5 ways to be comfortable on long flights in coach

In a couple of weeks, I head back to Manila. Yes, this means 25 hours of transit one-way. Even though I’ve done it many times before, I always get a little anxious in the time leading up to the trip. 14 hours is a long time to be on a plane! And the way my schedule works is that once I arrive in Manila I go to the hotel to shower and eat, then head straight to the office. There is no resting once I arrive, which makes comfort and sleep on the plane super important. In the past, I’ve been lucky and gotten upgraded to business class. The lie-flat bed (not to mention the free wine) makes sleeping much easier!

This time, unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to get upgraded. I bought my ticket late, plus I haven’t regained my Platinum status yet. Sooo I have to figure out ways to make myself as comfortable as possible and get tons of sleep in coach. Easy? Nope! But it should be tolerable if I plan ahead.

  1. Dress comfortably. This is the big one!!! I have seen people on these long flights wear craaaaazy stuff (tight skirts! high heels! leather!), and I just don’t get it. I don’t wear actual pajamas (although that’s not a terrible idea), but not too far off. This time, I’m not traveling with anyone (and so have no need to look professional) so I am wearing yoga pants, a long sleeve tee shirt, my adorable Nabee compression socks, and sneakers. If I were traveling with coworkers I could wear a jersey dress and leggings, which would look professional yet still be very comfortable.
  2. Bring entertainment. One of the things I love about international flights is the movies (I’m a movie geek, I know). So I’m not super worried about having stuff to do on the flight since I plan to watch at least two movies. But I will still bring knitting and my Kindle for downtime at the airport. If you are not a movie person, I definitely recommend you bring stuff so you don’t get bored because 14 hours is a long time to have nothing to do.
  3. Know what you need to sleep. I need several things to sleep comfortably on a plane: a window seat, pillow, travel blanket, eye mask, Tylenol PM, white noise app, and noise cancelling headphones. My friend needs a couple of glasses of wine. Whatever you need, bring!  There isn’t much worse than needing to sleep on a flight, but not being comfortable enough to do it.
  4. Hydrate your skin. For long flights, I need to have all kinds of moisturizers so my skin doesn’t get dried out. Lip balm, face moisturizer, and hand cream are all in my bag, plus I try to drink plenty of water. I prefer to wear my glasses on long flights, since my contacts dry out my eyes after prolonged wear.
  5. The little extras. Sometimes the little things can make or break a flight. I really like to have my slippers so I don’t have to wear shoes all the time but can get up easily. Face cleansing wipes feel soothing while wiping off travel grime. Plus, I always bring my toothbrush and toothpaste so I can feel fresh after waking up. Finally, I will definitely have snacks and a big bottle of water in my bag, so if the food service is taking too long I won’t be tempted to eat my seatmate.

It will be hard, but with planning and preparation I can have a good flight with lots of rest!

Readers, how do you stay comfortable on long flights in coach?


  1. I had a 22 hour flight (Johannesburg to Atlanta) where I was in a middle seat between two large, loud men who kept kicking and elbowing me the entire flight. Nothing short of very heavy prescription medication (to drug them, not me) could have made that flight tolerable

  2. I totally agree that wearing comfortable clothes is important. I have a pair of no wrinkle black slacks that are a little stretchy that are my go to lower half attire. I wear slip on shoes, both to get through security faster (and without hopping) and also so I can slip them off on the plane. However, they sometimes migrate, so try to put them somewhere you’ll be able to find them.

    Unfortunately, I cannot sleep on planes. I can doze intermittently, but mostly I just sit there glaring at my fast asleep husband who can sleep from take off until landing. I haven’t tried benadryl, the active soporific ingredient in tylenol PM because it makes me feel hung over and still doesn’t put me to sleep reliably. In fact, you should try something like unisom or a store brand over the counter sleep aid so you can avoid taking acetaminophen (tylenol) unnecessarily. Tylenol overdoses are very dangerous. Some people OD by not realizing that they are taking several meds that contain acetaminophen.

    I’m also a window seat person, but how tall are you? I’m not that tall, but on a long flight being “comfortable” is, at best, a relative term. Having relaxing things to do that you enjoy is also important for me, as you said.

    I cannot imagine flying to the Philippines, taking a shower and putting in a full day of work at an office. I’d be walking into walls.

    I love to travel (hence, my reinvention from lawyer to travel blogger–I’m at a travel blogger conference in Toronto as we speak), flying in economy is the price I’m willing to pay to satisfy my wanderlust.

  3. I’m leaded to Manila next winter for a couple of days. Any advice? Would it be okay if I contact you asking for a little insider info? That would be marvelous.

  4. Tylenol PM also give me a hung over feeling. So I ask my doctor for a small prescription of ambien. I get much better sleep this way. Just be sure to give yourself a full eight hours or you’ll have a hard time waking up. I’d experiment at home first before using it on a plane.

  5. I cannot sleep on the planes either. I as well had experience sitting in the middle seat for 15 hours (non-stop flight). I don’t travel a lot but at least regularly and I know I am getting old and will not bear with this torture any longer…..

    I upgrade to business class when I travel alone or on longhaul flights (over 6 hours).

    For short-hauls, I tend to fly with someone so that I don’t get bored!! As long as I get distracted from my travel companion, my flight somehow becomes pleasant.

  6. Also depends on the carrier. We usually fly BOS to BKK on JAL 787 and this is a much different experience in coach than a typical North American carrier coach experience. On that flight I think I would rather save the miles and stay in the back of the plane.

    RW, I wonder who you fly mostly and through what hub, and what your experience has been building trips combining awards to Asia but adding a second reservation say on a low cost airline for your final connection to your final destination. This has worked out well for me in the past.

    I’m definitely passing on your entire blog to Mrs. Sassion to prepare for the trip!

  7. I would need anti monkey butt powder, an iPod with hours of podcast and music and ear plugs. Don’t forget contact lens solution and a pillow.

  8. My must haves would be. Big bottle of water, prescription meds especially zanaflex. The zanaflex is a muscle relaxant. I take a half tablet just before I get in a plane. Then nothing bothers me.

  9. Travelsmith sells lots of comfy clothes. They have great travel dresses that dont wrinkle and stretchy pants that are great for everyday

  10. learn self hypnosis ( seriously ) makes it easy to zone out and no after effects .

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