10 Tips for Surviving a Long Haul Flight in Coach

I’m one of those people who loves air travel.  Not just getting to the destination, but I actually *love* the process of travel most of the time.  I like the excitement of packing and heading to the airport.  I like watching people and planes.  I stare for awkwardly long times at departure boards.

Like anyone, dealing with the strugglefest of a long flight in coach can take it out of anyone.  I’ve spent a lot of time on airplanes–and a lot of time in coach (although sometimes I get lucky!).  There are ways to make it much more comfortable and tolerable if you can’t afford that upgrade to business class (oh, how I love a lie-flat seat!).  I’ve suggested some ideas and some things (affiliate links ahead–only recommending what I own myself and get a commish if you go for it) if you want to make your flight more comfortable.


1.  Choose your seat wisely.  A friend of mine recently said she travels in coach all the time and DOESN’T use Seat Guru!  I was shocked.  It’s one of the best ways to plan ahead for a more comfortable flight.  Do you like extra legroom?  Or is it one of those dreaded seats where people congregate and you’ll hear the lav flushing away all night?  Seat Guru can help!  Pet peeves are the seats where the safety raft impinges on your legroom and rows where the windows are mis-aligned.  Don’t sit there!

Do NOT sit in 33A. Just DON’T.
The BESSSST travel pillow

2.  Use the BEST neck pillow. A good pillow can make all the difference in actually getting sleep on a long haul.  This Cabeau Air Evolution Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow is inflatable so you can manage the puffiness to your comfort and extends up fully so that you’re not a human bobble-head doll.  I’ve recommended it a ton to people and love mine.  It has a clip to secure it tightly (kind of like a neck brace) so you can get solid sleep in a single position.  Sometimes, I flip it around and “side sleep” on it.


3.  Stay hydrated. Those little cups of water are never enough.  Bring your own bottle, preferably a recyclable one from home, and flight attendants are usually happy to refill you as needed.

Bubble eye masks help you sleep well

4. Get a boss sleep mask. Again, a quality sleep mask is critical.  Mine is a specialty purchase from a store in Tokyo called “Tokyu Hands.”  This sleep mask looks similar.   Having “cups” for your eyelashes to not hit a mask helps keep it against your face and not let any light in.

Moisture 4 President

Move away from the giant cans and get some sleep

5. Moisturize.  Planes are dry.  Bring lotion and something for your lips.  My current favorites are the old standby Aquaphoror Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm and Laneige Water Sleeping Mask(Target also has the travel mini).

6. Manage sound. I recently switched over to the Bose QC 20s (from the over-ear models) and I’ve been amazed at how much better I sleep without big ol’ headphones getting in my way.  Although you can still hear some ambient noise through them, blocking the loud airplane noises really does help for sleep and general relaxation.  I’m always amazed when I pop them off for a second how damn loud airplanes can be.

7.  Sleep better through chemistry.  If you prefer a more natural vibe use Melatoninor something with a bit more punch (Zzz Quill OTC or Ambien from your doctor) sometimes you need a little help.  Melatonin is good about an hour before you want to sleep.  Be careful with the stronger stuff–don’t take it frequently and only what’s prescribed (and even half of that often works, but again, consult your doctor because I am not one).   You don’t want to be wrecked when you finally arrive.

The sleep kit in action! Before I got the QC20s.  Sleeping like it’s my job.

8.  Snacks.  We all know airline food is not the best.  I have at least one snack packed (usually a protein bar of some sort).  A piece of fresh fruit or some nuts are good (as long as you eat them before you get to your international destination).


9.  Distractions.  I’ve been using my flights to sketch, lately, and it’s nice and relaxing.  Always have a few podcasts at the ready (I like 2 Dope Queens, WTF, Hidden Brain, Radiolab, Tiny Leaps and many others) and now Netflix lets you download.  Texture is a great app if you like magazines.  I can usually watch a few movies that are on the in-flight entertainment since I tend to “save up” my movie watching for planes.


10. Feel fresh when you get there.  I always bring a spare pair of socks and brush my teeth when I get to my destination.  Those two things do wonders for making me feel a bit brighter, but you do you.


I’m sure you have some additional tips to make long flights more pleasant–what are they?


1 Comment

  1. A real book in case your device dies… and the airline device doesn’t work. That’s saved me more than a few times!

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