Obviously we're all about flying private — or at least business class — if given the option. But, alas it's not always in the cards, so coach it is. And that, as we all know, can come with an array of indignities — and extreme physical discomfort.
According to SeatGuru's sizing chart, the average width of an economy-class plane seat on a long-haul flight is 17 to 18 inches, while the average seat pitch is between 31 to 32 inches. Upgraded economy seats may buy you another few inches of space, but overall there's still not a lot of room to find your happy place in such cramped conditions... unless you consider these easy hacks:
1. Check for secret buttons.
It's common knowledge that you can raise a middle armrest for more room, but did you know that some aisle seat armrests can also be raised? If you feel under it, there is sometimes a small button in the back near the hinge that will allow the armrest to be popped up. Enjoy — just don't take it as license to be all up in the flight attendants' way when they're coming through with drinks and snacks.
2. MacGyver your own mini-theater.
If your seat doesn't have a TV screen, you can easily make one by putting your phone or mini tablet in a gallon-sized plastic bag, making a hole in it hanging it on the tray table hook and watching movies that you've downloaded (or spring for inflight Wi-Fi, though it's usually not ideal for streaming video).
3. Maximize your legroom.
You probably had to stuff a bag under the seat, but you don't have to keep it there after the aircraft has reached 10,000 feet. Once you're up there in the air, move it behind your legs and you can stretch all the way to the bar.
4. Cut the sound.
A good pair of noise-canceling earbuds (such as Bose QuietComfort) will offer the illusion of more personal space, allowing you to settle in more quickly and get lost in your favorite music.
5. Make your own squishy pillow.
Don't spend money on those pathetic and weird airplane pillows when a soft jacket or scarf balled up can provide more comfortable lower back support. Uniqlo's ultra light down jackets, which come with soft carrying cases, are the perfect makeshift pillow, for example.
6. Bring a calming snack.
De-stressing foods like an apple, cashews, or Greek yogurt can help you chill out. Something novel to try: Good Day Chocolate, an M&M-like candy that bills itself as "chocolate with calm" thanks to a blend of amino acids, vitamins, and botanicals.
7. Find the right eye mask.
A mask with eye contouring materials (like the Nidra Deep Rest Mask) can help you achieve a deeper state of sleep or just combat the annoying neighbor who you don't want to keep asking to lower the window screen. If you don't have any sort of eye mask, ask a flight attendant — you may even score a little amenity kit from first class.
8. Create a dehydration station.
Bring an empty bottle through security so you can fill it with water for the plane, where dehydration tries its darndest to make you feel like heck when you land. A mineral water spray (such as Evian) will also help you fake it til you make it to your destination.
9. Shed your shoes in style.
Take off your shoes and fly in your socks. This is also a great time to slip on those crazy, fuzzy socks that your grandma gave you that don't fit in any shoe or those crazy bunny slippers you had to have.
10. Consider a Facecradle.
Those horseshoe-shaped neck pillows that so many people seem to swear by don't do much for some of us, but the new FaceCradle that's making social media rounds looks promising because it has several adjustable settings that allow you to fold it in on itself, hang it from around the back of your seat or to use the tray table (but make sure and wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe first). They all kind of look like inflatable toilet seats, but this new creation (which is available for pre-order now) could give you some new flexibility.
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