Have you ever met a friend or family member at the airport, expecting them immediately to launch into a description of their fantastic holiday? And all they can talk about is how uncomfortable their flight was? Worse – are you this traveler?
Traveling in comfort comes from three sources I think: money, planning, and mindset. This applies whether you are undertaking a long-haul or international flight, a bus tour or even a trip in your family car.
How do you rack up on these elements? Perhaps you have some special tricks of your own?
TRAVEL COMFORT GUARANTEE #1: MONEY
If you have plenty of money to spend on travel, there’s no question that you can buy some comfort. First class travel and economy travel are just not the same. I suppose the biggest difference is that, if you can afford it, you are paying someone else to make sure that you are comfortable.
But no matter how much you spend, if you plan poorly or have a bad attitude there’s no guarantee that your travels will be fun.
Some people can’t afford to or choose not to, spend exorbitant amounts on travel. How do they make sure that their trips and travels are comfortable?
TRAVEL COMFORT GUARANTEE #2: PLANNING
Thinking ahead can make all the difference. Here are some tips to add comfort to your travels:
Choosing your flight
The distances between City A and City B may remain the same, but the time taken to get there can be very different. For example, you can travel from Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney, Australia in less than 17 hours – this is the longest non-stop flight in the world now. Or it can take more than 50 hours, depending on stopovers along the way.
If you are going to have long stopovers, research the transit airports. In some, you can get a day pass into the nearest city for shopping and sightseeing. Or there are facilities for you to have a shower while you wait.
Pack a good book or download an e-book so that you are not bored while you wait. If you like window shopping, browsing the duty-free sections can be fantastic. Or try some of the local cuisines in the airport restaurants.
Fretting and complaining won’t shorten the time, but it will make you miserable – and certainly irritate your fellow travelers.
Choosing your seat
Some interesting research shows that most people try to book the first 6 rows of the plane, and the least popular sections are middle seats towards the back. Your choice depends on your own needs. If you want to sleep and not be disturbed by your neighbors try for a window seat.
Know that 60% of travelers ask for window seats, so you might have to book this online in advance and you may have to pay extra for it. If you want to stretch your legs or want to get up often, then the aisle seat is for you.
There might be better legroom (“pitch” is the fancy airline term for this) next to emergency exits and in the front, but you will have to forego having bags under your seat and there is often no seat pocket in front of you to stash some of your goods. For international flights, some of these rows also don’t have individual TVs.
Some airlines have certain rows with up the 5 inches more “pitch”. If you are very tall, it may be worth paying extra to get a seat in one of these rows.
Seats to Avoid
Try to avoid seats that are against the bulkhead as you will not be able to recline the seat. This is true for bus travel too. We so often fight like children to sit in the back row, and then find that we will have to be upright all the way.
Be on the look-out for open seats once the doors have closed, and check with the cabin crew about moving to a more comfortable place – especially if this lets you stretch out across a few seats!
Dressing for comfort
Gone are the days when travel was an excuse for showing off how fashionable you were! Today, you can look good but also be comfortable. Wearing layers lets you adjust easily to changes in weather at places of departure and destination and along the way.
Choose trousers for travel with elasticized tops and some stretch in the material. Big and loose is much more comfortable than tight! This is true for children too. Sometimes letting them travel in pajamas is the best bet.
Fabric choice is important. You might be surprised by the new fabrics that are all comfortable for traveling.
Whichever seat you’re in, traveling light is always a good idea. Having stuff taking up legroom and having bulging seat pockets is just not comfortable – especially if the passenger in front of you decides to recline the seat. And paying extra for overweight hand baggage is not a great start to a trip!
Wear as much of your carry-on luggage as you can. You can take off your lightweight jacket or waterproof travel boots once you’re in your seat. Or your warm scarf can become your travel blanket. I saw a jacket that rolled up into its own collar and became a neck pillow!
Planning for Jet Lag and Flight Sickness
Jet lag trouble every traveler but jetlag can be dealt with easily.
On the other hand, if you suffer from motion sickness, you can try 3 steps scientifically proven ways to prevent air-sickness.
Air Travel Comfort Items and Accessories
Here are some items to carry with you:
This may be the number 1 must-have. Travel pillows come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Their priority is keeping your head upright and your neck stable.
One of the main reasons for travel discomfort is sleeping at the wrong angle and waking up with a stiff and sore neck and head.
We tend to think of neck pillows only for flying, but they are just as important for road travel. Children will also be much less cranky if they sleep more comfortably, and there are lots of fun versions for kiddies.
Avoid arguments about whether it’s too hot or too cold by supplying everyone with a light blanket. Select one that has good wicking properties so you won’t feel sweaty. Perhaps wear a Peshtemal that can be used as a blanket.
Good earphones or earplugs and an eye mask
Shut out the noise, light, and distraction around you. You can shut down completely. Or you can listen to your own music or the in-flight music and movies with no crackle. Masks can push against your eyelids. Choose one that sits away from your eyes slightly and has built-in eye cavities.
Our choice for Travel Earphones
Having your feet raised slightly is good for circulation and prevents swelling in your feet and legs.
This is a clever idea if you plan to do some work or catch up with your Facebook contacts on your trip. The tray table is just at the wrong level and angle to allow you to work comfortably – and this is much worse if the passenger in front of you reclines the seat! A laptop stand lifts the screen a few inches and can be packed easily into the laptop bag.
Skin can react badly to the air-conditioned conditions in planes, buses, and cars. A facial mist removes dust and provides much-needed moisturizer.
If you want to step off the longest flight looking bright-eyed and cheerful, pack some eye lubricant drops. As an additional luxury, you can add a few eye pads – I’ve tried some infused with cucumber extract. The trick is to cover your eyes for the last fifteen minutes of the trip. So, pack up your goods a bit earlier, then sit back and relax as everyone around you starts scrambling.
TRAVEL COMFORT GUARANTEE #3: MINDSET
I’m a believer in the adage, “You get what you expect.” I’ve listened to what people say about travel, and realize that they pre-programme themselves for their experience. Some will say, “I’m a good traveler. If I can’t sleep I watch a movie.” Others will say, “I hate traveling. I always struggle to sleep.”
I sometimes wonder about this. If you want to have home comforts 24/7, the best place to get them is at home. If you want to experience the rest of the world, perhaps there are some compromises to make?
Maybe we’ve been too influenced by sayings such as, “The journey matters as much as the destination.” While this may be true for life, for short journeys we may sometimes decide to put up with some things we don’t like.
Alternatively, we may decide that the journey is part of the whole experience, and decide to make it a pleasant one.
The reality is that you are likely to experience some discomfort along the way.
- Your flight may be delayed because of the weather, or because someone’s bag is lost.
- You may be sitting next to someone who smells, talks too much or encroaches on your space.
- The cabin temperature may be too hot or too cold. The cabin crew may not respond to your requests within seconds. You may hate the food. So what? That’s life. It’s up to you to decide whether any of this will ruin your trip!
If you have planned for comfort as much as you can, and your expectation is that, on balance, things will be good rather bad, you may be surprised by how comfortable your travel experience turns out to be.
So, how you arrive at your destination is pretty much up to you. You can be full of complaints, or you can be the traveler who is enthusiastic and ready to talk about all the awesome things you have seen and done!
Happy travels. Please share your tips for comfortable travel.
Written By Kate Mark
Kate is a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken her passions and her lifelong dream of traveling the world.