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My Favorite Under-$20 Hack for Making Every Flight More Comfortable

Technology + Gear Airports + Flying
by Suzie Dundas Aug 14, 2023

As a freelance travel writer, I spend a lot of time on planes. In fact, I’m on a plane — in the middle seat, no less — as I’m writing this. And considering the number of flights I take per year (usually hovering somewhere between 35 and 55), you’d think I’d have some type of status to land me in comfortable, cushy seats.

Do you struggle to sleep on the plane? Check out Matador’s rundown of everything that can make it easier for you:

But, if you couldn’t tell from the whole “in the middle seat” comment, I do not. If I’m lucky, my basic airline status may get me an exit row. So that means I spend a lot of time trying to find ways to get comfortable on planes, finding the balance for carry-on items between being useful and being heavy or bulky. And my favorite carry-on item, hands down, is the best of both worlds: it’s incredibly useful and doesn’t take up much space in my bag. In fact, it doesn’t take up any space.

I’m talking, naturally, about the dorkiest and most glorious impulse buy I’ve ever bought on Amazon: an airplane foot hammock. Mine cost less than $18, and at this point, I won’t get on a flight without it. (Seriously. I”ll buy a new one in an airport gift shop before I board without it.) There’s basically zero risk in giving one a try, considering the low price, ease of carrying it, and benefit of not having your butt and legs go to sleep after 20 minutes of flying.

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Buy Now: $16

It eliminates back, hip, and butt pain

airplane foot hammock - hanging

Photo: Suzie Dundas

Sitting in an airplane is beyond uncomfortable, for everyone. With no options for other ways to sit, it takes only about 30 minutes before my butt starts to go numb, sending pain down my legs and into my feet. I’ve gotten so uncomfortable on planes that I’ve squatted in the floor space at my seat because I couldn’t take the pain of sitting anymore. But the airplane foot hammock changes all that.

The adjustable strap makes it as low or high as you’d want so you can rest one or both feet on it to take the pressure off your butt (or legs, or back, or wherever you usually feel it). You can also sit sideways, with your feet on top of one another on it. Being able to change position throughout a flight has eliminated almost all the pain I used to feel while flying. It also improves circulation and creates more of a bend in my knees (if I want), helping to reduce knee and leg stiffness.

It folds up super small

airplane foot hammock - rolled up

The particular airplane foot hammock I have is pretty small, and most are of a similar size. Photo: Suzie Dundas

One of my ongoing decisions with packing my carry-on bag is what travel items are worth the space, which is why I often forgo bulky items like airplane pillows. Fortunately, all the airplane foot hammocks I’ve used roll up into a very small and lightweight sack, usually about eight inches long and weighing next to nothing. That means you can clip it to a carry-on backpack strap or roller bag handle, rather than smashing yet another thing in your bag.

“Set up” takes maybe six seconds

airplane foot hammock clip

The hammock strap loops around the tray table with a buckle closure. That’s it. Photo: Suzie Dundas

I put set up in quotations because it probably doesn’t even count as a setup. Unroll the footrest, unhook your tray table, loop the strap across the back of the tray table, and clip it. Then put your tray table back up if you’re doing this before take-off. I have never, in the probably close to 100 times I’ve used it, had the person in front of me notice it was there. It’s probably because the strap sits so close to the chair (on the arms of the tray table) that it doesn’t generate any backward pull on the seat in front of you.

It opens a wide world of sleeping positions

If you haven’t flown recently, you may not have noticed that most airplane seats nowadays are shaped like this, with a headrest on top, as if the person who designed it only had a loose handle on what the human body looked like:

airplane foot hammock seat layout

Yes, I am a fabulous artist. Photo: Suzie Dundas

So unless you are shaped like this, with a concave back and a neck that somehow extends forward about four inches, it’s very uncomfortable:

airplane foot hammock drawing

That is not how a human neck is shaped. Photo: Suzie Dundas

That’s why I slouch on planes — big time. I like to scoot down enough that my head is under the entire headrest (so my neck can actually be straight) and slide my knees up against the seat in front of me. This is only possible because of the airplane footrest. Without it, to assume that position, I’d have to rest my feet on the seat back pocket or tray table, which is, objectively, gross.

For me, that’s a comfortable sleeping position. For others, it may be totally different. But without an adjustable airplane foot rest, the only place to rest your feet is the floor or on top of your carry-on, neither of which are ideal. Even tall people, who may be able to easily rest their feet on the floor, can appreciate the benefit of being able to switch up their sitting or sleeping positions.

The best airplane foot hammocks

If you’re thinking of buying an airplane foot hammock, any of the options below are great picks. They’re all more or less the same, and it’s not really the type of item where spending more gets you a better experience.

Supregear Airplane Footrest: $9

It’s small, it’s lightweight, it’s packable, and it works. I’d venture that you won’t find a more useful airplane travel accessory for under $10 on Amazon. And hey, it even comes in green and blue, in case you think fashion matters when it comes to an airplane foot hammock.

Buy Now: $9

Amazon Basics Foot Hammock: $16

It looks like the price went up about $2 since I bought it several years ago. Better hurry and buy it before the price slides up to a still-very-reasonable $17. This airplane foot hammock is as simple as it gets: small, useful and weighs next to nothing. I’ve been using it for a while and it’s holding up well, with no fraying, rips, or stitching falling out.

Buy Now: $16

GobiSea Airplane Footrest: $17

This footrest is very similar to the Amazon Basics option above, but it has one major distinction: there’s a flat base to rest your feet on, which prevents them from being pushed together. I’ve never found that to be an issue, but if you’re worried about it, opt for the GobiSea Footrest. The only downside is that it doesn’t roll up quite as small. Instead, it packs into a small, flat travel bag.

Buy Now: $17

Amazon Basics Foot Hammock Two-Pack: $28

If your upcoming flight is with someone you care about, do them a solid and pick them up a foot hammock, too (and get yourself to the $25 minimum for free Amazon Prime shipping).

Buy Now: $28



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