How Do I Stay Comfortable on a Long Flight?

Apr 27, 2019

Anonymous asks, quote:

Do you have any tips for traveling as a wheelchair user with a neurological disorder, specifically regarding long distance or international trips? I’ve been on short flights before but never more than 4 hours, though a potential trip to Spain may take me on a 14.5 hour flight. I’m worried about sitting in the same cramped position for that long (spasticity in those confines, especially) and the fact that plane bathrooms aren’t accessible.

end quote.

I’ve done a 16+ hour flight to Australia, so I know what you’re up against here. My advice here is pretty straight forward: sleep, flex, and use the space.


This one is pretty obvious. The more you sleep, the less you have to deal with. If your flight (and the timezone of your destination) make it possible to sleep, do so.


Spasticity and cramps are definitely an issue on long flights. What I recommend doing here is push your arms into your seat so you lift your body off of the seat. Then, extend your legs forward as far as you can and flex your ankles so you are pointing your toes. If you’re doing this right, your feet should just barely touch the ground and you should feel a stretch in your calves and thighs.

I would practice this on your couch at home to make sure you take up as little horizontal space as possible (you don’t want to bump into your seat neighbors).

Use the Space

Getting to the restroom on a plane is a nightmare. On long flights, I try to strike a balance between keeping hydrated and not having to use the restroom a lot on the plane.

If you do need to use the restroom, get out of your seat and use the sides of the backs of the other seats or the armrests of the other seats to stabilize yourself as you make your way to the restroom. Once you get in the restroom, things are actually pretty easy. Because of the confined space, it’s easy to use the walls and sink to stabilize yourself while staying close enough to the toilet to use it.