Let’s be honest: Airplane seats are pretty darn uncomfortable. In fact, I thought that finding five ways to make a flight more pleasant was a tough task. As it turned out, our readers wrote in with nearly 100 ways to make the medieval torture device (also known as a coach seat) a more restful experience. As the comments moderator here at SmarterTravel, I was ecstatic that so many of our readers wrote in, so I decided to round up some of the best.
Comfort can be a state of mind, and maybe the best way to relax is to bring along items that help you escape the confines of your narrow middle seat. Lazrlady writes, “I use Bath and Body Works Relaxation Aromatherapy oils. They come in a convenient roller applicator. Rub some on your wrist and temples, close your eyes and go to your favorite spot. In just a short while your flight is over and you are walking off the plane.” Reader sookyee also recommends a way to tune out the world around you: “Before boarding an airplane, purchase a few of your favorite magazines, crossword puzzles, word searches, or a local newspaper. This often helps me pass the time on any flight.” And GretchS knows that anticipation may well be the best part of your vacation. “When I travel for vacation I like to bring along my travel books and read up on the cities I will be visiting or would like to visit, even though I have already done my homework. I guess it gets me excited all over again.”
Sitting in one place for too long can cause deep vein thrombosis (also known as coach class syndrome), and our readers know how important it is to move around during the flight. “I often find that when I can, getting up for a brief walk in the aisle helps. When I use the restroom, I employ some stretching exercises,” says undergrounds. If you’re stuck in your seat, LynnTex says, “This is basic, but never cross your legs, and point and flex your toes/heels about 10 times, every 30 minutes. Also, stretch your arms above your head.”
As many readers noted, in-flight comfort can’t be mentioned without bringing up crying babies and chatty neighbors. While I recommended the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, several users suggested less expensive ways to tune out those around you. RJC suggested earplugs, saying that they are, “obtained at low cost from any drugstore. They are easy to insert and are relatively comfortable.” And mbmaz posted this recommendation: “I have a white noise app on my iPhone that works really well with regular headphones for creating some audio privacy on a crowded flight.” Alan says, “You can download an audiobook to your iPod or other mp3 player. It [is] very compact and easy to carry. It is easier and more relaxing than reading from print, especially with the motion and poor lighting on planes.”
Thinking about your flight before you get to the airport can help you avoid some of the worst obstacles. Reader elBeeBee says, “Maybe I’ll regret sharing this, but if you explore how you can get a more comfortable seat using [SmarterTravel’s sister site] SeatGuru, it can really make your trip better. Especially helpful on overseas flights.” ArchesTravel knows how to grab more legroom for less than a first-class seat. “What I do is pay extra for a seat at one of the emergency exits. It gives me a ton more legroom, and I honestly don’t know how I would fly any other way, now that I have done this. It also means there will be no children next to you, as they aren’t allowed to be in those seats.” And rhirhi uses pre-planning to score better seating arrangements with a family member: “When my husband and I fly, if there are three seats in a row, I book the aisle and he books the window, hoping that it is not a full flight and no one will pick the middle one in between us. This allows us to sprawl out a bit. Now, if someone is in the middle I have had no problems with getting them to take a window or aisle seat versus the middle of a cute couple.”
While sitting so close to others may not be your idea of fun, being cordial and polite can often benefit you as well as your seatmate. Tyohnka writes, “The first thing I do when I get on the plane is very politely ask the person in front of me if they intend to put their seat back—because if they plan to, I will ask the flight attendant to find me another seat. Saying that usually is enough to deter people from doing so.” Crying babies, the bane of so many travelers’ journeys, can also use a little help. “For that fussy baby,” writes geniework, “ask the parents if they would like you to give them a break. Maybe the baby just needs cuddling and the parents are too harassed to do that. Sing to the baby/child all the songs you know, tell them the nursery rhymes you remember. Your seatmates will thank you and, in fact, so will the whole plane.”
What other ways do you use to get comfortable on an airplane? We want to hear more of your great ideas. Leave a message in the comments section below.