In-Flight Essentials to Make Long Flights Suck Less

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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.


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!

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.

Good headphones


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.

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.

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.

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.


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?


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!


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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77 Comments on “In-Flight Essentials to Make Long Flights Suck Less

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  1. 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!

      Glad that I could give you a few new ideas, Kate!

    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.

      Compression socks have worked wonders on my ankles on long flights! I don’t ever travel without them – hopefully they help you, too!

    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 🙂

      Anything is worth a try in my book if it means getting a little bit of sleep!

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

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

    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.

      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!

    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.

      Coloring is great because you don’t have to concentrate on it toooo much, and yet it’s still really fun and does pass the time.

    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!

      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!

    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!

      Oh, great suggestion! I guess not as important when you’re traveling solo, but definitely handy if you’re traveling with someone!

    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!!

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

    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 😛

      Oh no!! I sometimes suffer from motion sickness, but thankfully a dose of something like Dramamine or Bonine before traveling always works for me.

    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.

      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!

        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!

    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.

      Well, maybe for your next flight! 🙂

    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 ! 🙂

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