After 9 round trip flights from the US to Europe in the past three years alone, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on surviving the long haul flight. As a someone traveling on a budget, all of my flights to Europe have layovers and sometimes my full journey will take 24 hours total. Learning to pack for these occasions and make the most of your time while locked in a flying metal box for 12 hours takes practice. But so far, there are a few essentials that I've learned make a big difference when taking long flights.
When packing, I usually break my list down into the following subcategories:
- Miscellaneous extras
For today's post, I'm focusing on what to include in your carry on and the necessary things to keep with you on your flight.
- Clothes | Traveling outfit
While some people like to travel dressed up, in case they meet someone important or someone tries to snap a pic (VERY common occurrences I'm sure), you'll never catch me in the airport in anything less than a Comfy outfit. It's one of those times that people will tell me, "You look so comfortable!". Terrible backhanded compliment aside, there's no reason not to wear something that you feel good in on a flight. I do try to make sure that it can take me from airport lounge, to sleeping in my seat, to landing and going out into the real world. For me, this means I usually wear a sweater/leggings combo, or sweatpants/athleisure look with multiple layers and easy shoes.
I cannot extol enough the virtues of a blanket scarf while traveling. It's my best friend in airports or train stations. I use it as a blanket, pillow, scarf, wrap, or even seat cushion bc. butt pains after 8 hours of sitting in the same spot are REAL. Runner up to my blanket scarf obsession is a love for cozy socks. Even if you show up to the airport without socks (kinda gross when you have to go through security with bare feet), I'll always pack a pair to change into on the plane. Socks on, scarf wrapped, headphones in, and I'm ready to go.
- Tech | In flight entertainment
I don't like the provided inflight entertainment. Very few airlines show current or interesting movies/tv shows and what they do have won't keep me occupied for an entire flight. I supplement with books on my kindle (which can be used during take off and landing when you switch it to airplane mode), watching shows and movies on my laptop, and writing in my journal. If I remember to download shows and podcasts ahead of time, I'll alternate between those and my books. I find international flights to be really great opportunities for brainstorming sessions or periods of reflection and love having a pen and paper to get it all down on. But really, the biggest tip I have is to get yourself really engrossed in a long series and save a good one for the flight. I recommend Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, the Young House Love podcast, Serial, and the OA for downloading.
Noise cancelling headphones take care of the airplane background noise and I always bring ear plugs for that terrible situation when you're stuck close to a crying baby. A portable charger is 100% on the list and a headphone splitter if you're traveling with someone else (check my Christmas gift guide for more tech recommendations).
- Toiletries | Travel-sized makeup and skincare
Any skincare products I bring with me on the flight are all about moisture. With air that sucks up every bit of liquid from your skin, bringing some form of lotion and lip balm is a must. I take a different one for hands and face, facial wipes to take the edge off of skipping my double cleanse, and eye drops. Makeup-wise, we're looking at 3 products max. Concealer, brow pencil and blush make me feel slightly better when I finally step off that plane. All of these come in 100 mL sizes or I decant them into smaller pots, then put them in a plastic baggie for security.
Everything else that I take depends on how long the flight is and where I'm going, but I always bring an empty water bottle to fill up when waiting to board and enough snacks to get me through long stretches of no food or terrible inflight meals. I also take a small pill case with ibuprofen, migraine medicine, and motion sickness medicine (drowsy and non-drowsy), which will cover me on the medicine front.
And that's it! Everything fits into a tote bag that serves as my personal item and leaves me with the option of bringing a carry on suitcase full of clothes if I've exceeded my checked bag limit or want to avoid the baggage claim. For ease of travel, I highly recommend Turkish Airways. They offer two free checked bags, frequent inflight meals, decent entertainment, free alcohol, and have waived a one-way flight for me that one time I forgot what day my return flight was. Whoops.
What are your long haul flight necessities? Do you go carry on only, or checked baggage all the way?