There’s nothing worse than getting to a destination at the start of the vacation you’ve been looking forward to for months, only to feel completely exhausted and ready to crumble into bed before even getting out to see the sights. Flying is nerve-wracking for most people, even frequent travelers, and you’re not the only one a bit hesitant to subject yourself to hours of sitting in a 2 and a half ft by 5 ft space for hours on end. Having been on many flights myself of all distances and plane types, these are some of the tricks I’ve learned for staying comfortable during the journey…
- Make sure you get the seat you want.
No matter when you book your flight, whether it be nine months or nine days prior to your trip, be sure that you have seat assignments at the time you book. It’s easy to choose the cheaper fare when you’re sitting in your comfortable recliner at home or in a swivel chair at a roomy travel agent’s office. If you have the choice between the least expensive fare and paying a little more to guarantee you get to choose your exact seats, I urge you to heavily consider paying for the peace of mind of knowing where exactly you’ll be sitting.
I can’t tell you how many times people have sat at my desk and said “We don’t care where we sit, as long as we get there” only to call me when their trip is a few weeks away, looking for an upgrade. Many times your fare cannot be changed after the initial booking and you won’t be able to get seat assignments at a later date.
Unless you have the money or miles for first class seating, my personal opinion is that Comfort or Premium seating (the section at the front of the economy class that is advertised to have more legroom), is not worth the money. “Up to four inches more legroom”–up to being the key phrase there. The difference in legroom is not noticeable, whereas the difference in price certainly is!
Especially for longer flights, having your preference of an aisle or window seat is a game changer. On my trip from Detroit to Taiwan in 2014, I let the airline assign my seat instead of choosing my own because I’m really not a picky person especially when traveling on my own. Boy, do I wish I would have thought a bit more about that decision. I got stuck between two people in a middle seat. On a 15 hour flight, that is no bueno. I felt suffocated, stiff, and ended up buying a neck pillow for about $40 just so I could try to get a little bit of sleep. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Items to bring on the plane with you that will make your life easier.
NECK PILLOW: especially if you’re in a middle seat! Buy one before leaving home, not at the airport. They are ridiculously expensive there.
CHEWING GUM: Good for chewing when taking off and landing to keep ears from popping. Also good for long flights where you undoubtedly get bad breath after sleeping for a while.
SNACKS: Sometimes the flight attendants don’t come often enough and when they do their snacks aren’t enough for big eaters like myself!
REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE: Fill it up in the airport after going through security and have flight attendants pour water in your bottle instead of the little cups. This is a lot more comfortable because you can put the lid on and put it anywhere near you on the plane instead of having to have your tray table down with the cup on it. Then you can also have a drink whenever you want instead of having to wait for the flight attendant to come back.
HEADPHONES: Make sure you have the ones that plug in, too–the TV’s on airlines aren’t compatible with Bluetooth headphones. Sometimes the flight attendants come around with free headphones or they are charging for them, and sometimes they don’t bring them around at all, so I just recommend having your own in case.
BENADRYL: If you find it difficult to sleep on flights, bring something that will knock you out. I’ve been lucky enough to not have that problem and pretty much immediately fall asleep on flights, but some Benadryl might be your saving grace on a long haul flight.
It might be worth mentioning here that if you don’t have much trouble sleeping on planes, I would only use Benadryl as a last resort. For just a little push in the right direction before trying the more chemical stuff, try melatonin.
CREDIT OR DEBIT CARD: For purchasing food and drinks on the flight, the flight attendants don’t accept cash.
BOOK: This one might be an obvious one, but you would be surprised. Give your eyes a break from the TV for a bit and get some reading done. When else do you have all that time to get into a great book? Or if you’re not into reading, you could bring a crossword puzzle or sudoku book.
All of the above items are small and easily fit into a personal item that goes under the seat in front of you for free.
3. Avoid carry-on luggage if possible.
I know it may be tempting to take advantage of that one free carry-on bag per person that most of the airlines give you, but resist the urge! It’s so much nicer to check your luggage right when you get to the airport, then not have to worry about the overhead bin space filling up or, if you’re a weakling like me, how you’re going to lift your bag up there without dropping it on someone’s head. Then you’re also not lugging your luggage through the airport, wrestling with it in the bathroom stall, or trying to juggle food and the bag in your arms while looking for a seat to wait for your flight in.
Wear a zip-up hoodie to the airport.
You never know whether the plane will be too hot or too cold, but you can bet your bottom it will be one of them. A zip-up sweatshirt makes it easier for you to adjust to the temperature because there’s only so much you can do with that little air vent that’s five miles away from your seat. I’ve also gotten into the habit of turning it backwards and using the hood to block my eyes from light while trying to sleep.
What tricks have you learned that you use to ease the dread of that long flight coming up? I’d love to hear about them and try them out on my 15 hour flight to China and back this week!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS