Many of us feel a certain amount of anxiety and distress in the build up to the holiday itself because as much as the trip might be long overdue you still have to get there. Never mind the stress of making sure you have all your documents with you, and that you make it to the airport on time; even when that all goes smoothly you still need to worry about the actual flight itself which can be very uncomfortable and even unhealthy and particularly if you are flying long distances.
What should be the enjoyable start to your holiday and a time to relax in itself for many people becomes a stressful and uncomfortable slog that leaves them squirming in their seat and counting the minutes until they land. Here then are some suggestions as to how you can stop that from being the case and make the whole experience a little more pleasurable.
The first way to make sure you have the most comfortable flight possible is of course to choose your tickets carefully. Think long and hard about the company you are going to use, the seats you are going to take and the class you are going to pay for. Of course if you can afford it then choosing the best airline and upgrading yourself to first class is going to be the best way to make sure you're comfortable on the flight. Sadly not all of us are in that bracket and have to end up going budget instead. Still there are things you can do – first of all make sure that you choose the most comfortable option from the budget airlines on offer; the best way to do this is to simply search online and compare which comes with the most leg room. Next take advantage of the option to choose your own seat if it exists. Many flights let you book your seat so check in early or look online early and make sure you get the seats with the most space for your legs. On flights where it's a free for all (they exist) just make sure you're there first and at the front of the queue so you have the best chance of choosing a good seat. If you go by the emergency exits then you'll have a lot of extra leg space but you'll also be responsible for opening the exits in the case of a crash. Another great option is to look for a row of three that isn't going to get filled. If there's only one or two people on a three-person row then you can lie down on it and sleep that way, or at least spread out sideways. Win. The bonus of the isle seat for tall people meanwhile is that they can stretch their legs out, though you'll have to move when the trolly comes by.
A lot of the problem with people on planes is the psychological factor. People just plain don't associate being on a plane with being comfortable and they tend to assume that the experience is going to be unpleasant. They then sit there and focus on all the little imperfect aspects like the slight cramp in their leg or the fact that their head can't lean back as far as they would like and this means that they are certain to find the experience unenjoyable.
So what do you need to do to counter this? Well the answer is to just relax and to enjoy the event as much as you can. Remember that tossing and turning won't make you any more comfortable and instead just focus on the fact that you're sat down and without a care in the world for at least the duration of the flight. Now is a rare opportunity to just relax and to read a book or play on a GameBoy. Apart from anything else just relaxing will help your muscles to relax and this will prevent you from being as uncomfortable.
As a lot of your discomfort is likely to be caused by focusing on the distractions such as a seat belt buckle in your hip. To prevent this problem you should try and distract yourself as best as possible with reading material, games or music. The more involved you can become with your distractions the less you will focus on how uncomfortable you are. So build up a stockpile of things to distract your attention. That means getting yourself some magazines, a new book, a new game, a new CD and whatever else – then saving them for the flight before you can look at them. Remember to save some for the journey back too.
Dressing for an airplane is one of the most difficult things. You have three temperatures you need to consider here – the temperature in your country, the temperature on the plane, and the temperature when you arrive at your holiday destination. What makes life tricky on the plane too is that it's very hard to predict the temperature and this is largely because of the sporadic use of air conditioning. Some planes will have none and you'll be boiling hot, while others will have the air conditioning on full blast and aimed right at your feet – and this can get freezing cold. The solution then is to wear layers so that you can put more on if you're cold or take more off if you're hot. You should also wear soft and comfortable clothes though so that you can essentially pad yourself into your seat. Think nice wooly jumpers and t-shirts that are made from soft neoprene. Don't wear anything too tight, and don't worry too much about looking good because when you land you won't look great anyway. For the legs linen is a great option as it means avoiding shorts which can cause an unpleasant updraft and yet still being cool and ready for when you land in the country.
Your shoes will never feel more uncomfortable than they do on the plane. The reason is partly that your feet will be swelling as a result of the pressure (delightful) but also because they can get very hot. However taking your shoes off is just not sociable in such a confined space. Slippers are great because they are comfortable and they contain the smell and you can wear them 'half on' if you like to let some draft in.
Bring a Blanket
Bring the softest blanket you can. It has multiple purposes allowing you to scrunch it up to lean against like a pillow, or letting your wrap your feet or your body. It's perfect for helping you doze off to sleep and the softer and cozier it is the better. It's worth taking some time beforehand in order to buy something that is soft enough to be cozy and small enough to fit in your hand luggage. You might also want to bring a large comfortable jumper which can double up as a blanket and pillow. Those wearable 'snugs' that are like blankets with a head hole get around the problem of having to store the blanket in your hand luggage.
Bring a Pillow
A pillow will be highly useful for resting your head and if you can get the seat by the window that's even better as you can sit it against the wall. Bear in mind that those blow up ones are less comfortable than a jumper or blanket, so if you can only afford enough space for a soft blanket then that will do.
Make a Pact
When you're sat next to someone rigidly trying not to touch them or let them touch you this is not conducive for comfort. Likewise neither is the battle for the arm rest. Assuming you know them (you'd have to be very brave if you didn't) talk to them frankly and agree that you can rest on each others' shoulders. You'll be a lot comfier.
Bring a Neck Support
These are useful for seats that are very upright as they hold your head in place and stop it lolling forward. They're not for everyone but give them a go and then decide whether you can benefit from it.
Use the Table
The table in front of you is designed for laptops and other things, but it has a secondary use as somewhere to lean. You can either lean on this with your elbow and prop your head up on it, or you can bend completely forward have your jumper or blanket on it like a pillow. It's a great change of position, though make sure you're not placing too much strain on your spine.
Occasionally getting up to stretch your legs is important for your comfort but also your health and can help you to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Every now and then make sure to get up and go to the toilet and you will feel better for it when you sit back down.
Food and Drink
Taking lots of food and drink and buying some on the journey is a must and can help you get into the zone and feel relaxed on the plane. Everything is a little better if you have a nice mug of hot chocolate with you. Most important though is to drink lots of water. Being on a plane is very dehydrating as a result of the dry recycled air and the air pressure. This can make you very uncomfortable and prevent you from sleeping so bring several water bottles with you. For the same reason you might also be better off avoiding coffee and alcohol (as well as the fact that they're diuretic and might cause you to visit the toilet more).
Deaden Your Senses
Two more very useful things to bring on the plane – ear plugs (or noise-canceling headphones) and an eyemask. This will help you to forget where you are and to shut out the outside light and noise. Sharing a room with 200 other room-mates inevitably means that not everyone will agree on light-out, so this is a good way to make sure you can get some peace and quiet.
If you do get travel sick then this is of course not conducive to your comfort. Take some travel medication before the flight if this is the case and have some to hand. The other kind of medication that might help could be anti-anxiety if you're nervous about flights or sleeping tablets to help relax you and send you off to sleep.
Another cause of discomfort on planes is the change in air pressure that can cause our ears to pop. This can be off-putting and in some cases very painful, but by sucking a sweat you can equalize the pressure and get some relief. Carry some travel sweets with you or a mint and this will help. Yawning is also advised.
If you can sleep then you should do your best to make sure that you do, as this will help to pass the time more quickly. Use the above tips – take medication, drink lots of water, shut the world out and bring a soft blanket. Then the next thing you know you'll be landing.