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:
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:
- Stretchy jeans, like Old Navy's Rockstar Jeggings. They look good, but feel like a comfy pair of leggings.
- A comfortable, lightweight t-shirt that will match the other clothes I packed.
- A big soft sweater to go overtop (layers are always a good idea, especially if you get hot/cold easily).
- Compression socks, because they help reduce swelling in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pick these up before your next long flight:
What are some of YOUR in-flight essentials?
*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!