In-Flight Essentials to Make Long Flights Suck Less

Travel coloring book
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In a day and age where seats keep getting smaller and service seems to keep getting worse, air travel has ceased to be fun – or even pleasant.

And I don't know if there's anything worse than a long-haul flight in a cramped economy seat.

But, as any frequent traveler knows, there's often no other option. I personally can't afford to upgrade on every flight I take, and the reality is that most normal travelers can't, either. So, until science discovers a way for us to teleport, I know I'm going to have to continue making the best of those long-haul flights in a constantly shrinking seat.

In light of this, I decided to put together a list of must-pack items that might help make that long flight a little less awful. Here are some of my in-flight essentials:

Comfortable outfit

My ideal outfitfor flying

What you wear on that 12-hour-long flight (and subsequent hours spent in check-in, baggage claim, and immigration lines) really does make a difference. You don't want to look like a complete slob (slobs don't tend to ever get free upgrades, after all), but you also don't want to be uncomfortable for all those hours.

My ideal airplane outfit consists of:

  1. Stretchy jeans, like Old Navy's Rockstar Jeggings. They look good, but feel like a comfy pair of leggings.
  2. A comfortable, lightweight t-shirt that will match the other clothes I packed.
  3. A big soft sweater to go overtop (layers are always a good idea, especially if you get hot/cold easily).
  4. Compression socks, because they help reduce swelling in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
  5. Whatever pair of shoes is most difficult to pack – this will obviously vary, depending on where you're going and the time of year you're traveling. In the summer, I'll usually wear my sneakers on the plane. Any other time of year, it's usually a pair of boots.

Slippers

I hate keeping my shoes on on a long flight, because my feet usually swell a little and get very uncomfortable. However, it's disgusting to watch people roaming around on a plane in their socks or bare feet (ewww).

Some airlines will actually give you a pair of plane slippers to use on board. But if they don't, I suggest brining slippers or slipper socks of your own (along with a little pouch to keep them in until you can wash them once you get home). As an added bonus, they help keep your feet warm, too!

Get some!

Travel blanket

Does anyone else get grossed out by the poorly shrink-wrapped blankets that get handed out on most long-haul flights? They're always so static-y, and I'm always dubious about how clean they actually are. (And then of course there are those multi-hour flights where you don't get ANY blanket.) I recommend traveling with your own blanket, like this CoolMax blanket by Cocoon. I'm a big fan of Cocoon's products, and this travel blanket is small and lightweight enough to fit easily into any carry-on bag.

Get one!

Good headphones

bose

You can never go wrong with a good pair of headphones on a long flight, whether it's to listen to music, to plug in to the in-flight entertainment system, or to drown out the noise of surrounding passengers. For some people, it's all about the noise-canceling headphones.

Personally, I don't like noise-canceling headphones, and therefore have a nice pair of Bose over-ear headphones, which are really comfortable and still block out a decent amount of noise when I'm watching a movie or listening to music.

Get a pair!

Inflatable pillow

I'm the unlucky type of traveler who has a ridiculously hard time sleeping on planes. It's usually a mixture of not being able to get comfortable, and too much going on around me. I've taken to traveling with an inflatable neck pillow for those times when I DO doze off, so I don't arrive in my destination tired AND with a crick in my neck. I like the inflatable pillows more than the memory foam ones because they're much easier to pack.

Get one!

Eye mask/ear plugs

To try to coax my body to fall asleep, I've invested in a nice eye mask and set of ear plugs. Sometimes it's just a matter of tricking your body into thinking it's bed time. You can find eye mask/ear plug bundles online – I personally like the ear plugs that mold into the shape of your ear.

Get some!

Coloring book

Travel Between the Lines coloring book

Can't fall asleep, no matter what you try? Well, then make sure to bring a few things in your carry-on to keep you occupied. Adult coloring books are ALL the rage right now, both because coloring is fun AND it forces you to put down the iPhone and just let yourself relax.

My pick is the “Travel Between the Lines” adult coloring book, which is a travel-themed coloring book designed based on actual travel photos taken by the travelers behind the blog WanderTooth. The story is cool, AND it's sure to stoke your wanderlust. Perfect for a long plane ride.

Get one!

Kindle

Lastly, I never go anywhere without my trusty Kindle Paperwhite loaded with a few new books. If all else fails, I know I can always pass a couple hours by reading. The Kindle Paperwhite has a built-in backlight, too, so you don't have to bother your seat mate by turning on your overhead light after the crew turns all the main cabin lights off.

Get one!

Pick these up before your next long flight:

What are some of YOUR in-flight essentials?

 

In-flight essentials to make long flights less awful

 

*Note: There are some affiliate links in this post, meaning that if you purchase something through one of these links, I make a small commission (at no extra cost to you, of course!). Just one way that I keep this site running!

 

77 Comments

  • I need a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. 🙂 Since I’m so scared of flying, I always concentrate on random sounds the plane makes, haha, and they make me nervous. I’ll have to check out Bose, because comfort is a must for me. Great list!

    As for me, I need slippers to make it through a long flight as well as my iPhone’s portable charger just in case the seats on my plane don’t have USB slots. Sometimes I need to watch a “comforting/familiar” tv show or movie to calm my nerves, and I have plenty of stuff saved on my phone!

    Now to mentally prep. myself for my flight to Spain in two months…
    Rachel Elizabeth recently posted..7 Signs You Might be a Traveling Jerk

    • Amanda says:

      Ohhh good call on the portable charger – that’s definitely another good one!

      I personally don’t like how noise-canceling headphones make my head feel (I have sinus issues, though, so I think that’s why), but they definitely do work and many travelers swear by them!

    • Liz JC says:

      Rachel (& Amanda) – try Bose in-ear noise cancelling headphones – much more comfortable than the big ones in my opinion. You don’t get the same pressure on your eardrums & if you wear glasses there is no “leakage”.

      I am a 737 captain (been flying for close to 30 years now) & have counselled many people with fear of flying issues – if there are any questions I can help you with…..

      • Amanda says:

        Thanks for the suggestion! In-ear headphones are even worse for me – I’m pretty sure my ears are deformed, because I can NEVER get them to stay in! (And if I do get them to stay in, they hurt my ears something fierce.) I stick to my comfy over-ear headphones. 🙂

        • Liz JC says:

          I would still suggest trying the Bose version – they have super soft silicone earpieces in 3 sizes to fit different size ears! – maybe check them out next time you are in a duty free or other electronics store. Had a screaming baby one row behind me on an 11 hour flight & wasn’t disturbed!

        • Erica says:

          Amanda, I had my audiologist office make me a set of in ear headphone “covers” they take an impression of your ear and have a mold made that allows ear buds to fit in and then the mold portion is what goes in your ear. They are really comfortable, I think I paid $30 for them and have had them for 3 years. Bonus is they fit well so the outside noise is reduced and you can actually have your music turned lower and reduce damage to your hearing.

  • Wynne says:

    Great suggestions here! The longest flight I’ve ever taken was Athens to JFK (about 10+ hours), so I’ve yet to do a truly long-haul flight. Don’t know if I could stand it! But these tips would all help if I had to.

    And I love the adult coloring book!

    • Amanda says:

      That’s still a pretty long flight! The longest I’ve ever been on was 14 hours, and I honestly hope I never have to be on a flight that long again!

  • Laura says:

    I love the new adult coloring book trend! My friend sent me Unicorns are Jerks. And maybe it’s not really and adult color book, but I love it nonetheless!

    And I’d never thought about packing it for a flight. I’m flying to Hawaii this weekend and I may just now throw it in my bag for the long haul!

    • Amanda says:

      I love the coloring book trend, too! They’re so fun. My boyfriend wants to buy me a swear word coloring book, which I think is hilarious!

      They’re great for flights though – you can even color while you watch a movie or listen to music!

  • Jan Gagnon says:

    Hello! Thank you for all the advice that you’ve given on your blog and Facebook!
    One thing I like to bring with me on long flights is a scarf, the colder the weather, the thicker the scarf. Comes in handy when I forget a travel pillow!
    Another idea for your return flight, if you are not into coloring is to purchase postcards ahead of time and writing them out during the flight. While it is nice to mail them from your vacation spot, I find it is easy to forget but just as nice even after the trip to send.

    • Amanda says:

      A scarf is something that I almost always pack, too! They come in handy in so many different situations.

      And the postcard suggestion is great, too! I also usually save some of my photo editing for the flight home.

  • I love your in flight travel essentials! I always carry a pashmina. It doubles as both a blanket in flight and a scarf in cold climates. I just got back from a trip to Japan (winter) and the Philippines (summer). I used it every day I was in Japan and NYC were it was in the 50’s, and once on the plane I used it to wrap up in. Not to mention I could wrap my camera in it for extra padding if needed.

    I love the idea of the adult coloring books, I wish I had some for my JFK to Tokyo flight. I can never sleep on flights, making me quite bored after getting through all the English inflight movies and snacks.

  • Lisa says:

    My number one in-flight essential is definitely my Kindle! I can load so many books, it fits easier in my personal bag and keeps me occupied for hours (as I also can never fall asleep on a flight).

    • Amanda says:

      I used to be one of those people who would defend “real” books, and swore I would never get a Kindle. But now that I have one? I can’t imagine ever going back!!

  • Maggie says:

    Great suggestions! Mine pretty much mirror yours, and then the portable phone battery as someone else suggested. I couldn’t get through any flight or bus trip without my Paperwhite. My ears hurt badly on high altitude flights (not sure how to describe it, it’s like where you feel like you have cotton in your ears for the next day and you can’t hear anything). I found some weird earplugs specifically for that, that you put in an hour before you land. I used them on my last long flight and my ears were fine, so I guess they work ok. They’re not for noise cancellation, but since you only have to wear them at the end it’s not too big a deal.

  • Anne says:

    For the really long flights I like to take one of those portable power sources in case my iPod or kindle dies!

  • Alouise says:

    Compression socks are a must for any flight I’m on. My feet usually swell up unless I wear them. If I’m on an international flight I make sure to pack my sleep kit (eye mask, ear plugs, blanket, pillow and other stuff to help me sleep), and I use jetlag rooster app and drink water (no coffee or sugary drinks) to help me beat jetlag.

    • Amanda says:

      Avoiding caffeine and sugary drinks is great advice for long-haul flights. I do the same (usually starting 24 hours before I fly), and it really does help!

  • Christine C. says:

    Kindle, a book, and crossword puzzles. If I’m going to be sleeping on the flight an eye mask and melatonin.

  • Rose says:

    Gum for my crazy popping ears and breath as well as ear plugs for the loud people around me.

  • Michelle says:

    Surprisingly, I can usually fall asleep before the plan even departs. I’m not sure what it is but everyone likes to make fun of me for it haha!
    Michelle recently posted..How I Made $320,888 In 2015 – My December Online Income Report and Annual Wrap Up

  • Great list! I also like to take a travel toothbrush and some toothpaste, and a change of top. This is for those extra long trips when you have multiple connections, too – during those connections, I always head to the toilets in the airport, brush my teeth, change my top, and feel MILES better and refreshed. Worked a charm last year when I was doing a hellish Bali>Singapore>Dubai>BirminghamUK route. I still shudder at the memory!

    • Amanda says:

      Great tip! Having a change of clothes in your carry-on is something I usually do for long trips, too – but mostly just in case my luggage doesn’t make it to the other side with me! 😉

  • Kate Slean says:

    Really great list! I love the idea of bringing a colour book on the flight – I’ve never thought of it, but it’s genius!
    For me, when flying I need a comfortable outfit with a really cozy sweater – I tend to get really cold. I also need shoes that are easy to get on and off, water and a good book!

    • Amanda says:

      Your list sounds a lot like mine! And yeah, coloring books are great for flights. And now that it’s acceptable for adults to be coloring in public again… haha, go for it!

  • Emma says:

    I’m not the big movie girl usually but when I’m on long flights I will Watch as many movies as I can ! This makes time go fast and if I’m too tired to Watch a movie, I’m the Lucky kind who can fall asleep pretty easily everywhere ! 🙂

  • ReAnn Scott says:

    Well darn – my long-haul flight is Tuesday, 2/2 so no chance to get a coloring book by then – but sure would have added a little fun to the flight.

  • Ree Bell says:

    Food! I can easily be quite unhealthy when I fly because I don’t bring a proper meal (and I don’t want to eat the vegetarian meal some flights offer, at a hefty price) but it’s still very much an essential part of my packing (regardless of length of flight, but especially important when it’s a long-haul one).

    I also make sure to pack my “using during the flight” items in a separate bag from my “regular carry-on” (where I might even stuff my entire luggage if I’m lucky) that I can easily take out when on the plane (if the attendants won’t let me carry it separately). It means I don’t have to get up and rummage around in my luggage (especially as I tend to get window seats) and I will have what I need/want at hand.
    Ree Bell recently posted..Found In: Prague

    • Amanda says:

      I’ve taken to bringing my own food on long flights if I have time to get something – airplane food has gotten AWFUL recently.

      And I do the same when packing! I put all the things I’m going to use on the plane in my handbag, and then put everything else up in the overhead. No rummaging for me!

      • Ree Bell says:

        In a pinch I will grab something at the airport, but I do try to remember when I’m home (or before I leave my destination). It’s not just the cost or the quality of the food they have on airplanes either, but the time; I would feel so rushed, because the attendants are – and on the long flights I’ve been on (admittedly not that many) they’ve had rather strict “hours of service” for the various meals. Though I get it, that fact alone would’ve made me bring my own food even if their offering was good enough to eat.

        It’s not a great feeling if you forget something in your regular luggage and either have to get up and get it, annoying other passengers in the process, or do without!
        Ree Bell recently posted..Found In: Prague

  • Brianna says:

    Great list! I love the coloring book idea. I wish I could color on flights, but unfortunately I get sick if I do literally anything besides sleep 😛
    Brianna recently posted..How To Be A Less Sucky Tourist

  • Travel essential would be my own calming tea. Calm the nerves and relaxing while in a tiny seat.

  • Isuann says:

    I have a Tolino Shine ebook reader which I load with multilingual ebooks to practice my French and German. Comfy trousers for sure and a jacket/pullover. Lipgloss, mints and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste set for my toiletries. I would LOVE to add a travel colouring book to this set of must-haves!!

  • Zoe says:

    What I always take on flights is a headphone splitter! It’s needed when i’m listening to my personal music and my partner wants to listen to the same music, as we have a shared playlist. Perfect for not having to share 1 headphone or taking turns!

  • Hannah says:

    A good book is a must for me. But, I’m a quick reader (I should probably invest in a Kindle someday), so I usually finish it about 2 hours into the flight.
    I love the idea of a coloring book! This is a fun contest, BTW. 🙂
    Also, I always make sure that I bring a notebook. If I can’t read, I can always write!
    Hannah recently posted..6 Classy Nonfiction Books to Read on the Plane

    • Amanda says:

      Sounds like you should most definitely invest in a Kindle if you read that quickly! You could take as many books as you wanted, but only have to carry one!

      Glad you like the contest – I love finding fun stuff to give away to my readers!

  • Yeah, I don’t understand how some people are comfortable flying while they’re dressed like they’re ready for a runway show.

    I don’t have an adult coloring book yet, but I’m hoping to win one from this post! I actually think that’d be great for keeping me busy on a flight. I usually bring books but with as much activity that goes on in that little metal capsule in the sky, I often can’t concentrate on what I’m reading.

    Also, playing mindless games on my phone usually gets me through the flight.

  • Nichole says:

    I always make sure I’ve packed my noise-canceling headphones. I’ll keep them on the whole flight, even if I’m not listening to anything, because they reduce the engine noise so well.

    • Amanda says:

      A definite plus! That, and you can totally put them on if you don’t really want to talk to the person next to you. Haha. Sometimes I’ll put headphones on when I’m feeling particularly antisocial!

  • Janna says:

    My in-flight essentials are head-phones, a book, and a snack.

  • Helen Thurston says:

    headphones and a selection of music/audio books, then I can pretend to be asleep 😀

  • Brooklyn says:

    I am the worst at long haul flights! I’m never able to sleep and always feel so disgruntled.
    But the inflatable neck pillow seems like something good to try out 🙂
    http://www.justbeingbrooklyn.com

  • Another pashmina fan here – I’m down to one as I left one on the hotel/airport shuttle on my last trip!

    I just bought a pair of compression socks today at Container Store for my upcoming flight to Hong Kong.

  • Kate says:

    This is a great list! I always wear the most difficult shoes to pack on the plane too. I never thought of wearing compression socks either! My brother wears them after he works out, but I bet they would be a life saver during a long flight. I always travel with a book to read, but a coloring book is an excellent idea and a travel themed coloring book is even better! I’ll definitely have to look into bringing a coloring book on my next long flight. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Kate recently posted..A Look Inside Warner Bros. Studio London – The Making of Harry Potter

  • Great list! We pretty much have the same flying outfit, only I prefer straight-up leggings to anything resembling denim, ha (I hate jeans!). I find Lysse leggings thick like pants and so comfortable for full days of travel.
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..The Healthy Girl’s Guide to Breakfast and Lunch

    • Amanda says:

      I’ll have to check out those leggings! I have a thicker pair from Old Navy that I also love, but these jeggings are my go-to. They don’t feel like jeans AT ALL!

  • Devona says:

    I use many of the same items. I would add a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer because as much as I don’t want to be, I AM a bit of a germ-a-phobe! I also bring my Thermos 9 hours hot/5hours cold spill proof travel cup. I LOVE it!

  • I would love to have a novel or a magazine. Or else I just catch up on a movie. Great tips here!
    Arti (@artisdiary) recently posted..Shri Ramanathaswamy Shivlingam Temple Darshan and 22 Kund Snanams, Rameshwaram.

  • Julie says:

    I am not a germophobe at all ( the airline blankets are fine by me) but I like to bring those individually packaged wet wipes. I use them to wipe down the arm rests and the tray table and also just to wash my hands when they start to feel gross.

  • Chelsea Traver says:

    I like to bring a water bottle because then I can stay properly hydrated! Plus I prefer the window seat but I can get stuck there sometimes. At least I have my water!

  • Kelly says:

    You’ve described my typical travel outfit to a T! I’m literally always rocking the stretchy jeans, plain t-shirt and long comfy cardigan on planes or road trips.

    Also, I love the sudden interest in adult coloring books! It’s so funny, I actually got my cousin (who is my age) and adult coloring book for Christmas this year, and she got my sister one! We all clearly love them.
    Kelly recently posted..Life on a Hawaiian Island: Interview with WanderluStyle

    • Amanda says:

      The adult coloring book trend has been insane! I went to a craft store after Christmas to get some colored pencils, and they were basically sold out! It was insane. But I think it’s great that coloring is making a “comeback”!

  • Heather says:

    My ipod and one of my handheld video gaming devices, and my pillow. I have this weird thing that I always have to bring my own pillow, which might be why I don’t fly very often. I get it from my mom. She always has her pillow with her when she travels. I also now have this handmade quilt I got for christmas one year that goes with me everywhere. And I wear sweats on a plane. I need to get some jeggings. This year we wont be doing much traveling because my hubby is in LPN School. But I do get to go to the beach for a week.
    Heather recently posted..Head Shot

  • Emily says:

    I loved this! I can never understand the people walking to their gate in heels! Also a blanket and eye masks are a must if you want any kind of comfort no matter what flight you’re on!

    https://thewildwayfarerblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/why-i-prefer-not-to-travel-solo/

  • N S Vinodh says:

    Sometimes a hotel where I stay gives me bedroom slippers. I pack these in my carry-on, use it on a long flight and trash it at the end. These slippers are great for the one time use on a plane.

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