This blog post was updated on April 9, 2020.

There’s an age-old battle in air travel between affordability and comfort. In recent years, it’s become more evident, but it’s always been there: the idea that to fly more comfortably costs more. But that’s not totally true. Sure, there’s no hack or trick that’s going to get you into first class or business class on basic fare, but there are ways to have a comfortable experience in the economy seating section of any airline.

Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do to be comfortable while flying in economy seating.

Do: Select Your Seat When You Book

It may seem like you’re saving a few bucks, but skipping out on selecting your seat when you book your flight will cost you big comfort-wise. Where you sit on a plane plays a big part in your in-flight experience, with each type of seating having its own pros and cons. A window seat, for example, is great for catching zzz’s in peace. You can snooze and not have to deal with a neighbor getting up to use the restroom. Meanwhile, sitting in the emergency exit row or up front in the first row usually gets you more space and extra legroom. Also, an aisle seat is best if you’re an antsy flier and need to freely get up and walk around every now and then.

Don’t: Be Shy About Asking for an Upgrade

You should always inquire about the option to upgrade, even if you have no problem with your original seating assignment. Airlines don’t always sell every seat on a flight and sometimes passengers cancel at the last minute or don’t show up, giving you the chance to upgrade at an additional cost (sometimes it can even be complimentary). Make sure you’re polite and friendly in how you ask, either at check-in (if the airline requires you to do it in person) or at your gate. You can improve your chances of getting upgraded by arriving early, being a member of the airline’s loyalty program, and having an airline-associated credit card.

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Do: Pack Less in Your Carry-On

Depending on your frugality and the length of your trip, you may fly without checking any bags. Most airlines allow a carry-on bag and a personal item — which most thrifty fliers take advantage of by bringing a small wheeled bag, just within the dimensions of allowed carry-on and fully packed, along with a handbag or backpack, which is usually also packed with as many items as it can hold. The former is stored in the overhead bin, while the latter is generally stowed under the seat in front. But if you want more comfort in economy, you should pack less. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot, just enough so that you can fit your personal item in your carry-on bag before you board. It frees up space under the seat in front of you. Even if the overhead bins are packed, you won’t be asked to make room by moving your personal item to under the seat because it’s in your carry-on bag. So you’ll be free to stretch out your legs within the limited space of economy class.

Don’t: Forget to Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks on Board

Bringing your own food onboard a flight has become the prudent passenger’s number one advice for frugal flying. But even if you forget to buy and pack tasty snacks before you leave for the airport, it’s a good idea to pick up something to nosh and sip at the terminal before you board. The price may negate any savings, but you’ll have more choice than the limited snacks and beverages on your flight AND (most importantly) you won’t have to endure unpleasant hunger pangs or severe thirst while you wait for a drink or meal cart to make the rounds.

Do: Clean Your Seat with Some Disinfecting Wipes

Even if you’re not a germaphobe, you should consider bringing along some disinfecting wipes to quickly (and discreetly) clean the armrests, seat, and tray table while you’re settling into your seat. Most planes, depending on their routes, have multiple groups of passengers boarding and deboarding multiple times a day…which means there are going to be A LOT of germs. The airlines do their best to clean out an aircraft and pick up any trash between flights, but it’s almost impossible to clean each and every seat thoroughly. So by taking the precaution to wipe down your seat before your flight, you lower the chances of catching or spreading more germs. Plus, you’ll feel more comfortable.

Don’t: Neglect to Pamper Yourself

It’s kind of naive to think that flying comfortably is all about legroom. Sure, being able to stretch out is nice, but there are other factors to resting and relaxing in economy seating. A pair of noise-canceling headphones or plain old earplugs can go a long way in easing any stress by blocking out annoying sounds, while an eye mask can do the same but for harsh or distracting light. Wearing soft clothes that aren’t tight, along with a pair of comfy and sturdy socks so you can take off your shoes (preferably prepared to prevent any offensive odors for other passengers), can make a huge difference. You might even want to think about bringing some skincare products like a hydrating chapstick, face wipes, or face and hand lotion to help you feel rejuvenated by the time you land.

Feel like we missed some tips on flying comfortably in economy? Let us know your advice for flying cheap without costing you relief in the comments section below!

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About The Author

Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.