How to Have a Coach Flying Experience That Isn't Awful

We'd all love all our flights to be at the front of the plane, but for most of us, flying first class is a (very) rare treat. As we walk down the aisle, past the luxury of the front of the cabin and toward the great unknown in the back of the plane, we see the comfort level of our flying experience rapidly decrease. However, while coach seats will never match the first-class experience, there's lots we can do to make flying economy a lot more pleasant.

1. Bring your own entertainment

First class might get the luxury of a killer entertainment system, allowing passengers to Skype and watch Netflix during flights. "Unfortunately, flying coach often doesn't have that same luxury. Travel with your own array of podcasts, films, TV programs, and music," said Tristan Seymour, managing director for Lodging-World.

2. Score an empty middle seat

When selecting your seats, choose an aisle seat for one person and a window seat for the other. This leaves the middle seat vacant. "Meanwhile when solo travelers go to select their seat, they will certainly avoid choosing the middle seat unless it's a very full flight and there aren't any other options," explained John Widmer of Roaming Around the World.

So what happens if it is a full flight and someone does occupy the middle seat? Once you're on the flight, if you don't want to be separated from your travel companion by someone in the middle seat, you can simply offer the middle seat occupant your window or aisle seat. No one in the middle seat will ever refuse that. "But typically that middle seat will remain unoccupied. And as airlines continue to shrink legroom in coach, having an unoccupied middle seat to be able to stretch out can be a great little benefit!" said Widmer.

3. Keep the noise out

"For overnight flights, what travelers often complain about is the cabin noise. Use earplugs first, then place a pair of noise-canceling headphones on after. The extra coverage over your ears will help block out plane engine noise and your talkative neighbor," said Stefanie Michaels of

Noise-canceling headphone good bets are AKG N60 NC Wireless, which have an ultracompact folding feature, or JBL Everest Elite 750 NC, an around-ear wireless headphone that is outfitted with the latest Adaptive Noise-Cancelling (ANC) technology, which will totally come in handy to drown out sounds from airplane takeoffs and screaming toddlers.

4. Bring your own pillow and blanket

First-class fliers get the big seats, and that's not the same for coach. "If you're going to be on flight for a couple of hours, the last thing you need is to be cramped and uncomfortable. Invest in a soft, breathable blanket and pillow for long-haul flights," said Seymour. A flexible travel pillow, such as this Evolution Cool from Cabeau, can go a long way toward getting some sleep on that long-haul flight.

5. Bring your own snacks

While first class is enjoying the fine stuff, coach is stuck with the basic flight food. "Treat your taste buds to some fine dining by bringing your own snacks," said Seymour. Try to stay away from anything especially pungent or aromatic out of consideration for your fellow passengers.

6. Plan for discomfort

Flying coach is like riding the bus in the sky. It's cheap, but it sure isn't fancy. "For flights longer than a couple hours, you'll want to be ready for discomfort. You'll have no room, limited ability to recline, and all the random sights and smells that come with budget travel. Wear loose-fitting clothing, bring extra entertainment, and bring physical items to keep you comfy (extra sweater, neck pillow)," said Christopher K. Oldfield, budget travel blogger from Lessons Learned Abroad and the community manager at Nomadic Matt. Earplugs and an eye mask are worth bringing, too. Leave the knee-high boots in your checked luggage and wear easy-to-slip-off breathable shoes, such as these by OluKai, a Hawaiian-inspired footwear brand, which has a drop-in heel for shoe and slide versatility. This detail allows your feet to breathe here and there thought the flight. Don't be shy about going a step further and stashing your favorite slippers in your bag, either. After all, why should you feel constricted in a pair of uncomfortable or claustrophobic shoes when you're confined enough in coach?

7. Charge your devices before you fly

Many airlines will include outlets, but this isn't always the case. "Do yourself a favor and save that battery life for when you need it! If necessary, arrive early at the airport so you can hunt down the best places to charge your devices," said Oldfield. While you are at it, bring an extra battery, like this 10,000 mAh Pocket Power by Belkin. That way you won't end up landing with a depleted iPhone battery just when you need to request that Uber pickup.

8. Lower your expectations

Take a minute to acknowledge the fact that you are about to be crammed in a rocket tube with hundreds of other strangers for a few hours. "This is not meant to be a luxury experience, so stop expecting it to be awesome. As best, it will be adequate, so keep your expectations measured. This is the most important thing you can do to have a better flying experience in coach!" said Oldfield.