The first time I went out of the country, I had to take two 10 hour flights to get from Phoenix to Johannesburg; they were more than three times as long as the longest flight I had been on up till that point. I think there is some art to flying on planes comfortably in economy (although the airlines certainly don’t help), and at the time, I knew nothing about that. So, I had two very long flights during which I was bored, unable to sleep, and I even got a little sick from being in the air for too long coupled with the low quality of the airplane food. I’ve learned to do a little better on long flights, after more experience, but I still consider flying to be one of the most uncomfortable aspects of traveling.

I’m sure everyone has their own methods for staying comfortable on long flights, but for me there are a few things that help. Surprisingly, one thing that helps me is trying to get work done. If I sit down on a 10 hour flight and plan on getting 8 hours of work done, it at least gives me the illusion that I won’t have too much extra time to not know what to do with. Often working makes me tired anyway, which is also helpful. So, as much as this sounds like a drag, I think if it’s possible to get work done on a long flight, do it. You are really killing two birds with one stone if you ask me.

Another thing that I find when traveling by plane for extended periods of time, is that it can get darn cold. This is partially just me. Anyone that knows me, knows that I get cold easily. But I’m sure there is also an element of I’ve-been-sitting-in-this-one-spot-for-too-long which can make the air conditioning feel more pronounced than otherwise. My point is, if you get cold relatively easy, do yourself a favor and pack some things to keep warm with. There are some airlines that still provide everyone with blankets, but some don’t anymore, and you certainly won’t begrudge yourself the extra comfort. Bringing snacks and extra water is never a bad idea either.

Finally, for anyone traveling with chronic conditions, of course carry with you what you need to generally stay comfortable (never check prescriptions), but also consider what flying might do to any conditions that you have. I am sure that you will be aware of the most serious considerations of flying, but try to do some background research on what some of the general side-effects of flying might do to your comfort. The more you know, the more you can do to avoid those problems (speaking from experience here).

In short, flying in economy for more than 3 hours at a time is rarely enjoyable, but there are things that you can do to take care of yourself and make it as enjoyable as possible. If you have any suggestions of your own about making economy plane travel more comfortable, let me know in the comments!