How Do You Make A Long Flight Comfortable?

How Do You Make A Long Flight Comfortable?

Flying is a pretty incredible experience, but it can also be an uncomfortable one. It can be a pain to be confined to a small, hard seat for hours at a time. We want to know: how do you make long flights comfortable?

Photo by Christopher Doyle.

A lot of your comfort depends on the airline itself. Seating and food options can go a long way toward making a flight bearable. But beyond that, what are your methods for resting, stretching, staying busy and fighting jet lag?

Tell us: how do you make a long flight comfortable?


  • I travel long haul internationally for work and mostly fly economy. I am 5′ 11 3/4″ (ok 6′) and have got my routine worked out.

    * ALWAYS book an aisle seat.

    * Pack completely the night before, book your early morning taxi, and get a good night’s sleep.

    * Get lounge access – chill before getting on the plane – if it’s early get a good breakfast.

    * Carry two bags – one is your standard full size carry on with portable office inside, the other a “man bag” or satchel with book, tablet, charger, medication, earphones, earplugs, etc. that goes by your feet so you have easy reach to all your stuff mid-flight.

    * Get up to use the “facilities” at meal times – either just as it is served or when you are done. You can slide out from beneath the tray table by raising the aisle side armrest. The armrest won’t just raise until you reach underneath and press a little hidden button near the hinge.

    * Depending on the meal, if it’s not dinner, then stay up and read or watch what you want to watch on your tablet. If it is dinner, then maybe a just one movie…

    * Sleep – ear plugs, face mask, and a blankie. Fold the little flaps on the headrest around your head, take your shoes off, and put your feet on your satchel

    * Get woken for breakfast (I can sleep on planes, if you can’t then I am truly sorry). Use the armrest trick to get to the “facilities” while everyone else is trapped by their meal tray.

    * Collect all your stuff back in the satchel and read until you land and off you go.

    Beating jet lag…

    * Number one strategy of mine is switch to local time when you get there.

    * If you land at stupid o’clock in the morning then get to your destination, drop of your luggage and go for a big walk outside – something that will keep you moving all day. Have something at lunch time – just because it’s lunch time. Then have something at dinner – just because it’s dinner. Get back to your hotel and crash.

    * If you get in at night then get to your destination, have something for dinner – if it’s dinner time. Hopefully you’ve drained your tablet of battery by watching movies and TV by the time you land and not slept too much – so hitting the bed after dinner shouldn’t be that much of an ask.

    * If (when) you wake up at some stupid time in the morning, don’t turn the light on, don’t get up, don’t even try to work out what time it is – if it’s dark then you should be asleep.

    * After a few days sleep should be manageable. There is a theory that it takes one day for every hour you are off from your local time zone to adjust – that’s’ probably right, but it means you may have finished adjusting when it’s time to go home.

    • Yep, pretty much bang-on my strategy too. Buying good earplugs and a good eyemask is worth is… i bought an awesome eyemask from amazon that is scores better than any the airlines provide (if they provide anything). Earplugs also a must for sleeping in hotels and getting much-needed uninterrupted slp.

    • Really good tips, in addition to the above, I try and start shifting over to the time of my destination when I’m on the plane as well, if I know the flight lands early in the morning, then I make sure to try and sleep the last 6 or so hours of the flight.

      Another good way to make the time fly by is to do an activity that helps you lose track of time, for me that’s reading, I can read for hours on end and feel like I’ve only been doing it for 20 minutes, some people it’s video games or tv shows. Just find what’s right for you and you won’t notice the distance as much. I once read all three Lord of the Rings books on a flight 🙂

  • 1. Fly business class if possible.
    2. Lounge membership is worth every cent.
    3. Good noise cancelling headphones.
    4. iPad, iPad mini, xps13 or MacBook Air loaded with movies and tv series.
    5. Alcohol. Drink until they cut you off – the easiest way to get to sleep in economy is to drink until you pass out.
    6. Never fly with young kids. I don’t mind sitting next to other people’s young kids – with noise cancelling headphones free-flowing alcohol and a good movie I’m _very_ tolerant of others – but a long haul flight with your own kids is pure hell.
    7. Get an isle seat. (See point 5) The bathroom is more important than the window.

  • Truly comfortable? Go business class. If you’re lucky, work will spring for this (not subject to FBT when going international, and reduces the rest day allowance), or use points to upgrade.

    Otherwise, at best it’s about making economy bearable:
    1. Popular route/flight = pre-book aisle seat. It’s a trade off between climbing over people vs having others climb over you. Personally I like being able to stand up whenever.
    2. Less popular route/flight = prebook aisle seat but ask at the counter to be moved to an empty row should one exist.
    3. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must
    4. Flight pillow. Wear it back-to-front (works better this way).
    5. Drugs. Melatonin to reset your body clock (get onto destination time as early as possible during the flight, especially if going east) and “relaxants” if struggling to sleep.

  • It varies by plane, unfortunately. Reach under the armrest, back toward the hinge there will be a button, or a switch, or, occasionally, a very painful-to-move slider that moves horizontally. It will release the aisle armrest.

    Note that I have been on planes where the armrest cannot be raised (or, at least, I couldn’t find the button!).

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!