So many people we talk to dread the thought of long plane flights, especially if they’re not flying with the perks of first class. We hear complaints about getting tired, hungry or bored, and how they can’t wait for the torture to end.
But with the right gear in hand, you can turn that miserable leg of your journey into a pleasant one. In fact these days, we find ourselves actually looking forward to long flights, even in economy class. Why? Because we come prepared to make it a comfortable, enjoyable experience. We look at the flight out as an opportunity to relax and catch up on learning about our destination, listening to music and podcasts, reading a book, or playing games. And when we’re flying home after a trip, we look forward to spending time planning our next trip!
Here’s our list of 9 travel essentials to always bring on long flights to make them more productive and enjoyable:
1. Small Tote or Bag
When packing your carry-on luggage, include a separate small tote, bag, or fanny pack, and fill it with just the items that you may want access to during the flight. This way you can stow this small bag under the seat or in the seat back pocket so it’s within easy reach, and you won’t have to struggle with your larger carry-on bag in the overhead compartment.
One of the first things most people do when settling into a long flight is slip off their shoes. But not only can your feet get cold with just socks, the idea of walking in stocking feet down the aisle where people have spilled drinks, and into the toilet where people have spilled other things, is disgusting. Yuck! So, bring a pair of lightweight, packable slippers. These will also be great to have along later when you’re lounging in your hotel room.
3. Collapsible Water Bottle
We all know it’s important to stay hydrated on a long flight. Even though the flight attendants come through offering water every couple of hours, it’s so much better to be able to grab a quick drink whenever you feel like it. And of course, having your own refillable bottle and filling it at the airport water faucet is much cheaper and better for the environment than buying a single-use bottle at the airport.
We use the Platypus SoftBottle because it’s collapsible and easy to pack when it’s empty, and even when full it can be squished to easily slip into the seat back pocket. See our review of this great travel water bottle.
4. E-reader or Book(s)
Whether you’ve transitioned to reading on an e-reader or prefer the feel of paper, most travelers know that bringing along a book or two is a great way to pass the time. And if you’re a puzzle lover, bringing along some crosswords or Sudoku can really make time fly by.
E-readers can be great space savers if you like to have a stack of books and magazines to choose from. But with print books, when you’re finished you can either jettison it and make more room in your luggage for goodies you purchase on your trip, or trade it for a different book with someone else in your group or who you meet along the way.
If you lean toward an eReader, then consider the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s super lightweight, easy on the eyes, and holds its charge for longer than other units.
5. Noise Canceling Headphones
Ever tried using those free airline-provided headsets to watch a movie on a flight with a crying child nearby. How about you music-lovers who bring your iPod or MP3 player along so you can relax and listen to your favorite tunes? The jet noise alone can make it nearly impossible to hear.
Many people suggest using earplugs to get some peace and quiet during a flight, but consider bringing noise canceling headphones instead (or in addition). We love Bose Noise Canceling Headphones because they keep out the unwanted sounds that surround you, and provide great quality for the audio you are listening to. Plus, they’re made with travelers in mind, with an included airline adapter and convenient carrying case.
6. Hand Sanitizer
These days it’s a good idea to carry hand sanitizer with you wherever your travels take you. And on a plane you can use it to wipe down armrests and anything else you’ll be touching in your seating area. Then use some to wash your hands before and after eating, and of course after visiting the toilette.
Purell Hand Sanitizer comes in both convenient travel sized liquid squirt bottles and in individually wrapped wipes. Due to limitations on carry-on liquid allowance, it’s usually best to have the wipes with you onboard, and leave the liquid in your checked luggage for use later in your trip.
Traveling long distances and through time zones can really mess up eating habits and hunger cycles. So even if you’re lucky enough to be on a flight where a meal or two are served for free, it’s still a good idea to bring along some snacks to munch on whenever hunger strikes. Some easily packable travel snacks include protein bars, trail mix, nuts, and cheese and cracker packs. These items are really expensive when purchased in an airport shop, so plan ahead and pack these from home.
8. Travel Game
We like bringing games along on our trips. They’re a fun way to pass the time while on the plane or relaxing in a hotel room, and can also be a great ice-breaker when traveling in a group.
For long flights, our favorite is this travel Scrabble game set designed specifically for traveling. It has a compact folding board with a zipped nylon case that make it easy to pack, and the snap-in letters won’t move around if you’re on a bumpy plane, train, or boat ride.
9. Advil or Tylenol
Last but definitely not least, be sure to bring along your preferred over the counter pain relief medication in the event of a headache or other aches and pains that may come from sitting in a cramped airplane seat for several hours. Our doctor has recommended taking two Advil an hour before our flight even departs, as a preemptive measure.
Other items that readers have told us are a must for them include inflatable pillows and eye masks. Do you have other travel accessories that you never fly without? Let us know in the comments below.