The world tends to accommodate people between a certain height range, where most of the general population falls. Usually this is between 5’6”-5’11”, though these numbers can vary depending on where you live. Unfortunately, that range tends to leave out the smallest and the tallest among us, and when it comes to traveling, it hits the taller folk a little harder. With all the great destinations everyone wants to visit and vacation, squeezing in to the 5’8” sized seat when you’re nearly a foot taller is more than a struggle. Here are some tips on how to make your compact surroundings a little more hospitable.
Flying coach or on an express plane is the truest test of patience as a tall person. Because the seats are so economically arranged to fit as many people as possible, if you’re anything over six feet, there’s a good chance your knees will be making the unfortunate acquaintance of the back of the seat in front of you, or worse, the back of the passenger in front of you. The simplest way to try to give yourself a bit more leg room and provide some much-needed knee relief is to unload the pocket from the back of seat in front of you. The sky mall magazines, newspapers, and other things they load in that pocket can easily take up several inches and once they’ve been emptied, you’ll find those precious inches available for your knees.
If clawing for the small respites like this isn’t enough, keep an eye out for an emergency row seat. Emergency row seats, or even bulkhead seats, have a little more space to them to accommodate the emergency exit’s size and therefore might be more comfortable for you. Frequently if the emergency row seats aren’t filled, the airline’s crew will ask for volunteers to take the space and reap the rewards of extra leg room.
No matter how you’re flying, you should be packing some standard comforts for your trip. Airline headrests are usually designed for people that are at most 5’10”, so anyone above that will tend to enjoy a flight with head support at the base of their neck. Pack a travel neck pillow to prevent this and allow yourself to recline during your flight. To that end, dress in comfortable, loose clothing for the flight. Bring some sort of warm hooded sweatshirt that you can easily take off if you get too hot, and do your best to catch up on sleep during your flight. It won’t be the best nap you’ve ever taken, but sleeping will keep you from obsessing over the cramped conditions you’re traveling in. Should your front neighbor try to recline their chair, don’t be afraid to voice your displeasure with it.
Scheduling your flight can be the real key to getting the right seat for someone of your height. The earlier you book your seat, the more likely one of the roomier emergency exit rows or bulkhead rows will be available. Even if that’s not the case, many airlines have options for you to set up alerts should certain seats become available. The airline will simply e-mail you an alert, and you can swoop in and take the leg room for yourself before anyone else is the wiser. However, the unfortunate reality is that your comfort and leg room will not vary much on the same plane. Different airlines have differently sized seats, so don’t be afraid to diversify and start booking a new airline that is consistently more comfortable for you.
Even if you’re not flying, traveling as a taller person can still be a struggle to stay relatively comfortable in-transit. Bus travel often has the same limitations in leg room as air travel, so research the kind of bus you’re taking to your destination before you decide to hop on a Greyhound. The higher-backed seats on buses tend to make them a little less of a concern for neck support, but still pack the standard comfort essentials. If your bus isn’t fully booked, there’s usually an opportunity for you to take a seat with no neighbors and allow yourself to take advantage of the adjacent leg room.
Road trips are mercifully the most accommodating way to travel, because you set your own pace, and more importantly, your own car and seat. If you’re car tripping with friends and family, plan a fair seating arrangement with everyone in the car, seating the shortest people behind the tallest to maximize leg room for everyone. If you’re traveling with mostly tall people, plan around rest stops for leg stretching and offer to trade seats between each leg of the journey. Everyone in your group can shoulder—or more accurately, knee—the burden of tight backseats for the better of the whole.
The unfortunate truth about distance travel when you’re a tall person is the mild discomfort of unstretched legs and the potential for lightly bruised knees. But hopefully with these tips, that will be the only parts of travel that will be unpleasant.