Essentials for Surviving a Long Flight in Coach

A long flight is at once boring and exhausting. A First or Business Class seat allows you to stretch out, eat good food and generally use the time as a spa day. And you get a pretty little bag full of goodies – everything from breath mints to shoe polish! Unfortunately most of us walk through this glorious area to the coach cabin behind. Here we are left to our own devices [no pun intended!] for comfort and entertainment.

Don’t despair. There are ways to prepare for your flight that’ll make your time in the air almost bearable.

First, and most important, is attitude. As difficult as it may seem, spending 10-15 hours in a narrow tube with a few hundred strangers is possible if you’re mentally and physically prepared. Try to imagine you’re confined at home during a winter storm. What would you do? How would you be dressed? What supplies would you want on hand?

Choose a travel outfit.

The goal is to look presentable while feeling as if you’re in your favorite jammies. I opttravel_day for either Encircled dressy sweatpants or pants from Chico’s Travelers collection. Both are stretchy knit pants with style. Add a comfortable top (a Breton striped top is a great mix and match item for the whole trip) and finish with a cozy sweater or wrap. I recommend the Wanderlust by Diane Kroe, but still love my DKNY cozy – the silk cashmere wrap which can be worn more than a dozen ways during the trip. (The $195 cozy is available for $49 at DKNY outlet stores)

Prepare a Flight Bag

Tom Bihn packing cube shoulder bag

Before boarding the plane I remove my ‘flight bag’ from my carry-on. I use a Packing Cube Shoulder bag by Tom Bihn but you can use any soft bag like a Baggu or drawstring gymbag. Choose a bright color to ensure it’s not overlooked when exiting the plane. My bag has a front zipper compartment where I can stash valuables. In the main compartment I carry everything I’ll need for the trip – all the comfort items of those First Class amenity bags and my personal entertainment as well. Having everything at my seat precludes me having to dig through the overhead compartments looking for chapstick or a pen. My fellow passengers appreciate this, I’m sure.

Prepare your tablet with a few movies or TV episodes you’ve been wanting to watch. essentialsPillsMost flights have entertainments but don’t depend on finding something you like. (You can check out what is available on your flight from your airlines website.)

Bring healthy snacks on-board. Fruit, hummus, cheese, and a little bit of chocolate will come in handy, especially if your meal isn’t great.

Be Healthy

I’m not a germaphobe but do take health precautions when taking long flights. Recirculated air and lowered resistance due to stress can make you susceptible to illness.

Before I board the plane I fill my water bottle and add some Emergen-C to be proactive. essentialsVitaminI’ll try to drink this before boarding so I can refill the water bottle for the flight. I might use another Emergen-C or a Gatorade packet mid-flight. As an older traveler, I find the Gatorade a big help in keeping healthy while traveling.

First job after settling in your seat is wiping down that nasty tray table. These are the most germy spots on the plane, being cleaned only once a day, if that. So take the 10 seconds it takes to wipe down the tray.

During flight – DRINK your water and MOVE. Get up and walk every two hours at the least. If you’re lucky, there might be a spot mid-plane where you can do some stretches. I’m sure I look silly doing my exercises but I’d rather stares than get a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Try to incorporate as much of your at-home routine into your flying hours as possible. Brushing your teeth and cleaning your skin can help to ease your body into sleep mode.

My Essentials

1. Comfort items:

  • Neck pillow -The soft ones are great but I use an inflatable one from IKEA which takes up little space in my luggage.
  • Compression socks – these colorful socks will keep your legs refreshed, but, more importantly, help to prevent DVT
  • Blanket or wrap – the airline will provide a blanket but you might prefer your own. Travelrest make a lovely soft 4-in-1 blanket.
  • Sleep mask

2. Entertainment items:


  • iPad mini or other small tablet
  • Kindle Paperwhite – Yes, you can read on your tablet, but for long stretches of reading, an ereader is better on your eyes. Plus the battery on these devices lasts for weeks!
  • Noise-canceling headphones – enhance your listen pleasure or just drown out airplane noise. I use Bose Quiet Comfort though, space dependent, I might bring noise-cancelling earbuds instead. These from Symphonized NRG are well priced and compact.
  • Some flights have outlets built into the seats, but I pack an Anker external battery charger just in case. And make sure you’ve included a charging cable in your flight bag.
  • Always have a pen handy for filling out forms during flight

3: Amenities:

  • Stay hydrated! Bring an empty water bottle through security or use a collapsible bottle.
  • Keep your skin hydrated with a travel sized spray moisturizer and a small lotionessentialsToiletry (Bee Bar Lotion by Honey House) Some people use the travel hours to apply a hydrating mask. nügg make a lovely transparent mask in travel-sized containers.
  • Keep all medications close at hand, especially prescription items!  (Hints: low-dose aspirin can help prevent DVT, Dramamine will work for air sickness and might help you sleep, melatonin (as in Midnite tablets) is also a good sleep aid.)
  • Facial cleansing cloths are sometimes provided by the airlines, but carry your own just in case.
  • Lip balm – bring your favorite or try an intense one from Lansinoh (marketed for breast-feeling moms but actually amazing for lips.)
  • NARS the multiple – cosmetic that can be used for eyes, cheeks and lips
  • Visine eye drops
  • Hand sanitizing lotion and antibacterial wipes
  • Toothbrush, floss and paste
  • Brush, hair elastics, etc.
  • Snacks

4: Valuables: don’t leave these in the overhead compartment.


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Pack for Adventure: essentials for a long flight Long Flight Essentials

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