It’s pretty safe to say I spend a lot of time on airplanes. With my home country 11,000 miles away and work taking me out of the country often, I spend a lot of time with my butt firmly planted in an airplane seat for at least 4 hours at a time (and in the case of flying home to New Zealand, for around 36 hours – ouch).
So I thought it only fair that I share with you the items that I always carry with me, to make those long flights just a little bit more bearable…
1. EYE MASK
I’m not going to lie, this one was something I only discovered the importance of about 6 or 7 years ago.
“Eye mask?!” – you used to be able to hear me proclaim – “what’s the point, if you close your eyes you can’t see anything anyway!” But I’m happy to admit I stand corrected. Now when the pesky person in front of me opens their window, or my next-door-seat-mate decides turning the reading light on at 3am is a great idea, I’m really not bothered. For there I am, asleep in the little dark cave that I have made for myself – ahhhh, bliss!
I carry this same one with me everywhere I go – a freebie from the days when Virgin Atlantic gave each passenger a little travel kit. It’s made of nice soft material, is durable, and I appreciate the little doodle of glasses on the front, too. If you’re going to have a mask over your eyes, you can at least have a sense of humour about it 😉
2. A LITTLE SOMETHIN’ SOMETHIN’ TO HELP YOU SLEEP
36 hours and 4 flights to get to New Zealand, you say? Long layovers and you’ve already seen the movies on offer, you say? Well then, you’d be best to try and get some sleep…
Each to their own on this topic – I know some people who swear by staying up for 24 hours before a long haul flight. I know others who say it’s best not to eat any of the airplane meals. I say do whatever it takes to arrive in as rested a state as humanly possible.
And for me, that’s a Bloody Mary as soon as I get on the plane (Note: this is the only alcoholic drink I have when flying. I’m a saint, really) and a herbal sleeping tablet to help guide me to slumber. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found one which works beautifully for me. Boots’ Sleep Well Traditional Herbal Remedy is 100% natural and made from Valerian Root, and works for me every single time. Better yet, there’s no sleepy ‘hangover’ the next morning like with those chemical sleeping tablets. Hooray!
3. SNACKS & WATER
It’s something of a ritual for me. Get through passport control, stuff all my belongings back into my bag (thanks x-ray), and head straight to the nearest store to buy a bottle of water and 2 granola bars.
When crossing multiple time zones, there’s no guarantee that a meal is going to appear when you are actually hungry – so I always have a couple of granola bars on me, just in case I get peckish and that cart is nowhere in sight.
I also can’t stress enough the importance of staying hydrated on a flight. I buy a bottle of water each time there’s a layover (warning – they like to take them off you at Sydney airport. Ugh), and accept every drink of water or juice which is offered to me on the flight. Sure, it might mean you need to dash to the bathroom a little more, but it’s all going to help your body to stay functioning at 30,000 feet. And it will help with the jetlag, too.
4. STAY CHARGED, STAY CONNECTED
With new regulations which many countries have now adopted, it’s even more important than ever to make sure that your electronic devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop) are charged before you go, and stay charged so that you can hit the ground running when you get to your destination.
These days many airlines have USB charging ports at each seat, which is fantastic. For those that don’t though, I know I’m going to be OK with my portable battery charger which is always with me.
About the same size as my iPhone, the one I choose to use (the Anker Portable Charger) holds enough juice to re-charge my iPhone 7 times, and can also be used to charge my iPad too. So when I land in San Francisco and need to call an Uber, or when I get lost in Changi airport (again) and I need to consult an online map, I know that I’m not going to be stuck.
I used to use a Mophie, which is beautifully designed and nice and small. However I’ve since switched teams to Anker and have not looked back. Sure, it’s a little bigger, but the knowledge that it holds up to 7 full charges for my phone wins out over the beauty of the Mophie – at least for now.
5. EAR PLUGS
Much like my new friend the eye-mask, earplugs are something which I now can’t survive without on a long flight. Block out the mouth breather behind you, have pity on (but choose not to hear) the soft cries of the new parents a few rows along as they try to deal with their noisy children, and drown out the low hum of the plane you are on. You’ll rest easier when you can’t hear a damn thing.
I have firm favourites when it comes to the types of earplugs I use. They have to be the more conical shaped ones (I find they are easier to put in, especially for little ears like mine!) and made of foam, which is springy and can mould itself to the shape of your ear canal quite nicely. I tend to buy packs of them in bulk so I have a stock at all times!
6. TOTE BAG
This is one of my favourite tips. My carry-on luggage is usually packed pretty tight, and there isn’t really room for the bottle of water, granola bars, or trashy magazines I tend to buy at the airport. So I always carry with me a little calico tote bag, which I can roll up and stuff into my carryon luggage. Just before I board that plane, I put everything I will need on the flight (everything on this list!) into the tote bag, so I can then put my carryon bag in the overhead bin and not need to access it once. It means more legroom for me, a nice small tote bag by my feet, and less annoyance for anyone sitting near me, as I never have to scramble to access that overhead locker. Win.
My favourite tote bag is actually one which was gifted to me by the lovely and talented illustrator Ping Zhu. Not only is it a really generous size, but it has a dog on it. Which basically means it’s the best bag ever. As long as it’s cotton and can roll up easily, you can make do with whatever you have (but obviously a dog makes everything that much better – right?)
7. SMALL POUCH FOR THE IMPORTANT THINGS
Quite a practical one, this one. When you travel it’s all about passports and ID cards and having a pen to hand to fill in those fun landing cards. I always like to fill them in whilst still on the plane, to save me from losing time in the arrivals hall. This little yellow pouch from Trunk LABS is the perfect size to hold my passport, ID card (as a foreigner living in the UK I’m not allowed to re-enter the country without it!) and a pen. It’s also nice and brightly coloured so I can easily find it amongst all the other things in my carryon luggage. Tucked inside, I also like to keep my itinerary and a note of the address I’m staying at, especially when travelling to the US when that information is mandatory.
Be the star of your row, and delight in the envy that your fellow passengers have of you as they ask to borrow your pen and admire your general awesome preparedness. You’re pretty great at this travel thing, you know.
I’m not saying bring your best large feather pillow from home, complete with ruffly pillowcase. Nor am I saying you should be that person wandering around the airport terminal with your u-shaped travel pillow permanently stuck onto your neck. But I am saying bring something comfortable to lean your head on. Because those airplane pillows are small and stingy, and your head deserves something a bit more comfortable to rest on.
Hands-down the best travel pillow I’ve ever owned (and still drag with me on every flight more than 5 hours long) is the Cushtie. Filled with little polystyrene balls (much like your favourite bean bag) it can be moulded into pretty much any shape and is very, very lightweight. I tie the little carry pouch onto my backpack, which means it’s not taking up space in my precious luggage, and it’s easy for me to get to.
Big thick fluffy ones. The last thing I want to do is keep my shoes on so that my little feet swell up and they have to be surgically removed. So off come the shoes, and on go the thick, warm socks. You’ll only have to try and jam your sausage-feet back into your shoes right before you land.
10. COMFORTABLE MIDI SKIRT
Granted, this one’s for the ladies. But I always find myself a bit torn on the what-to-wear front when I’m flying. When I arrive at the airport, I want to look smart enough to be offered that ever-elusive upgrade, should it happen. And there’s not a hope of that happening if I show up in baggy pants and a giant jumper.
But when flying, my skinny jeans really don’t cut it on the comfort level. Sure they looked good at check-in, but here I am, still sitting in economy (one day that upgrade will happen. One. Day), and to be honest, I’m not that comfy.
Enter the floppy, magical, comfortable midi skirt. Made from cotton with a soft elastic waist, I tend to get changed into this either just before boarding the plane or as soon as that Fasten Seatbelt light is turned off. It’s nice and loose, it moves with me when I try and contort myself into a comfortable sitting position, and it’s as light as a feather.
Have I left off anything that you just can’t live without when flying? I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below!