Tuesday, September 25, 2018

8 Must-Pack Items For Surviving a Long Flight

Flying economy on a long-haul flight is a test of physical endurance and mental fortitude. I flew 15 hours from San Francisco to Sydney, after flying 6 hours from Baltimore to Oakland. A total 21 hours flying time would have been torture without some serious preparation. Here is a list of items that I packed in my carry-on to be comfortable and survive two long flights.

Fully-loaded Tablet

A long flight is an opportunity to binge, guilt-free, on your favorite digital content. What else are you supposed to do to pass the time? Spend some pre-trip prep time filling your tablet with:

Movies - My brother hipped me to the joy of downloading content from Netflix. That's right, some content can be downloaded, and therefore, does not require an Internet connection to view. I'm not sure if other streaming platforms allow this but check it out.

Music - I have an iTunes playlist of calming music that I pull up when inevitably, I get aggravated at the airport or on the plane. Pandora Premium allows you to listen to music offline which is awesome on the plane or when Wi-Fi is not available.

Books and magazines - I love to read but space in my carry-on is at a premium. Once upon a time, I had to be selective about the size and number of books that traveled with me. Now I download as many books as I want onto my tablet with the Kindle app.

My secret to finding free Kindle books is the public library. Many libraries offer digital content that can be borrowed for free with a library card. Before buying digital titles, check with your local library. It might save you big money.

Games - I like Solitaire, Spider and cross-word puzzles when flying.


Noise-canceling headphones are God's greatest gift to airline travelers. There was a time when you had to listen to the deafening roar of the engine or the silly conversation between your neighbors. Not anymore. Slip-on noise-canceling headphones and most of the outside world goes silent.

There are plenty of expensive brand-name pairs out there that deliver quality sounds and noise cancellation. However, I bought these headphones on Amazon for $40. They may not be Bose or Sony quality, but they were adequate and the noise reduction was surprisingly good.

Tip: If you are buying a new pair of headphones, look for active noise cancellation (ANC). Headphones with passive noise cancellation do not work as well.

A Good Pillow

This is essential on a long-haul flight, especially if you are flying overnight and will arrive at your destination early in the morning (Hello, Sydney!).

The standard travel pillow that cradles the neck has never worked for me. It is always too high or too low, too soft or too hard. A few days before leaving for Sydney, I found this inflatable travel pillow on Amazon. Instead of going around the neck, it is propped up against a surface, like a tray table, and you lean into it for support. It wasn't perfect, but it was more comfortable for me than a standard neck pillow. I slept better and longer on these flights than I had in the past. It took up little space in my bag and came with a carrying case and eye mask.

Two issues that I think are important to mention First, the inflated pillow is bulky and awkward to maneuver in an economy seat. Second, my arm fell asleep because of the way I held the pillow. There is probably a better way to hold it, but I never figured it out.

Water Bottle

The air in planes is incredibly dry. The longer you sit on a plane, the more you will need hydration. Flight attendants are good at providing water, but their intermittent passes through the cabin probably are not enough. Instead, bring your own plastic water bottle, fill it up, and sip throughout the flight. You can buy travel-friendly water bottles that collapse or are leak-proof. Honestly, I went to Wal-Mart and spent $1.99 for a basic bottle. It worked great, and I didn't worry about losing it.

Healthy Food

My philosophy is to pack my own snacks or meals. If the airline food is good, then I save my snacks. If it's not, I won't be hungry. I pack foods that have some nutritional value, will stay fresh, and won't take up much space. Foods like nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, and protein bars are usually stashed in my carry-on.

Here is something to consider if you are worried about the food on a flight. I requested vegetarian meals because I stopped eating meat last year. The food seemed better than the regular cabin menu. I can't say that is the case with all airlines, but it may be worth putting in a special request.

Comfy Socks

Making myself comfortable for the overnight flight to Sydney was essential, but I can't get comfortable with my shoes on. There was no way I would allow my bare feet to touch the floor. A pair of cushy, wool-blend socks were the perfect solution. They kept my feet dry and cool while providing plenty of fabric between my toes and the grimy floor.

Grab-n-Go Personal Hygiene Bag

Trust me. At some point during a 15-hour flight, you want to brush your teeth, reapply deodorant, and perhaps, wipe yourself down. You will also want to slather on a good quality lotion to prevent your skin from feeling like leather. Make a grab-n-go bag of your favorite personal hygiene items before leaving home. When it is time to freshen up you can be quick and discreet. Remember, since these items will be in your carry-on, liquids and gels need to be in TSA-approved sizes.

Small Power Charger

One drawback of carrying multiple mobile devices is that they need power. I travel with a pocket-size Halo charger. You may think that you can power-up at the airport, but everyone has that idea. Plus, what if you are running late and don't have enough time to sit at a charging station? Better to be safe than sorry and carry your own individual power pack. They are lightweight and inexpensive.

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