Start strategizing while booking your ticket
I cannot emphasize enough how crucial the simple task of choosing your seat is. When looking at that online seating chart be sure to take into consideration your leg length, bladder size, and your talent (or lack thereof) for sleeping upright.
On the way to Japan I had a window seat. The legroom was minimal, but I’m 5’3”, so that wasn’t a huge concern for me. Aside from having an incredible view, it also meant I had a wall to lean on, sleep on, and shamelessly drool all over. On the flip side, I was trapped. I was forced to repeatedly interrupt the woman next to me right in the middle of her inflight rom-coms every time I needed to stretch my legs or my bladder reached the point of desperation. Eventually I just started getting up every time she got up.
On the return flight, for the sake of investigative journalism, I sat in an aisle seat. That meant I was the person whose inflight movie got interrupted every time the person next to me had to get up. While one of my legs might have had a little extra room to creep into the aisle, that did not make up for the frequent interruptions or the challenges of sleeping upright. Even with a neck pillow my head was falling all over the place like a broken bobblehead doll every time I dozed off. Out of 11 hours in the air I got exactly zero minutes of shut-eye. Window seats for life!
Don't burn the midnight oil before your trip
Sure, in theory it sounds like a great idea to stay up all night before your flight because you’re planning to sleep on the flight anyway or you’re trying to get a jump on the jet lag or whatever you want to tell yourself. Don’t count on any of that. You never know, there might be a crying baby on the plane or an annoyingly chatty person sitting next to you or you’ll discover that you haven’t mastered the art of sleeping sitting up (how do people do that!?). This means you’ll arrive at your destination deliriously sleep deprived and cranky. That’s not the best way to start a vacation. Instead of beginning your trip in a state of sleep deprivation, you should do the opposite: stock up on sleep as much as possible so you’re able to withstand whatever difficulties may await you.