Staying comfortable during international flights

a group of clothes and shoes

I’m starting to make my plans and arrangements for a trip to India later this year. As usual, the idea of such a long trip starts making me anxious! I know it’s silly but I can’t help it. I obsess over where to sit, what to bring, and how to be as comfortable as possible. During times like this it helps to read over some of my advice from past long-haul trips. Here is my advice for staying comfortable during international flights.

Wear comfortable clothes. This is so important! Readers have suggested pajamas, leggings, yoga pants, and sweatpants for ultimate long-flight comfort. I usually wear a tunic, leggings, compression socks, and a wrap cardigan (pictured). Just make sure your clothes don’t pinch or pull, or you will be hating life once you hit hour five of your 14-hour trans-Pacific flight.

Try for a better seat. Of course business class is the best, but we all know that upgrade isn’t always an option. When I’m booked in coach if it’s available I try to get the seat at the bulkhead. There is tons more legroom which dramatically increases your comfort level. In the past readers have suggested asking the ticket agent if there are any empty rows or spots with an empty seat next to it. By all means, you should ask! But all of the international flights I’ve been on for the last few years have been completely full.

Position yourself. Having your body in the same position for hours and hours is just wearing. Some potential options: prop a bag or inflatable footrest under your feet. Recline your seat (except during food service). Get a couple of different travel pillows and see which works for you–leaning against the window, sitting up, leaning forward on your tray table, etc. I have a few different travel pillows, including a neck pillow and inflatable rectangle version. However a friend traveled to Europe a few months ago and used the new-ish Trtl pillow and loved it. I’ll definitely be getting one before my trip!

Snuggle up. Airplanes can be frigid ice boxes. Bring a compact travel blanket to repel the cold air. I also like to bring slippers so I don’t have to wear my sneakers the whole trip.

Prepare for sleep. In addition to the pillow and blanket mentioned above, make sure you have everything you need to sleep. I need an eye mask, white noise, and a Tylenol PM. No matter how tired I feel, I take that Tylenol PM. Last year when I flew to the Philippines I didn’t take it and literally got zero sleep. Since I have to go to the office soon after I land, I was a zombie!

Pack your comfort bag. I like to keep a number of toiletries close at hand when I’m flying, including micellar face wipes, moisturizer, lotion, disposable toothbrushes, a hydrating face mask, deodorant, and lip balm. I also keep tissues and antibacterial wipes in there.

Snack and hydrate. Make sure you keep snacks and a bottle of water handy. Sometimes meal service takes longer than you expect, and the water bottles they pass out can be tiny. Staying hydrated and eating are two of the most important things you can do for your comfort when you’re on a plane for a long time. I know when I’m thirsty or hungry I get *very* grumpy. Don’t do that to yourself!

Keep everything close. If you’re not in the bulkhead you won’t have much room to access your carryon. I have everything mentioned above, plus my Kindle and headphones, in a couple of gallon Ziplock bags. That way I can keep everything I need handy and accessible throughout my flight.

Readers, what are your tips for staying comfortable during international flights?


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  1. I agree with all these suggestions and I have one to add. I am on the short side so I include in my comfort bag this little step stool as a foot rest. *warning* it has a silly name* Tip Pee Toe step stool. It does weigh about a pound, but it is so worth it. (Obviously) I can’t stand ON it, but it is perfect for a elevating my feet on a plane. It is very compact and takes almost no space in my bag. Until I can afford to fly in a lie flat seat, this will always be with me on those international flights.

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