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Prepare Ahead of Time to Make the Most of Your Flight 

In the early years of flight in the U.S. (1914-1927), pilots and the occasional passenger sat in open cockpits. Even into the 1940s, air travel “remained a rigorous adventure” in airliners that were not pressurized. Air sickness was common, and planes were loud enough during takeoff to cause permanent hearing loss. Flying was expensive for those willing to do it so only a “tiny fraction of the traveling public flew.”

Following World War II, planes were able to fly higher and faster and hold heavier cargo. Airlines needed to carry as many passengers as possible to be profitable, setting the stage for multi-fare flights, “combining a standard class and the coach class with lower service.” It worked. By 1955, more people in the U.S. traveled by air than by train, and, by 1957, airliners had replaced ocean liners for crossing the Atlantic.

Although business class may have surpassed first class in popularity, the class divide remains between the seats in those sections and the seats in coach (aka economy, standard, or main cabin), which are typically narrower and closer together. Here are a couple of suggestions for remaining as comfortable as possible when flying coach. 

1.    Avoid the Middle Seat

It’s a recognized law of physics that flights take longer when you’re sitting in the middle seat. Our advice is to avoid the middle seat; however, we recognize that circumstances out of your control might land you there.

In that case, you’ll want to be sure to follow these suggestions and be prepared with your own amenity kit, snacks, and entertainment. Distraction is key. Everything you bring should fit into the small bag or backpack that can be stowed under the seat in front of you for easy access during the flight. Don’t pack those things in a carry-on bag stowed in the overhead.

2.    Dress Properly

As with most instructions for dressing when you aren’t in control of your environment, we suggest you dress in layers when traveling. Although stylish is nice, comfort is key.

  • Make sure your base layer is a thin, comfortable fabric that is long enough that it won’t ride up during the flight. You don’t want your skin sticking to your seat. We recommend long sleeves and long pants, so your arms and legs are covered, in case of emergency.
  • The next layer should be a hooded jacket or sweater to keep you warm, and to pull up to cover your eyes and ears, if necessary. If you’ve brought a down coat, you can fold it into a pillow or an elbow rest on your lap. It’s much easier to bring dressier clothes and switch into them upon arrival than it is to try to be comfortable and keep them looking smart during a long flight, particularly an overnight flight.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes to protect your toes and to protect others from your toes. Ideally, you should wear shoes that are good for walking through airports and easy to slip off and on. If you plan to remove your shoes during the flight, be sure you’re wearing socks. Hopefully, you’re already wearing socks in preparation for the possibility you’ll have to remove your shoes at security. If not, pull the socks from your amenity kit (see below) and put them on before boarding the plane. If you’re going to wear compression socks to combat blood clots in your legs, you should certainly do so before boarding as they can be a bit more difficult to put on.

3.    Pack a Personalized Amenity Kit

Most airlines provide amenity kits only on long-haul or international flights. They typically include a toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, eye mask, earplugs, and socks. Some airlines ramp it up with designer kits and additional goodies like toiletries and cosmetics. You can do the first- and business-class amenity kit one better by assembling your own to meet your personal needs. 

Be sure to include a travel pillow, eye mask, one-time-use slippers for trips to the lavatory, and cashmere socks for while you’re seated. Add lip balm, saline nasal spray, and a couple of individually packaged eye drops to combat the dry air on the plane. Remember a package of soft tissues.

4.    Plan Your Own Snacks and Stay Hydrated

Like the amenity kit, there is nothing special about the snacks on planes. It just seems that way because they’re limited and provided on someone else’s schedule. You can certainly pack your own. We suggest a couple of high protein snacks like individual packs of almond or peanut butter and crackers. Consider small bags of nuts or dried fruit for a sweet treat. Don’t forget your Jolly Rancher hard candy. These long-lasting hard candies are great for helping to reduce the pressure in your ears during takeoffs and landings and for combatting nausea from motion sickness.

In addition to keeping your lips, eyes, and nose moist, try to stay hydrated by drinking water before and during the flight. The hydration and accompanying trips to the lavatory can help prevent blood clots.

5.    Stock Up on Entertainment

Nowadays, even seats in coach offer in-flight entertainment on long haul or oversea flights, which beats flights in the past in which we all watched a movie on the dropdown screen at the front of the cabin after which we watched an image of the plane’s progress on its flight path. Nonetheless, be prepared with your own entertainment (movies, audiobooks, podcasts, etc.) preloaded on your devices. Download or pack more than you think you could possibly watch, listen to, or read. Otherwise, when you realize you hate the movie you’ve been waiting to watch until this trip, you’ll be left with nothing else to watch.  Don’t forget the chargers for your phone, iPad, or laptop!

Don’t rely on the free earbuds or headphones provided by the airlines. Bring what you know fits your head and works for you. Pack them in the small bag you bring on the plane to stow under the seat in front of you.

Once you’ve arrived, do what you need to do to get your waking and sleeping in synch with the time of your destination by exposing yourself to daylight.

Enjoy every moment of your trip.

-The Team at down etc


Read more:

5 Ways Light Can Affect Your Sleep

5 Ways to Ensure a Quiet Hotel Room

Best Tips to Avoid Air Travel Challenges Over the Holidays


Photo by Stefan Stefancik from Pexels


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