While seeing the world is one of life’s most rewarding pleasures, getting from point A to point B by way of long lines, crowded airports, and cramped seats is not fun. A long flight from San Francisco to Bali or New York to Cape Town can be exhausting and stressful. To the small minority who afford business class, congrats! But to the majority of us who endure these flights from coach, don’t despair. There are ways—21 simples ones in fact—to make a long flight more bearable.
1. Secure a good seat. Everyone has a seat preference and whether you’re a window or aisle person, make sure you get that window or aisle seat. You’ll be happier and more comfortable.
2. Dress cozy. Don’t wear your pajamas, but do wear your stretchy jeans, warm socks, and favorite pashmina that doubles as a blanket. Remember: you’re going to be in this outfit for the next 14 to 20 hours, so it should be something that makes you feel good and relaxed.
3. Put as much stuff as you can in the overhead bin. This is a no-brainer, but worth mentioning. The more you place in the overhead bin, the more leg room you’ll have in front of you!
4. Take off your shoes and tuck them into the space underneath the seat in front of you. Bring slippers or an extra pair of socks to slide over the ones you are already wearing.
5. Carry on your travel essentials. Headphones, eye mask, earplugs, facial mist, lip balm, hair band—whatever you need to get through the flight—be sure to carry it on and keep it in an easily accessible place. Make a list of your must haves well before your trip and refer to it while packing.
6. Choose your airline wisely. Certain carriers have more space in coach than others. If you know you’re going to be uncomfortable, consider paying an extra fee for more room. Investigate what kind of plane normally flies the route you are taking. If you want a private television screen, flying Virgin is a good bet.
7. Check in 24 hours in advance. This will ensure that you get to pick a good seat (if you haven’t already) and that you’re not bumped from an overly crowded flight.
8. Pay attention to perks and sign up for a frequent flier card. When you fly often, you have the chance of becoming an elite status member which can waive fees and help you get upgrades more easily.
9. Pack a lunch. Make a sandwich or grain salad before leaving your house. Choose ingredients that won’t go bad when kept at room temperature for a couple of hours. A marinated vegetable and hummus sandwich or quinoa and white bean salad are good ideas. Include snacks like an apple, nuts, or granola bar. When hunger strikes, you won’t have to pay a fortune for a gross prepackaged meal.
10. Drink lots of water. Yes, it sucks to have to go to the bathroom, but hydration is good for the mind, body, and skin.
11. Download your favorite television shows or the movies you’ve been wanting to watch before you leave for the airport.
12. Be productive. Make sure your computer is completely charged, than spend the first three hours of the flight tackling that email organization project. Update your résumé, write a proposal, or draft pitches. Get something done while on the plane!
13. Read a book. Pick a long paperback (the Outlander series is my go to), sit back, and enjoy a good story.
14. Wear noise-canceling headphones. Put them in your ears right when you sit down to ensure you won’t have to make small talk with the man sitting next to you.
15. Be nice. Everyone on the plane is in the same boat. If you see a young mother struggling to hold a crying baby and put her bag in the overhead bin, instead of giving her a dirty look, help her out. Kindness promotes relaxation and when you’re friendly with the flight attendants and gate agents, they just might surprise you with an unexpected reward.
16. Pick your poison. If you know it will help you get several hours of restful sleep, have a glass of red wine or pop a sleeping pill. Melatonin or Z-Quil are good over-the-counter options that will make you sleepy.
17. Walk around. The last thing you need when you land are swollen feet! Every couple of hours get up and walk to the back of the plane. Stretch out your muscles, do some calf raises and ankle circles.
18. Wear your glasses. If you normally wear contacts, remove them and put on your glasses to give your eyes a break. When it’s almost time to land, put your contacts back in.
19. Look out for free seats. Sometimes flights can be pretty empty, especially near the back. If you’re flying from a lesser-traveled destination, but are stuck in a middle seat at the front of the plane, get up and look toward the back. You may find that entire rows are empty.
20. Shift your mindset. Instead of thinking that you’re wasting time sitting in a plane, look at it differently. You’re getting some alone time. You’re disconnected. Journal, read, meditate, or do something you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had time to.
21. Pack a toothbrush and a change of clothes—especially when traveling overnight or landing at a destination with a different climate. When you land, head to the bathroom and brush your teeth, then put on the fresh, clean clothes. Marvel at how good you feel.
What are your secrets to making a long flight more bearable? Share with us below.