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10 Tricks to Stay Comfortable on International and Overnight Flights in Economy

How to stay comfortable on a long-haul flight in economy class

Especially for those of us who are young, broke, and have little to no credit (read: college students), travel credit cards with complicated rewards points systems aren’t always an option. As such, getting those ridiculously comfy (and normally expensive) free flights that we hear so much about from professional travel hackers isn’t a reality that a lot of college students can realize. But don’t fret – there are still ways to make your hard-earned flight in economy a relatively comfortable one.

Flight Tip #1: Choose Wisely

One of the best ways to ensure a comfortable flight before stepping foot on the plane is to choose a good seat. Choose your seat ASAP to ensure you get your first choice. To help you choose, head on over to Seat Guru, which has exact layouts of hundreds of different types of aircraft, along with reviews from those who have flown in different seats before. In general, choosing a window seat that is far away from the toilet will not only ensure your best comfort, but also your best chances of getting some shut-eye.

Flight Tip #2: Wear Comfortable Clothes

Make like your flight will hopefully be and be comfortable by wearing stretchy, breathable fabrics. This doesn’t mean you can’t look stylish, though – a quick search on Pinterest for “airplane outfit” or “flight clothes” will yield uber-fashionable yet surprisingly comfortable attire that will not only have you falling asleep in no time, but also improve your chances of getting an upgrade before boarding your flight.

london tower comfy airplane clothes scarf sweater sweatpants study abroad economy image

On my flight to London, I wore jogger sweatpants, a plain white t-shirt, a cozy knit sweater, and a scarf.

Flight Tip #3: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

This is one of the most commonly shared tips for staying comfortable during a flight, and for good reason. Airplane environments are generally very dry, and combined with the altitude for which the cabin is pressurized (usually about 10,000 feet), you can become dehydrated very quickly if you don’t drink enough water. Keep dehydration headache and fatigue at bay by bringing your own empty water bottle through security and then filling it up before you board, makings sure to drink lots of it throughout the duration of your flight to stay healthy and hydrated. In addition, make sure to pass on the coffee and alcohol on the flight, which will only make your dehydration woes worse.

Vapur element bottle stay hydrated plane economy class comfortable study abroad image

The Vapur Element 1-Liter bottle saves money and the environment and folds up really small when empty – perfect for getting through security!

Flight Tip #4: Compartmentalize Your Carry-On

To make your time through security faster and your accessibility to needed items on the plane easier, separate similar items in plastic bags or packing cubes within your carry-on. That way, you’ll be able to quickly take out your electronics and liquids when you go through security. You don’t want to be “that person” that everyone else has to wait behind in the security line.

Once on the plane, having frequently-used items grouped together and at the top of your bag will make you (and everyone else around you) happier. If you’re stowing your bag in the overhead compartment, you’ll be able to take those important items right out of the top before quickly placing the bag above you. If placing your bag at your feet, getting the items out when you want them will be frustration-free.

More: How to pack light; 6 carry on necessities.

Flight Tip #5: Be A Capable Lifter

If you’re stowing your carry-on in the overhead compartment, please, for the sake of you and everyone around you, embrace your inner Wonder Woman or Superman and make sure you can easily lift your bag above you. Again, you don’t want to be “that person” that everyone else has to wait behind for 10 minutes before they can get to their seats.

Flight Tip #6: Bring Your Own Entertainment

As an avid music-lover, I would never go anywhere without a good pair of headphones, and neither should you. Most pairs of headphones provided by airlines are not very good quality, so make sure to bring a comfy pair that blocks out sound so they can double as earplugs if you sleep on the flight. If you know you won’t be sleeping during some of the flight, bring a tablet, book, or journal to keep you busy – just make sure it’s light.

Flight Tip #7: Be Timely With Your Bathroom Usage

Many find that the time after a meal is the busiest time in the bathroom department of the plane, so make sure to take care of your needs before a meal is served. This will not only be quicker, but also a far less fragrant experience.

Flight Tip #8: Pamper Yourself

Bring some toiletries with you on the flight to take care of yourself and carry out your bedtime routine as close to how you normally would at home. Though some suggest bringing more luxurious items like rosewater spritz for your face or under-eye gels, you can probably pass on these items – they will only take up more space in your carry-on. However, do make sure to bring basic items like face wash, moisturizer, and acne cream and a toothbrush and toothpaste. This will help you feel more comfortable before you fall asleep. Trust me on this one – on my first international overnight flight, I didn’t do any of these things, and I most definitely stepped off that plane with terrible breath and pimples I didn’t have when I got on – ick!

Flight Tip #9: Keep Your Tootsies Warm

It’s no secret that airplanes are notorious for being frigidly cold. It will be much easier for you to relax and sleep if you bring compact slippers or warm socks to wear during the flight to keep your feet warm. My feet are almost always cold, so socks usually aren’t enough for me; because of this, I make sure to always bring a pair of slippers with me on a long flight.

Snoozies slippers feet warm overnight flight long comfy study abroad image

I love my Snoozies slippers – they’re lightweight, pack up super tight, and are very cozy and warm.

Flight Tip #10: Be A Smart Sleeper

As soon as you get on the plane (or even a few days before), adjust yourself to the local time zone of your destination – this will make jet lag slightly less painful to deal with later. This means that if you’re on an overnight flight and you’re arriving at your destination in the morning, try to sleep through the flight like you would through the night. In order to do this, there are a few essential items you’ll want to bring with you:

• Sleep mask: This will block out any annoying lights that other flyers choose to have on while everyone is trying to sleep.

• Inflatable sleep pillow: These are the horseshoe-shape pillows you usually see people carrying on flights. It may not be chic while you’re using it, but you’ll certainly look more chic the next morning than the next person who couldn’t sleep because they didn’t bring one.

• Pashmina/scarf/light blanket: Sometimes blankets aren’t provided on flights, and if they are, often they aren’t heavy enough to really keep you warm. Bring your own pashmina, scarf, or light blanket to feel more like you’re in bed. To pack extra-light, wear the pashmina or scarf onto the flight – that way, it can’t be counted as part of your carry-on luggage.

If you plan on sleeping during the flight, make sure to wear your seat belt over your blanket as well. That way, flight attendants won’t have to disturb you if the seat belt-on light comes on while you’re sleeping.

Lastly, don’t make the mistake of purposely tiring yourself out before the flight – if you end up being unable to sleep, you’ll be overtired once you arrive at your destination, putting yourself in a worse position than you were to start.

10 tricks to stay comfortable international overnight flights in economy

Claire Johnson

University of Michigan | 9 stories

Claire Johnson is an undergraduate student at The University of Michigan studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. She has studied abroad in Austria and interned abroad in Albania. She also runs her own travel site for college students, The Wayfaring Collegiate. You can find these articles and more at

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