20 tips on flying comfortably

Oct 2, 2000 (Updated Feb 27, 2001)

The Bottom Line Investing some time in planning your plane trip and on some useful amenities will aid in air travel comfort.

I have traveled to many places and on many different airlines and have come up with a few tips on flying comfortably.

1-Select your seats depending on your preferences. Please read my review on that topic for more information.


2-Discuss your meal options before you fly. If you're a vegetarian, or require special diets, you should discuss this with your booking agent so that the airline can make the adjustments. Most airlines have a choice of menus to accommodate the various diets of its passengers. Thus, if you can't eat fish for whatever reason, the airline can substitute a chicken meal for you. Check with the appropriate airline for the meals that they provide. You don't necessarily have to settle for the ones that everyone else on the plane has.

3-Bring some food and a drink with you on your carry on baggage in case the airline runs out of food. Yes, that has happened to me. For more information on my experience with Northwest, please read my review on that. Choose food that are easily portable, won't create much of a mess, and doesn't require heating. Chocolate bars, granola bars, cookies, or health bars are great portable foods that can fill you up in case the food runs out or you find the airline food inedible. As for drinks, bottled water is probably the best choice. It doesn't require to be refrigerated to taste good. Carbonated drinks may taste good but after a while, you will get the sour aftertaste of drinking sugary liquids.

4-Bring some portable wet napkins with you to refresh yourself or wipe off any accidental spills or mess you or your companion creates (especially those little ones). If you read samadust's review on Delta, you will find out that he didn't even get any hot napkins to refresh himself. It may be surprising how refreshing a wet napkin can do for you during a long flight. After flying for a few hours, your nose will feel a bit dry from the recirculating dry air of the plane. If possible, ask for a hot napkin and breathe through it to moisten your nose. It may sound and look stupid but I'd rather feel better than worry about looking stupid. You may also want to bring along a portable jar of vaseline and wipe some on your nose. That also helps keeps your nose moist.

5-Invest in a comfortable neck rest (for long hauls). If you've slept on the plane on long hauls, you will no doubt get a stiff neck from sleeping. No matter how many pillows you stuff under your head, it won't feel as comfortable as sleeping on a neck rest. Inflatable ones are great for saving space when you're finished. You just need to let out the air. Bean bag ones are probably more comfortable but they take up some space and weight. Your neighbor will definitely appreciate your use of a neck rest, especially if you rock from side to side.

6-Take the time to stretch your legs by taking walks along the plane. You may annoy your fellow passengers and the stewardess but at least you're exercising and keeping the blood circulating in your legs. Especially on long flights, I find that my knees hurt quite a bit due to the cramped conditions of the plane. By keeping them warm by walking or exercising, you will decrease the chances of stiff legs or pain. If you can't get up and walk around, do some leg, neck, arms, and hand exercises that don't require you to get up. There are many you can find on the web.

7-Bring some reading material. That could be a book, newspaper, magazine, textbook(?), etc. Time will pass by much quicker when you are reading something you like. I would suggest a paperback book, a magazine and a newspaper to break the monotony of the reading material. They don't take up much space and don't disturb your neighbors.

8-Bring a walkman, mp3 player, cd player, or whatever portable music player you have. Ensure that you have enough batteries to last the length of the trip. There is nothing more frustrating than to find that your batteries ran out an hour into your long flight. And bring along some tapes too. Listening to music can be very relaxing. You can sleep better with it and hopefully drown out the crying babies in the background.

9-Don't resist the body's response for a rest. Some people I know try to stay up as much as possible during the flight to adjust to the time difference. I think that is unwise. I think sleeping as much as possible on the flight is a great way to refresh your body and mind and a great way to pass those hours. It is much better to be well rested and experience the time difference than to be tired and still go through jet lag.

10-Break the silence of your neighbor by introducing yourself. You may be surprised to discover how fascinating your neighbor is and learn more about a different culture, lifestyle, etc. And of course, you can indulge in talking about yourself and your life story. Talking is a great way to pass the time. You may gain a friend and keep boredom to a minimum.

11-Take your shoes off. You'd be surprised how much more comfortable you'll be. Your feet will swell during the flight and by taking your shoes off, at least the swollen feet won't be stuck in such tight quarters for the flight's duration. I, however, wouldn't suggest taking your socks off unless you want to arouse any emotions in your neighbor.

12-If you're a contact lens wearer and you have your glasses, don't wear your contact lenses on the plane. The air conditioning on the plane will dry your eyes and being a former contact lens wearer, I felt quite uncomfortable wearing my contacts during a long haul. I had to frequently wet my lens with eye drops. It was a lot of hassle. If you have glasses, don your glasses. No one really looks that great after a long flight anyway.

13-Dress comfortably. I suggest a t-shirt and comfortable pants. Also, bring along a sweatshirt or something that you can wear in case the air conditioning is too much for you. I've flown on Korean Airline once and the air circulation on the particular plane I was on was so bad that I would feel hot one minute and cold the next. I had such a hard time falling asleep because of that and suffered as a result.

14-If you have kids or babies, bring some portable toys that they enjoy. Some airlines provide some sort of a kid's toy, some don't. It never hurts to ask. It's better to have a giggling and laughing child than a crying one. Bring along some type of food for the child for relieving cabin pressure during take off and landing like cookies or something that will move their jaws. For small babies, nursing them will do the trick. Or for older babies, tickling them will do it. It will make your neighbor happier.

15-If you're sitting next to a parent with a baby, try playing peek-a-boo with the baby. You'd be surprised how positive the child will respond to you. It will make your flight as well as your neighbor's flight less stressful and time will pass by quicker. Who knows, you may even end up liking kids.

16-Make your luggage more distinguishable from others by putting stickers on it or sewing special patches on it. I've known people who paint their luggage to make it distinguishable. With soft luggages so common nowadays, it's very hard to distinguish the numerous black soft luggages from others. Buy a different colored soft luggage if you can. I've often wondered why people don't do anything different with their luggage to make it distinguishable. I use a hard Samsonite luggage for its durability and also because not many people use it. Even when I've encountered someone with the identical luggage, I can tell if it's mine for the stickers I have on mine. And it's great to have a hard luggage because I don't have much problem locating it on the luggage carousel. And, lock them. I always reset my lock to 0s so that it's obvious that the lock was reset.

17-Inspect your luggage before you leave the airport. If the luggage was broken in any way, you can claim the damages. Just go back to your airline desk and report the damage. Depending on the damage, they may pay you money or pay for the repair.

18-Don't leave your previous flight baggage tags, name tags on your luggage. The extra tags can confuse the baggage handlers and may cause delays in retrieving your luggage. Just leave one airline name tag or your own name tag on the luggage.

19-Don't pack any fragile material in your luggage. I know it sounds obvious but some people don't realize that luggages are literally thrown on board the planes. If you have something fragile to transport, either take it with you as a carry on luggage or check it in as a special luggage. Make it very obvious that the product is fragile and of course, insure it in case it does get broken.

20-Arrive well ahead of time to the airport. That translates to at least an hour and a half for domestic flights and at least 2 and a half hours for international. Sure, you'll have lots of time to spare if everything goes well, but you'll be thankful if things aren't. Also, if you are one of those people who aren't in a hurry to get to your destination, you can benefit from the usual overbooking of airlines. All airlines overbook to accommodate last minute cancellations or changes. If you arrive early, you can benefit from the overbookings. For giving up your seat for another passenger, you can expect to be paid cash for your inconvenience or be upgraded to a higher classed seat, or other benefits. That may be worth it for some people who don't mind it for the monetary gain. Also, you may find yourself boarding another flight that is just departing for the same destination if you happen to be there. I was fortunate enough once to board the business class seat when we arrived early. The problem though was that we still had to wait for our luggage. Oh well.

Here are a few more tips to make your flight more enjoyable. Don't drink any beverages that will dehydrate your body. These include coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Drink them when you're on the ground and you'll enjoy it more. Due to the high altitudes and cabin pressure, you may experience some discomfort with headaches. Alcohol will only compound your discomfort if you are already experiencing headaches. Not only will these diuretic beverages make you take a few more trips to the bathroom and annoy your neighbors, you will also be dehydrated and will want to drink more. Why suffer, especially on long flights?

If the plane isn't full and you're sitting on a seat that you don't like, you can ask to sit elsewhere. Especially if you're sitting in the middle seat of a plane, you may make your flight more enjoyable by sitting on an aisle or window seat. The stewardess will most likely allow you to do so since no one is occupying the seat you want.

Bring along a deck of cards to play solitaire or ask for a deck onboard. Most planes will supply it among other amenities such as slippers, toothbrush kit, etc. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Hopefully, I've covered tips that will help some people deal with the discomforts of flying and maybe even enjoy flying. Again, I thank you for taking the time to read and rate my review.

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