Long-Haul Flight Essentials (22 things to pack in your carry-on)

Oh long-haul flight, you are so much fun! Said no one, ever.

This is the last post in a series meant to help you navigate your way through a successful lengthy flight. Using the tips provided, your flight may still seem to take forever, but you should be able to handle the long hours more effectively. And who knows, maybe you will even be able to enjoy it a little. Maybe, of course, being the operative word. Make sure you click on these links to put on the full armor of travel and be prepared for whatever may come your way while on the journey to your destination. 

21 Tips for a Successful Long-Haul Flight, 

How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight with Kids.

I typically begin packing for a trip at least a week before we leave. One aspect of the journey that is sure to get my full attention is packing for the flight ahead. I have evolved from packing a little backpack with an iPod, headphones and a sweatshirt, to filling two bags and still fearing I have forgotten something essential. I always play the “what-if” game. What if it’s cold? What if it’s hot? What if I don’t like the food being served? What if I get sick? What if my luggage gets lost? You name it, the list could be endless. To keep you from becoming paranoid like me, I have compiled a list of things to include in your carry-on the next time you embark on a long-haul flight.

1. Plan ahead

Planning ahead is crucial to any flight. Take some time and think through all the things you could possibly need or want during your flight. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What will you need to have with you in case your luggage gets lost?
  • Will you be traveling when it is time to take any medications?
  • What are some activities you want to accomplish on your flight?
  • What are some things you could bring to help pass the time?
  • Do you have any special snacks you could bring to treat yourself for your resilience?

2. Travel documents

Think beyond just this plane ride. What will you need on the other end? A passport, visa, driver’s license, etc.?IMG_5297

3. Lounge access cards

If you have one, don’t forget it. The last time we flew, I forgot mine. What a bummer especially when I paid to use the fantastic airport lounge facilities. And the worst part was, I wasn’t able to get my free pre-flight wine. 😦

4. Bankcard or credit card

Make sure to alert your credit card company you will be traveling internationally, so they don’t put a freeze on your account. Also, sometimes it is most convenient to withdraw local currency from an ATM at your destination airport.

5. Currency for your destination country

If this is not possible to obtain in advance, see above.IMG_5512

6. Comfortable clothes and shoes

You are going to be sitting, eating, and (hopefully) sleeping in these clothes for a long time so please, wear something comfortable. I also find wearing a pair of lightweight tennis shoes helps diminish in-flight swelling in my feet.IMG_5510

7. Snacks

Quite possibly the best part of the trip. Think ahead. Do you have any dietary restrictions or sensitivity to foods that will prevent you from eating the in-flight food provided? My daughter refuses to eat any airline meals due to their high sodium levels and overall unhealthiness. She always packs all her own food and snacks and usually throws the flight attendants into a frenzy every time she refuses a meal. As if she would starve to death, right? On one flight she had a flight attendant offer her an entire box of chocolates because he was so worried about her. Hmmm, maybe she’s onto something.

8. Medication

Airports and airplanes are breeding grounds for germs. Plus, the stress of traveling can lead to a lower immune response. Think about it. What if your luggage gets lost or you get sick? Do you have medications you must take? Better to keep them with you just in case.IMG_5507

9. Hand sanitizer

And some good, substantial sanitizing wipes. Before you even sit down, pull one of those babies out and clean your seat, armrests, and tray table. My boys always look at me in horror when I go all Cinderella-like in our seating area. Ok, I will admit I am a bit of a germ-a-phoebe, but I certainly don’t intend to catch the plague from an airplane ride. And if you think that’s bad, you should see me at a movie theater. Haha!

10. A good neck pillow

If you are like me, this is a crucial factor in being able to doze off, even for a little bit. I have tried dozens of neck pillows until I finally found the right one for me and won’t recommend one because it is such a personal choice. Unfortunately, trial and error is the only advice I can offer on this topic.IMG_5511

11. Sweater and/or scarf

Some planes are cold, some hot. You never know. The airline will typically provide blankets, but sometimes even those aren’t enough. And if you are like my husband, your sweater (or scarf) can also double as something to throw over your head for more privacy when trying to catch a few zzz’s. I swear that man can sleep anywhere. I am always so jealous!

12. A change of clothes

When we were on a flight returning home from Lombok, Indonesia, the flight attendant served me a piping hot full cup of coffee. After my first sip, we hit a giant air pocket. The plane dropped suddenly, but my coffee didn’t. Nope, it flew up and out everywhere. It was like a slow-motion scene in a movie. Nooooooo!!!…All over me…and the poor unsuspecting soul next to me. Even if you take all the precautions in the world to not spill anything on yourself, who knows what the guy (or girl) next to you will do. Best to be prepared for anything and everything.

13. A good book

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Invest in a Kindle. It is lightweight and has a backlit screen so you can continue to read even when the cabin lights are dimmed. My favorite book series is Outlander, and at an average of 1,300 pages per book, you aren’t likely to finish before your flight ends. If you do, I will give you my eternal respect and admiration.IMG_5488

14. Word search

Or sudoku, a crossword, deck of cards. Anything that will provide a bit of distraction on your long flight.

15. Headphones

Don’t skimp here people. Invest in some good quality, noise-canceling headphones. They will help you drown out the noises of incessant coughing or bathroom doors opening and closing five thousand times. I wish I could say I was exaggerating, but I’m not.

16. A solid playlist

This may come in handy while playing a game or taking a nap.

17. Toiletries

A long flight can make you feel, well, not very fresh, if you catch my drift. Think ahead. What could you use after sitting in a seat eating, drinking, and sleeping for 12+ hours? A toothbrush, deodorant, face wash, make-up? After all, you may want to walk off the plane looking like a supermodel instead of a homeless person. I typically choose the homeless person route myself, so no judgment from me either way.IMG_5508

18. Laptop or other device

I try to work on a project to help pass the time on a long flight. One flight, I was working on a writing project. Like actual handwriting. With pens, white-out, and highlighters. Hey, I’m old school, what can I say? At the end of the trip, the flight attendant asked me if I was an artist. After shooting him a questioning look, he pointed to my hand. I looked down to see it splotched with green and pink highlighter and “painted” with white-out. Well hey, I may have made a mess but also managed to kill three hours during the flight, so it was totally worth it.

19. DVD’s

Sure, the plane offers a wide selection of movies and shows for your viewing pleasure. However, if you are like me, very little seems to catch my interest. Instead, you may want to consider bringing the complete collection of a show you have been wanting to watch, or a favorite movie. If you are tech-savvy, you could load them onto your computer to view them easily that way.

20. Charging cables

Listening to your awesome playlist and the work you are going to do on your computer will drain the batteries on your devices. Many planes provide ports to charge your devices.IMG_5513

21. An empty water bottle with a tight-fitting lid

This is an excellent way to keep hydrated and monitor your water intake. Ask the flight attendant to fill it, then keep it in the seat pocket in front of you. Try to drink the entire contents and refill a few times throughout your flight to prevent water retention and swelling.

22. Sleeping pills or melatonin

If you are like me, drifting off to sleep in a vertical position is next to impossible. Suffering through a long flight without any rest is brutal. Sometimes popping a pill may help. Just make sure you have tried your medication of choice before your flight. You wouldn’t want to experience a negative reaction to a medication you have never tried before. I know Benadryl is one drug that knocks some people out while making others bounce off the walls with hyperactivity. Not the best-case scenario on a plane.

While this list may not be exhaustive, I hope it will give you most of the tools you will need to make your long flight successful. Just make sure to think through what makes the most sense to you, as well as anything you could possibly need or want. With some pre-planning, you will have a successful long-haul flight and will arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

Special thanks to Peter Petero who reminded me how important it is to walk off the plane looking like a supermodel. Keep working on me Pete, I’ll get there someday. 😉



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