haul flights in an Economy seat more bearable, or perhaps even enjoyable, be sure to let me know. In the meantime, remember to stay hydrated, move around, and prioritise rest to arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to explore.