Make Flying Comfortable: Airplane Seat Hacks for Long Flights

Most passengers fly economy as it’s the most budget-friendly option, especially for long-haul flights that last longer than about five or six hours. However, did you know that economy seats tend to be smaller and have less legroom?

In fact, one company took a look at seat pitch, which is the distance from one seat headrest to the next (in the front of it and behind it), and found that Jet Blue, Air Canada, and Virgin America all offer the most spacious seats in economy class.

Not flying with one of those airlines and have a long flight ahead of you? Our suggestion is to look into some helpful airplane hacks to learn how to make flying more comfortable. You’re in for one long ride.

Pick the Right Seat

It doesn’t matter what kind of airplane seat cushion you’ve brought with you if you’re wedged in between two broader built passengers in the middle seat. One of the most helpful airplane seat hacks is knowing how to pick the right seat in the first place.

This begins with trying to book a seat with the right airline. According to Conde Nast Traveller, Jet Blue’s seats in economy class features about 34 inches of legroom while Alaska Airlines, Southwest, and Hawaiian Airlines all have about 32 inches of legroom.

So, if you’re able to be picky about which airline you’re flying with, know that those are the top picks in terms of space you’ll have to stretch your legs. If you have to fly with another airline, know which seat on the plane to pick.

If you’ve got back or neck problems, try to choose the window seat. That little extra bit of space allows you to more easily adjust your back and positioning while you sleep on long-haul flights.

And, if you bring a comfortable neck pillow or back pillow, you’ll find that you have more options in terms of how to position it to feel the most comfort.

However, if you’re looking to enjoy a little bit more legroom, you’ll find that the aisle seat is statistically more popular amongst frequent travelers. Just be prepared to have to stand up to let the other passengers out to use the restroom.

Think About Lumbar Support

Now that you’ve settled into the right seat, it’s time to think about getting cozy for the hours-long flight. The best way to avoid a stiff body after a long flight is to think about lumbar support.

A travel lumbar pillow will help support your back and allow your spine to maintain its natural curvature. Essentially, it helps prevent you from slouching forward in your seat, which is what people tend to do when they’re sitting for long periods of time.

In most cases, people begin to feel discomfort in an airplane seat due to the fact that they’re slouching. It’s due to the fact that you’re pushing your lower back out so that your spine goes in the opposite direction and begins to strain your lower back.

A gel-infused back cushion is great in this case as it will protect your spine, support your back, correct your posture, and lead to an overall more comfortable flight.

girl sleeping in the cabin

What to Look for in a Travel Lumbar Pillow

Lumbar support can mean quite a few things, and not all trave lumbar pillows are equal. To begin with, good lumbar support should:

  • Support the natural inward curvature of your lower spine
  • Keep your hips and shoulders in alignment
  • Be portable enough to carry around with you to fit various types of chairs

However, there are a few other features that are typical to travel lumbar pillows. Seeing as they’re portable, ensure that the support also features:

  • Adjustable straps to wrap around your plane seat
  • Ventilated cushioning to avoid making you hotter than you need to be in an already cramped seat and flight
  • Gel-infused memory foam for comfort along with the support
  • Machine-washable coverings so that you can safely and easily sanitize the outer covering of the lumbar pillow after each use

It’s worth mentioning that, while most travel pillows claim to be ergonomically-designed, you’ll want to do your research and figure out whether or not they will actually work for your body.

Typically, it’s best to opt for one that’s recommended by orthopedists and doctors.

Don’t Forget to Support Your Neck

One study showed that combining a neck support pillow with the right kinds of exercises helped reduced pain in chronic neck pain patients more than simply exercising alone. 

So, you can’t forget about adding in some neck support while preparing for a long-haul flight, especially if it’s an overnight flight.

And, while you’ve got a lot of options nowadays when it comes time to choose the best travel neck pillow, there are a few key things to look for.

Be sure to think about the material of the pillow itself. Memory foam pillows form to your neck shape. This means that they’ll mold into the perfect shape you need for full, consistent neck support.

U-shaped pillows are great but make sure they have raised or contoured siding to support not only your neck but also your head so that you can lean over a bit to get even more comfortable.

And, pay attention to the fabric on the outside. If you tend to get cold on flights due to the change in temperature, ensure that the fabric of the pillow will adjust to the temperature as well as your own body heat.

Since you’re traveling, you’ll want to make sure the pillow is portable. You should be able to pack it up into a nice carrying bag or case to transport it with you in your backpack or carry-on luggage.

All of these should come standard in any neck pillow you purchase, whether it’s for air travel, road trips or simply neck support while working or at home.

Specific Features for the Right Travel Neck Pillow

Any travel neck pillow will support your neck to some degree. The trick lies in finding the right one for you and your neck shape. That’s what makes a gel-infused travel pillow such a great idea for travelers.

Gel-infused memory foam, as mentioned, is going to easily conform to the shape of your neck. This ensures that the pillow will adapt to the shape of your neck and its positioning every time you use it.

man looks at the phone at the airport

As well, this kind of fabric and design features ventilation holes that provide a cooling effect when using it.

These kinds of pillows avoid overheating you or causing you to sweat while you sleep which, as we all know, means you won’t be getting much sleep to begin with.

On top of the standard neck pillow features, what are other specific features to look out for? While they won’t affect the quality of your sleep, the following features will make traveling in general easier:

  • Carrying case
  • Adjustable straps
  • Cellphone pocket
  • Adjustable sleep mask
  • Memory foam earplugs

Most travel pillow sets come with sleep masks and earplugs these days, but double-check to make sure they’re part of the pillow you decide to buy to make flying more comfortable for you.

Airplane Hacks for Seat Cushions

Think about the last time you sat in an airplane seat. Were you comfortable? Did the seat itself feel comfortable?

Aside from a general lack of support for your spine, back, and neck, airplane seats don’t tend to feature designs, fabrics, or cushions that really cater to comfort. So, to make flying more comfortable, consider bringing along your own travel seat cushion.

The airplane seat cushion is functional, not comfortable. And, if you’re prone to sore muscles after a long flight, you’ll notice that your butt is likely sore after sitting on the airplane seat cushion for so long.

In fact, sitting for that long in a seat that is uncomfortable can actually do damage to your tailbone, hips, thighs, legs, and back. Seeing as seat cushions are small to begin with, they are also pretty easy to take on flights with you.

What to Look for in An Airplane Seat Cushion

As you can imagine, you’d expect an airplane seat cushion to have all of the common features that your lumbar support and neck pillow would have as well.

So, look for a cushion that has memory foam, is ergonomically designed, and features some sort of cooling mechanism.

To break that down more specifically, though, you’ll want to ensure that your seat cushion has 100% memory foam.

Some seat cushions claim to be memory foam but are mixed with other additives and materials. One that is made of 100% memory foam will be more comfortable long-term and provide you with more support.

Heat responsive features are also important. Again, memory foam is heat responsive, meaning that it will mold perfectly to your body, providing you with maximum comfort and support.

Similar to the pillow, you'll also want to look for a U-shaped design. Orthopedists recommend this design to help alleviate pain and pressure on your tailbone, hips, and back. It should be slightly raised in the middle as well.

And, finally, make sure it's got a machine-washable cover. This goes without saying, but it’s important that any travel accessory you have comes with a machine-washable cover, especially one that you plan to sit on for hours and hours.

Along with the above features, be sure to purchase a travel seat cushion with a non-slip cover or bottom. There’s no point in investing in a portable airplane seat cushion if you’re going to be slipping and sliding throughout the whole flight.

And, while inflatable seat cushions seem to be popular amongst travelers at the moment, they don't often provide the same support. Memory foam is a better choice as it is both more convenient and more supportive.

Pull Out a Footrest

Reclining in your seat can help prevent airplane seat-induced neck pain. And, it gives you more space to stretch your feet.

If you can, bring along a tiny massage ball that you can place against the back of your seat to massage your shoulder and back muscles periodically. Getting up and stretching every few hours is great, too.

Once you’ve stretched, sit back down and place the massage ball under your feet to massage the balls of your feet. This will help you stretch your toes and ensure that there is sufficient blood flowing through your feet during the flight.

After a light foot massage, summon a footrest. Many people seem to forget that this is a key component of taking care of your body not only on a flight but while you work as well. It’s why so many office workers are investing in footrest pillows.

man resting in an office chair

These types of footrests help improve circulation in your feet and legs but can also help reduce hip, leg, and back pain. Choose one with an ergonomic and orthopedic teardrop design as it better supports your feet, ankles, and legs.

Similarly to the seat cushion, you’ll also want to ensure that it’s got a no-slip bottom to avoid having it slip around underneath you while you’re in your seat. 

Caring for Your Body

Taking care of your body extends well beyond looking up the best airplane hacks to ensure you've got the right kind of travel neck pillow. Caring for your body should be a daily act.

From ensuring you have all of the accessories you need at your office to support your back, neck, and body to taking care of the air quality at home, we're here to help you stay happy and healthy.

Browse our Everlasting Comfort travel collection for more accessories that you can take with you on your next journey and also incorporate into your everyday life. From the workplace to your home and even on a plane, we're here for you.

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