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I’m not sure if I’m getting bigger or plane seats are getting smaller but I think it’s probably a little bit of both. In fact, my own research has proven both indeed to be true, making traveling comfortably almost an oxymoron. Fortunately, I’ve traveled extensively (over 3,00,000 miles) for more than two decades so I’ve got a few (or a thousand) tricks up my sleeve! Here are my best tips for actually being comfortable on an airplane. RELATED: The Unusual Thing I Always Pack and You Should Too

How to be comfortable on an airplane.

1. Pre-book your seat

When you book your flight, choose your favorite seat, even if it means spending extra. If you’re not sure how to find the best seats, check out Seatguru or aeroLOPA for guidance. I prefer exit or bulkhead aisle seats when I travel in coach because I need the space to work. If I’m on a redeye (which I try at all costs to avoid), I book a window seat so I can prop my big head up against the window and sleep. But everyone is different so figure out what’s best for you. To really be comfortable, splurge for first class or ask at check-in or at the gate if they are selling discounted upgrades.

2. Dress comfortably

No matter which seat you choose, dress comfortably. I’m certainly not suggesting you wear your pajamas to the airport but if you’re on a long flight or an overnight one, you should definitely bring them. I know many business travelers who will wear a suit on and off the plane but will slip into pjs or sweatpants after takeoff. I’m one of them. The trick is to use the loo right when the seatbelt sign goes off the first time so it’s the cleanest and then change. If you’d rather fall asleep before takeoff or need more space, then change in the airport bathroom. Comfort is so important to me that even on short flights, I wear clothes that aren’t tight and I always bring a sweater and socks since planes tend to be freezing.

3. Bring gadgets

I know neck pillows look ridiculous, especially when travelers have them around their necks walking through airports but if they help you get better sleep, absolutely bring one. There are a lot of different types so figure out which is best for you (here’s a roundup of the most popular travel pillows). FYI: My wife and I bring the Fly-Tot for our little kids since it turns a standard coach seat into a flat bed for a toddler. You can also use an inflatable foot rest.

4. Create a legrest

If you’re lucky enough to secure the bulkhead or exit row and have extra legroom, create a makeshift leg rest. Just after takeoff, use a gadget like the Fly-Tot, inflatable foot rest or a small suitcase to prop up your legs. I use my rolling briefcase and put a blanket or sweatshirt on top which creates a much more comfortable seat.

5. Bring a mask and earplugs

Unless you’re flying on a private jet, you can’t control the plane’s atmosphere. That’s why I always pack a comfortable blackout eye mask and earplugs to ensure I won’t be woken by my seatmates. Just in case there’s a crying baby or a loud talker, load up your phone with music and bring noise-cancelling headphones. Obviously, if you plan on sleeping, book a window seat and buckle your seatbelt over your outermost garment so the flight attendants won’t wake you when the seatbelt sign goes on.

6. Bring food and water

When it comes to food and drinks, you don’t want to be at the mercy of the flight attendants or catering or if there’s a long delay, you don’t have to starve yourself. Always bring food (nothing that is too smelly like tuna fish or that can cause allergic reactions like peanuts) and water so you won’t go hungry and can stay hydrated. If you don’t want to spend $5 for a bottle of water, bring an empty collapsible water bottle through security, then fill it at a water fountain or ask to fill it at an airport restaurant.

7. Download movies and apps

In case there are no inflight entertainment (IFE) systems or WiFi on the plane, download your favorite movies, shows, games or apps in advance. Actually, it’s always good idea even if the plane has IFE systems because they break frequently. Don’t forget to power up before boarding, too. And of course, never leave home without your portable phone charger because all those downloaded movies won’t matter if your device is dead.

I hope these tips make your next flight more comfortable. If I forgot anything, let me know in the comments.


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