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Stay Comfortable on Long Flights

Here are a few tips to make an extra-long plane flight less taxing. 

woman on plane with headphones and eye mask, picture
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Use eyeshades and headphones to set the stage for slumber.

Until airlines find a way to squeeze your favorite sofa on board, flying will never be as comfy as staying home. But a long-haul flight doesn’t have to leave you feeling as though you’ve slept on a bed of nails. As AAA Travel counselor Lori Reilly explains, you can emerge virtually unscathed from flights six hours or longer with some advance planning and a smart onboard strategy. Here’s how.

Be a seat sleuth Some seats are less conducive to a pleasant flight, such as those next to lavatory lines. Travel agents or websites such as can tell you which spots to avoid on specific aircraft. Consider using miles or dollars to upgrade to a seat with extra room, if you can. “But even if you’re upgrading to premium economy, check the specific location,” Reilly says. “Seats near exit rows may not fully recline.”

Create a comfort zone To maximize legroom, limit carry-ons at your feet to only those items you’ll need during the flight, and stow the rest overhead. Wear clothes that stretch and move easily, and consider changing out of your street shoes into slippers or thick socks. Bring a small travel blanket to keep warm in cold cabins and cocoon yourself as you read, play a video game, or watch films to pass the time.

Get moving Periodically stand up from your seat and walk around for a few minutes when the crew allows it, Reilly says. When seated, regularly stretch your legs and flex your feet.

Stay water wise Imagine your discomfort if you were crossing a desert without drinking any water, and then consider this: Airplane cabins are drier than the Sahara. So sip plenty of liquids throughout the flight, but avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate.

Snooze strategically Use an inflatable pillow, eyeshades, and earplugs or headphones to set the stage for slumber. Prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids can be a godsend, but try them first at home to see how they’ll affect you. Time your dosage so you will wake up before the final meal service. “That allows you to get some fuel in your body, freshen up, and be ready for action as soon as you land,” Reilly says.

This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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