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6 Simple Tricks to Make a Spirit Flight More Comfortable

Getting a deal on a plane ticket can be both a blessing and a curse, especially if it’s for a Spirit flight. The budget carrier has smaller, no-recline seats, and a la carte fees for carry-on bags, seat selection, and even printing your boarding pass at the airport. But if you’re familiar with all the concessions you’ll have to make to pay the low-fare price of a Spirit flight, there’s a way to hack the experience to be more comfortable.

Whether you’ve only signed up for an hour onboard a Spirit flight or you’ve booked one of the carrier’s logic-defying, long-haul routes to South America, here’s how to prepare for Spirit’s unique dimensions and requirements to make your flight more comfortable.

Add a Pillow, Pad, or Lumbar Support

Pillow, Pad, or Lumbar Support

While Spirit made some improvements to its long-lacking seats recently (including more padding, slightly more legroom, and a slightly reclined permanent seat-back position), there are still improvements you should make for yourself. Spirit’s seats are still generally less padded than other airline seats, which can be brutal for any flights longer than an hour or two.

An inflatable seat pad like Klymit’s durable V Seat could be effective if you think your legs would fall asleep or your lower back would be in pain without some extra cushioning. Or, a similar lumbar support pillow like Therm-a-Rest’s Lumbar Travel Pillow (or even just a rolled-up jacket or blanket) will help alleviate the pressure your spine takes in those C-shaped airline seats.

Because Spirit’s bare-bones seats also don’t utilize adjustable head rests, it’s smart to pack a reliable neck pillow if you want to sleep. Bring one that packs small enough to fit in your limited bag space, like the Trtl Pillow Plus or an inflatable option like the Cabeau Air Evolution Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow.

Relocate Your Tray Table

Legroom on Spirit flights is a mere 28 inches of seat pitch

Legroom on Spirit flights is 28 inches of seat pitch (about two inches less than most airlines’ seat pitch), which means you won’t want your tray table (even the teeny-tiny ones Spirit employs) taking up any of that precious knee space. Instead, pick a window seat (which will cost you at least $5, of course) and add a Spairtray to your armrest so you can cross your legs and otherwise move more freely in your already-tiny personal space. As an added bonus, you’ll avoid ever having to touch your germy tray table. A SpairTray is especially helpful for anyone who’s tall but not wide, since it will take up some of your window area but save you knee space.

Bring Your Own Water

Nafeeko water bottle product shot

An often-forgotten casualty of the Spirit flight is in-flight drinks—one of the few things airlines give away for free anymore. Avoid paying for water in the dry cabin by bringing a reusable water bottle and remembering to fill it up in the terminal before you get on the plane.

Pick Your Bag Based on Legroom

Cary-on bag measurements in airport for Spirit Airlines

Unless you pay the hefty fee for carry-on space in the overhead bin, you’ll want an underseat bag that’s compact enough for your legroom needs. Personal items that meet the Spirit bag limit of 18 x 14 x 8 inches are already pretty small, but you might want your bag to be even smaller if you’re a taller person who struggles with have a bag under the seat in front of you. If so, it might be worth paying the $26 to $50 fee (depending on when you buy) for that overhead bin space. If you’re going for an under-seat bag, check out these small workhorse options.

Select a Middle Seat

Extra wide center seat middle seat on Spirit Airlines

If you struggle to fit into tiny airline seats or simply want some extra leg room, Spirit might be one of the few airlines on which you actually want to choose a middle seat. Spirit’s middle seats are now 18 inches wide—the industry standard—compared to the 17 inches that window and aisle seats get. You’re still stuck without a place to rest your head in the middle seat, though, which makes the aforementioned Trtl Pillow Plus  an even better idea for the flight.

Buy a “Big Front Seat”

Big Front Seats on Spirit Airlines

The most notable of Spirit’s recent seat changes is the new addition of “Big Front Seats” on some routes, so you can upgrade to economy-plus for less. Although they still don’t recline, these seats are available from an extra $22 each, and the seat configuration and width are comparable to most domestic first-class standards: There are only two per half row (rather than three), meaning there’s no middle seat.

Outfits to Wear on Your Flight

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

By Shannon McMahon

Editor Shannon McMahon is always planning her next trip and often writing in her travel journal. Follow her on Twitter @shanmcmahon_ and on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Shannon joined SmarterTravel in 2015. A former news reporter, she's lived in the south of Spain, spotted elephants in Sri Lanka, gone spelunking in the Caribbean, hiked Jordan's Petra Basin, interviewed Sao Paulo's Michelin-Star chefs, and explored China via bullet train. Travel trends, news oddities, and her visits to up-and-coming destinations are some of her favorite things to write about.

Her stories have also appeared online on USA Today, The Sun, Huffington Post, Business Insider, blog.TripAdvisor.com, Boston.com, and more. Her educational background is in journalism, art history, gender studies, Spanish, and film. She's been quoted as an expert travel source by CNBC, People.com, MarketWatch, The Washington Post, USA Today, and more.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Plenty of extra thick hair elastics. They tame my frizzy curls and come in handy in a surprising number of packing and hotel dilemmas."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Climbing (yes, climbing, it's steep!) the Great Wall of China before it's gone."

Travel Motto: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window, of course."

Email Shannon at smcmahon@smartertravel.com.