Unless you’re paying for premium fares, there’s a high probability you’ll find yourself in the middle seat. This is truer now more than ever as more airlines charge for advanced seat selection, and planes are at capacity. But, no worries. Follow these seven survival tips and actually find true rest while 38,000 feet in the air.

Pack an Inflight Sleep Kit

If you intend to sleep, a neck pillow and something that mutes out the sounds such as earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones are key. An optional third item should certainly get you to la-la land: a sleep mask.

A lip balm, hydrating eye drops, hand and face moisturizers, hand wipes, socks, snack, and water are also nice to have.

Pack Inflight Entertainment

Entertainment looks different to different people. What goes into your bag may differ from someone else, but choose an assortment of gadgets, reading material, and puzzles.


Related: 8 Mistakes You’re Making That Are Stopping You From Sleeping on a Plane


Apply Pain-Relief Ointment

Prolonged sitting can cause aches in certain areas, commonly the neck, the lower back, and knees. The person in the middle and aisle seats may endure an even worse case of painful stiff neck due to keeping upright or bobbing and weaving while asleep.

I recently road-tested—and fell in love with—the Life Elements CBD Ache + Pain Relief ointment stick. Its natural ingredients help relieve pain and inflammation. Practice self-care pre- and post-flight by rubbing achy areas with pain-relieving ointments like these.

Claim the Armrests

Six arms and only four armrests; the math doesn’t quite add up. Some passengers will have to figure out how to get comfortable without armrests and it’s an unwritten rule that this burden shouldn’t fall upon the person already sandwiched between two strangers. If you’re in the middle seat, stake your claim.

Wipe Down Your Space

These few inches of space are your home until the flight gets to its destination. Soothe the inner germaphobe by wiping down the armrests, the tray table, and any other areas. Plus, by making a show of cleaning the armrests, your quietly signaling your case for armrest ownership).


Related: The Germiest Thing at the Airport You'll Probably Want to Stop Touching


Make Peace with It

For every commercial U.S. flight, 50 passengers are subjected to the middle seat, therefore the probability you’ll eventually end up in one is high. It may sting a little bit knowing your seatmates are slightly less tortured than you but try to make peace with the middle seat.

It helps to close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, be grateful for the little bit of space you do have, and know that this seat will soon get you to your destination.

Need more help to zen out inflight? Employ the aid of your favorite meditation app, one that’ll work offline while your phone’s operating on airplane mode. Or, download a guided meditation onto your phone for whenever you need a little help getting to your zen spot.

Maximize Your Allotted Space

Sigh, absolutely no other seat is available. Resign yourself to your fate but ensure you’re not also stuck with limited legroom by stowing your bag and other items in the overhead bin and not beneath the seat before you. This will ease the burden on your legs, especially crucial on long flights or to help prevent DVT.


Related: 11 Best Airlines for Nervous Flyers


How to Avoid Getting Stuck in the Middle Seat

  • Book early.
  • Pay the seat-selection fee, especially for long flights, as needed.
  • Check in as early as possible—usually 24 hours before takeoff—and review the flight’s seat map to see if any preferable seats have become available. This step is especially crucial when flying Southwest Airlines, as the low-cost carrier doesn’t permit advanced seat selection.
  • Check in with the airline staff at the airport check-in counter and/or the gate as they can sometimes reseat you into a preferred seat.
  • The last chance for a seat reassignment is by kindly inquiring with the flight attendants. Shoot your shot after everyone’s boarded but before the drink trolley is on the aisles.

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Featured image: Matej Kastelic / Shuttertstock

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