We recently completed a round trip from SLC, Utah to CDG in Paris. On our way out, we had a layover in Atlanta. The flight home was non-stop. Both of these flights were long (8.5 and 10.5 hours respectively) and we picked up a few tips for surviving in coach. If you can swing business class we highly suggest it, but like the vast majority of travelers, we get to squeeze into coach with everyone else.
You’re not going to have much room
Truly, there’s no room. We both are close to 6 feet tall, and here’s how our legs looked the whole time.
Plan what you bring
We loved our travel pillows with neck support because they kept our heads from bobbing- the traditional “U” shaped pillows always leave us falling forward when we doze off.
We also brought plenty of entertainment options- our Nook Glowlight for reading, our old Nintendo DS Lites for games (cheap and portable!) and movies and music synced to our phones. If you’re a tablet user, you can sync to that as well. Don’t forget headphones for all of this!
Many people find medication helpful for sleep. Melatonin or Benadryl work well for a lot of people. If you are truly paralyzed with a fear of flying, see a doctor about a one-time dose of something stronger.
Airlines often offer pillows and blankets, but we saw some people with shawl-type scarves for extra warmth, which was clever.
An eye mask also helps immensely to block any light and movement and help you sleep. Our flights offered them for free, but we can’t guarantee that’ll happen all the time.
Make sure this is in a bag that fits under the seat instead of in the overhead compartments so you can access it easily! Having to rustle above other travelers each time you need something gets irritating, as well as the risk that the plane will run out of room and force you to gate-check an overhead bag.
A large majority of airlines have in-flight entertainment these days and even will offer headphones free of charge if you forgot yours. We both watched four movies in a row, which was probably excessive, but it was an easy way to pass the time. They also offered music channels including lots of “relaxation” stations to help kill the airplane noise. Plus, we got to watch a flight tracker that showed how close we were to our destination.
Take care of yourself!
The free alcohol is nice and probably takes the edge off, but make sure you’re not getting so tipsy you end up hungover with several hours left on the plane.
It’s also really easy to get dehydrated with the recirculated air, so drink plenty of water. You can pick up a giant bottle of water after airport security and bring it on the plane.
DVTs, dangerous blood clots in the legs, is a (probably overblown but still possible) risk from long-haul flights. To combat this, get up and walk around as often as you can. Even if you just walk to the bathroom and back, it’ll get your blood circulating.
And finally, sleep as much as you possibly can!
Don’t be a jerk
See our post about in-flight etiquette. Don’t ruin the trip for everyone! But that’s another post and another rant, so at the end of the day, remember that you’re stuck in a tin can with hundreds of people, 36,000 feet in the air, and you’re in this together until the plane lands.