23 Ways To Make Long Flights Less Miserable

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Unless your ultimate fantasy is to sit in a small, confined space in a metal tube soaring through the air for many, many hours, you probably don’t look forward to long flights.

As airlines continue to shrink legroom space and seat size, many travelers have complained about the discomfort of plane rides. But lengthy flights don’t have to be completely miserable.

We asked travel bloggers and other experts to share their tips for making long plane rides more comfortable.

Carry On One Bag

“I usually pack my luggage as compact as possible so that I know I can store it in the overhead bins. Freeing up that footwell for your legs to stretch out does make the flight a lot more comfortable.” ― Mark Ostermann, senior editor of Miles to Memories

Block Out The Noise

“One of the big problems on a flight can be noise from other passengers, whether it’s from a crying baby or a rowdy group of friends. And it can be even more annoying if you’re trying to get some sleep. A pair of soft silicone ear plugs can help to block out most of the noise, and you can even get reusable ear plugs to cut down on single-use waste.” ― Sally Akins, travel and food blogger

“The cacophony of noise at airports and on airplanes can drive the sanest people to go utterly mad. Noise-canceling headphones dilute the noise and allow you to zen out during the flight.” ― Collette Stohler, travel blogger at Roamaroo

Take Time To Stretch

“Comfort on a plane starts before you board. I always find an empty corner of the gate area to stretch and do some yoga before I get on the plane. Even if I get weird looks from other people, stretching tight muscles before sitting for a long time is totally worth it!” ― Carrie Hoffman, digital nomad and co-founder of the Bigger Life Adventures yoga and adventure retreat

“Get up to stretch and walk around when you can. This helps to eliminate tight muscles and circulation problems. Do in-seat stretches during your flight as well.” ― Nancy Schretter, managing editor of the Family Travel Network

Layer Up

“Be dressed in layers because you never know how warm or cold the plane ride will be. You can also use these extra layers as a cushion against back or neck stiffness when you sit on the plane for long hours.” ― Isabel Leong, travel blogger at Bel Around The World

Wear Your Glasses

“Wear glasses instead of contact lenses. A friend made the mistake of wearing contact lenses on a flight from Europe to North America. The dry air in the plane dried up her contacts, so they stuck to her eyes, causing multiple tears! I gladly rock my grandma glasses throughout a flight to avoid drying out my eyes.” ― travel blogger and TV host La Carmina

Choose A Seat Wisely

“My best tip for making flying more comfortable is the strategic seat pick! Knowing where you sit on the plane can really help with eating and sleeping. If you aren’t lucky enough to snag an exit row, make sure you are in a seat that fully reclines (or as much as those economy cabins do) and not one that is next to the kitchen, where flight attendants and fellow passengers will likely congregate. I also always review SeatGuru to ensure I have at least a fully functioning seat far enough away from the kitchen so it isn’t too loud.” ― Danielle Nelson, travel blogger and creator of Pack This Journal

Hydrate

“It is important to stay hydrated, especially on long international flights. Drink plenty of water the days leading up to the flight and while in the air. It may mean more bathroom breaks but your body will thank you once you reach your destination. Many people like to bring a water bottle they can easily fill once they pass through security too. It could take 60-90 minutes before service starts on-board so it is good to be prepared.” ― Ostermann

Bring Snacks

“I don’t know about you, but food makes me happy. I eat before I fly, and if I am on a long flight, I pack a sandwich and few pieces of fruit, some nuts, etc. so that I have food that I like to eat on my plane ride.” ― Andrew Zimmern, chef and host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods”

“Every snack on the plane is starchy, salty or dry. I like to bring sliced cucumbers to munch on. I cut them on the thick side so I get a satisfying crunch and a lot of well-needed hydration at the same time.” ― Samantha Brown, Travel Channel host

Pack Facial Mist

“You may find that the dry atmosphere of an airplane cabin can make your skin feel dehydrated. I love a soothing facial mist to help keep my skin feeling comfortable, my favorite is Avène Themal Spring water spray. It is suitable for sensitive skin and can also be used to help sooth sunburn or even to set makeup. It’s a fabulous multi-use product!” ― Akins

Use Your Toothbrush

“Personal hygiene on a long haul flight goes out the window around seven hours in — everyone starts to feel icky and gross, probably something to do with being confined to a seat in a flying aluminum tube! But, little things like cleaning your teeth halfway through can be a huge comfort boost. Roll-on deodorant, dental floss, and alcohol wipes to wash your face do the same.” ― Meg Jerrard, travel blogger at Mapping Megan

Don’t Sleep Until After Takeoff

“Never sleep as the plane is going up or coming down. Why? Because your inner ears can’t regulate air pressure with rapid ups and downs. You have to help them by doing a precautionary routine (antihistamines, chewing gum, EarPlane plugs, etc.), and you need to be conscious to do it. I’ve always had trouble with my ears after a plane flight. That trouble grew into a problem that gave me a temporary hearing loss in both ears after a flight last spring. Tips from my ENT doctor and a Google search helped me understand the problem and create a precautionary routine that staves off ear misery.” ― Dwight Brown, travel writer

Wear Two Pairs Of Socks

“If you are flying overnight, bring two pairs of socks. One may be the socks that you are wearing with sneakers or you may be wearing sandals onto the plane and need to put on socks later. Put a larger and more comfortable pair of socks over a thinner pair of socks when it is time to sleep or rest and you are kicking your shoes off at your seat. The air in the plane is often quite cold and one pair of socks with no shoes on will often make your feet freeze. Simply add another more comfortable pair of socks on top, and your feet will stay warm, cozy, and shoe free. Just make sure to always put your shoes back on when going to the bathroom or walking around the plane for sanitary reasons!” ― Victoria Yore, travel blogger at Follow Me Away

Invest In A Travel Pillow

“No matter your age, consider flying with a lumbar support pillow for your lower back. Airplane seats aren’t designed to support your back properly, and if you are going to be sitting for a long time, having something to help support your body in an ergonomically correct way is really important. You can clip this back pillow to your suitcase or backpack, and when you arrive at your destination, it can double as lumbar support if you are on a road trip or otherwise sitting for longer periods of time. We often think because we are younger or healthy or don’t have back pain we don’t need proper body alignment but this simply isn’t true! Try it on your next trip and make sure not to leave it on the plane!” ― Yore

“I use my neck pillow around my neck, but more often than not, I will either use it to support my lower back, or I sit on it. This just releases some of the pressure when you are sitting for hours on long-haul flights.” ― Claire Summers, travel blogger at Claire’s Itchy Feet

Upgrade When Possible

“Whenever I can afford it, I get a premium cabin upgrade. The legroom can make the trip much more comfortable, especially if going on long haul flights. I also politely ask the check-in attendant how the seating situation looks like to see if I can get moved to a less crowded area of the plane.” ― Jessica van Dop, travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler

Arrive To The Airport Early

“This may sound obvious but it hasn’t occurred to me except over the past few years that leaving early for the airport alleviates a ton of stress. You need to just build in 30 minutes more than you need. It gives you the sense of calm this that makes any kind of anxiety go away. Then if there’s a traffic jam you’re cool. If there’s a long line at security, you’re covered.” ― Max Hartshorne, editor of the travel website GoNOMAD.com

Keep Your Essentials In One Place

“Pack your go-to items (book, phone and headphones) in one place that is easy to reach without getting out of your seat or searching through your bag.” ― Blakely Downs, travel blogger at Round The World Lovers

Prepare Entertainment

“Load up on reading and entertainment material for your flight. While airline in-flight entertainment systems are often great, sometimes they don’t work or you might not like what’s being featured on it. If you’re traveling with kids, download plenty of movies on your electronic devices and bring along your children’s headphones. Make sure your electronics are fully charged and have a portable charger handy, just in case.” ― Schretter

“I always download binge-worthy series or suspenseful films to my laptop or phone before flying. You know, something to keep you on the edge of your (plane) seat, whether because you’re dying to know what happens at the end of the season or you just *have* to know what happens to the movie’s characters. Choose wisely, and you’ll find yourself cursing the pilot when they come on the loudspeaker to tell you it’s time to put away your portable electronics for landing.” ― Alex Reynolds, travel blogger at Lost With Purpose

Ask About Seat Changes

“I look for aisle seats next to an empty middle, since if the flight is not full, chances are that the middle seat will remain empty, giving me more room. If it’s not possible to get an aisle seat online, I recommend asking the staff when you check in, as there are often seats that become available at the time. If not, ask the person at the gate right before you get on the plane, or the attendants inside the plane, as they might be able to put you in an exit row or move you around.” ― La Carmina

Wear Comfy Clothes

“Dress wisely. Airplanes can be cramped and uncomfortable, but your clothing doesn’t have to be. To make flying the most comfortable it can be, wear breathable, stretchy clothing. I like the Athleta jeggings because they make me look polished and put together, but I feel like I’m wearing sweatpants!” ― Stohler

“I stick with soft, cotton pieces that are basically glorified pajamas, without looking like a slob.” ― Jee Choe, digital designer and blogger at Oh, How Civilized

Do A Face Mask

“I do something eccentric that has surprised some unsuspecting passengers ― I put on a sheet mask every few hours! I buy bulk packages of hydrating Asian sheet masks, without fragrance so that they don’t irritate my skin or the noses of people around me. They generally contain hyaluronic acid and other gentle moisturizing ingredients … This keeps my skin feeling well-hydrated and comfortable throughout the flight.” ― La Carmina

“If you’re feeling brave, put on a face mask during your long flight ― you’ll look refreshed when you land and your skin will thank you for keeping it super hydrated.” ― Choe

Consider Higher-End Airlines

“I accept a certain amount of discomfort when traveling, but one of the ways I make it more comfortable is by investing in a higher-end airline for longer flights. For short flights of only a few hours, I will use a budget airline to save money. But, for the longer flights, even a little bit of extra leg room, a pillow, and a meal makes a huge difference and is worth every cent. My go-to airline for longer flights is Emirates, and I also love Turkish Airlines.” ― Katie McIntosh, travel blogger at The Katie Show

Pick The Aisle Seat

“Personally, I try to get an aisle seat when I’m flying, especially if it’s a long haul flight. I have pretty long legs, and I find that I’m much more comfortable when I’m able to stretch out which is easier when you’re by the aisle. Of course, you don’t want to have your feet sticking out in the middle of the aisle tripping passersby, but there is definitely more wiggle room to stretch out under the seat ahead of you when you don’t have the wall of the plane in the way. Making this change has made flying so much more comfortable for me, plus it’s still easy enough to see out of the window for takeoff and landing. Another bonus of choosing an aisle seat is you don’t have to worry about bothering your seatmates if you find yourself wanting to get up to stretch or take a trip to the bathroom every few hours.” Amber Primdahl, travel blogger at She’s Catching Flights

Change Your Shoes

“On long flights, one of the first things I do is to switch my boots or shoes for some comfortable fluffy slippers. It feels so much better, and I’ve heard your feet can swell on a flight, so it’s nice when your feet can breathe.” ― Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveller