Tricks to Make Flying in Coach Feel (Almost) Luxurious

By Darcie Connell on 17 January 2014 (Updated 16 September 2014) 1 comment

Are you uncomfortable while flying? Cramped? Crowded?

Well try this on for size: airplane seats are shrinking even more. In the 1990s, the average airplane seat was 18.5 inches wide. Today, they're 16.5 inches wide.

And while seats are getting smaller, passengers are getting bigger! In the 1960s, average females weighed 140 pounds and males weighed 166 pounds. Today, average females weigh 166 pounds and males weigh 196 pounds.

Whew! That's a tight squeeze.

But don't fret, here are seven tips to help you survive small seats and long flights comfortably. (See also: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards)

Choose Your Seat Wisely

Unless you're flying first class, your airplane seat isn't going to be comfortable. But there are a few key factors in picking the right seat for you.

Emergency Exits

Emergency exit seats are great for legroom, but they don't recline. If you feel comfortable assisting those in an emergency and prefer legroom, ask if any emergency exit seats are available at check in. They tend to go fast, so the earlier you check in, the more likely you'll get one. If you can't get an exit seat, select a seat directly behind the emergency exit row seats that don't recline, so you have more room to work and move around. Also, if a passenger opts out of assisting others in an emergency, the flight attendant will ask for volunteers, and you might get picked. (See also: 6 Ways to Get More Done on Airplanes)

Windows and Aisles

Window seats give you the benefit of looking out the window and controlling the window shade, but are difficult to get into and out of.

Aisle seats give you the option of extending your leg into the aisle (when a cart is not present) and the ease of moving about the cabin, but don't have a view.

If you're traveling with a partner, don't compromise your preferred seat just for them. You can always sit in the same row in your preferred seat or different rows in your preferred seat. For example, my husband and I both prefer aisle seats, so we sit across from each other on the same row (e.g. Row 14C, Row 14D with the aisle in between) OR sit in different rows but the same seat (e.g. Row 14C, Row 15C). (See also: Best Credit Cards With Airline Companion Tickets)

Avoid seats near the restrooms and towards the rear of the airplane, as you'll be on it longer and near a lot of foot traffic.

Always try to select your seat when booking your flight. Finally, a site like SeatGuru can help you spot other roomier seats on any given flight, such as those behind bulkheads or in odd configurations (for example, the last two rows of many 747s have only two seats, rather than three).

Pack Light

Planning and packing properly can make or break your comfort level. Avoid shuffling around last minute and moving items from the overhead bin to your seat or vice versa. Or worse, having too many items in your seat pocket or foot area. Instead, pack a small bag for the items you'll need to access from your seat such as your wallet, water bottle, light snack, eye drops, Chapstick, book or kindle, headset, etc. and store everything else in the overhead bin. (See also: Tricks for Packing Fast)

Dress Comfortably

Forget looking like a jet-setter, and focus on being comfortable. Wear stretchy, layered, and loose-fitting clothes. When selecting your footwear, consider shoes that can easily slip on and off for getting through security and while on the flight. A warm pair of socks will help with the temperature changes in the cabin.

Charge Up

Before your flight, ensure all your electronic devices are fully charged. You can charge them at home or at the airport while waiting to take off. Having fully charged devices means you can watch movies on your iPad, read a book on your Kindle, or work on your laptop to help pass the time. (See also: Free Ways to Entertain Yourself During a Flight Delay)

Some airplanes have electronic plugs in case your battery doesn't hold a charge for a long time. Ask the check-in assistant if the airplane has plugs and if you can sit in a location where they're available.

Stay Hydrated

There's nothing worse than getting a tickle in your throat and not having water. Always have a full bottle of water. You can either buy a bottle after getting through security OR carry an empty water bottle through security and fill it up after. And more airports are providing filtered water systems for people to fill up their own bottles. If your eyes and lips are sensitive to the cabin pressure and temperature changes, bring eye drops and Chapstick.

Stretch and Move

To help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis — a serious condition in which blood clots form in the deep veins — stretch and move around periodically during the flight. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, "Increasing leg muscle activity during long periods of sitting improves blood flow in the legs. This may include walking around the cabin or exercising your lower legs and ankles while seated."

Snuggle In

For a long flight, consider bringing an inflatable neck pillow, eye cover, and light blanket to help you sleep. If you don't want to be interrupted while you sleep select a window seat so you won't have to get up regularly. (See also: How Your Sleeping Position May Be Hurting You)

So even if airplane seats are shrinking and we're growing, by following these seven tips you can survive the small seats and long flights comfortably.

How do you stay comfortable on long flights? Please tell us in comments!

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We've found it's all about making the best of an uncomfortable situation. We usually each get an aisle, dress comfortably, have some snacks and have our Kindles, iPads and iPods charged. We also never fly without earplugs. This combination usually helps.