Hardly anyone looks forward to being trapped on an airplane for hours on end, but long-haul flights are unavoidable if you like to travel the globe, as I do.
I’m writing this from Tokyo’s Narita Airport on my three-hour layover while waiting for my nine-hour connecting flight to Singapore, fresh(ish) from my 13.5-hour flight from New York. That’s about 25 hours of transit folks, not counting time to and from the airports.
I’m usually pretty good with these marathon itineraries since I often doze off prior to takeoff, but today I’m suffering from a triple whammy of discomfort: a sinus headache, which is threatening to become a migraine; that time of the month; and an upset stomach. Oh, and did I mention that I’m in coach the entire way, and my seatback entertainment system broke about two hours into my initial flight? What a way to spend a birthday.
TMI? Perhaps. But I’m writing this because I made the mistake of packing when I was tired and inadvertently put my carry-on toiletries kit in my checked luggage, plus forgot to pack a book—silly me—so all this forced meditation time got me thinking about just what carry-on items are essential for long-haul flights, at least for me.
So here’s my preferred in-fight packing list—“perfected” over the past 25-plus years of international travel.
- Water. Buy a big bottle before you board. Better yet, bring an empty bottle and fill it up from the fountain after you pass through security. Don’t forget a small spray bottle, too. Keeping your skin hydrated is as important as your body, especially after enduring several hours of enclosed stale air. Evian sells an ideal 1.7-ounce size for $5.50.
- Lip balm, hand cream and face moisturizer. See hydration note above. Reapply regularly.
- A travel set including a blanket, earplugs, eye cover and neck pillow (the cushioned ones are more comfortable, but inflatable ones save space). I’m a big fan of DreamSacks and its travel kits, especially the luxury set with a silk/cashmere blanket and silk carry-case that fits a travel pillow nicely. Prices from $59.
- Ear-covering headphones. Those in-ear plugs hurt like hell.
- Slippers. I get out of my street shoes before I even board the plane.
- A silk scarf/shawl to block those pesky drafts.
- A small toiletries bag with travel-sized deodorant, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, pain relievers, stomach aids and, for women, tampons or liners. Be prepared, even if between cycles. Trust me.
- Reading material, puzzles, MP3 player, laptop—anything to keep you occupied during your flight.
- Snacks. Even though most international flights are pretty good about supplying food and beverages, you never know when you’ll get the munchies. I’m partial to the trail mix packages from Trader Joe’s. Nuts and raisins—what’s not to love.
- Moist towelettes. Great for cleaning up before and after a snack and for getting newspaper ink off your hands.
- Makeup. Not a lot. A simple face powder and lipstick will do. Nothing helps you look less like a zombie after 15 cramped hours in the air than a bit of color on your face and lips.
- A carry-on bag or purse with multiple pockets for organization of everything listed above, and easy access to your passport and boarding pass.
Well, that has me covered. What are your essential carry-on items?
I’m now going to pop a few of the over-priced Tylenol pills I snagged at the airport drugstore and hope to pass out until just before we land in Singapore. More to come on this island city-state next week.