Whether flying once a week or once a year, many people have a love/hate relationship with air travel. Yes, it can be faster than traveling by wheels of any sort, but it often comes with its own set of challenges and fears. When those concerns surface, remember that flying is statistically the safest way to get from one place to another, according to The Washington Post—car travel is actually more deadly. Before the April incident in which a woman was partially sucked through a window on a Southwest flight, the last time someone died from an accident on a commercial flight in the U.S. was in 2009, according to CNN. That’s hundreds of thousands of safe flights in the span of a decade. There is a much higher risk of getting hurt at home than on an airplane. So don’t be afraid to book that ticket, and read on for tips on how to stay safe and comfortable from gate to gate.
1. Know where you are: Experts agree that the best way to stay safe on a plane is to be aware of your surroundings. Heed these suggestions:
• Listen to the pre-flight safety instructions—even if you’ve heard them 1,000 times.
• Once you find your seat, also find the nearest exit aisle (it might be behind you) and count how many rows away it is. Commit that to memory in case you need to find it quickly or in a dark, smoky environment.
• Make sure you can hear all in-flight announcements through your earbuds.
• Don’t drink too much or take anything that will excessively sedate you during travel, in case you need your wits about you during an emergency.
• Always do your best to stay calm.
2. Stay buckled: Turbulence is no joke. It can happen during the smoothest flights and take its passengers by surprise. If you’re not up to use the bathroom or stretch your legs, stay in your seat with your seatbelt firmly fastened. It’s the best way to avoid injuries should any surprises happen.
3. Stow your stuff: With rising fees for checked luggage, everyone is bringing more on board with them. Make sure the overhead bins near your seat are clicked tight and any bags around you are stowed properly under the seat. Should turbulence hit, the last thing you want is a laptop bag to hit your head.
4. Dress the part: People used to get dressed up to fly, but that’s no more, and for good reason. Skip your pajamas but find a happy medium between that and a three-piece suit. Dress in layers in case the flight is cool—a jacket or sweatshirt can also double as a pillow. And choose your footwear carefully, as you’ll need to remove it when you go through security. Remember: You’re not allowed to wear heels on an emergency exit slide.
Flip through any SkyMall catalog and there’s no lack of gadgets to keep you comfy on a plane. Here are a few variables to consider:
1. Neck pillows: These have come a long way in the past decade, with no shortage of options, depending on your needs.
• Materials: The U-shaped neck pillows come stuffed with a variety of materials (foam beads, traditional stuffing, gels, etc.). Choose one based on your texture preference.
• Inflatables: To save on space, consider blowing it up yourself.
• Size matters: Many are about the size of a football, but some larger options are available, such as the Travelrest pillow, which blows up across your entire torso.
• Extras: Some neck pillows come with a hood or an eye mask to support your head and neck, and drown out sound and light.
• Shapes galore: Never had luck with the U-shaped pillow? Supports are available in tons of shapes and sizes that can be shaped, molded and stretched to your liking.
Other pillow options: Don’t let your neck have all the fun. Many stores also sell packable seat pillows or cushions for added comfort and lumbar support.
Compression: Have you ever walked off a long flight with swollen legs, ankles or feet? Consider a pair of compression socks or sleeves. Look for medical-grade compression at a sporting goods store or run specialty shop. The compression helps with circulation and can prevent blood clots.
• Facial or athletic wipes: Use these to freshen your face or body mid-flight or during a layover to keep the funk at bay.
• Disposable toothbrushes: No need for water with these handy little guys.
• Disinfecting wipes: Planes are crawling with germs. Don’t forget to wipe your hands and your tray table before snacking.
• Makeup-friendly eye mask: Many light-blocking eye masks now come contoured so their cup-like shape won’t smash your makeup.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.