If you look at a map, it’s obvious China is on the other side of the world. Still, you don’t realize just how big the planet is until you spend 20 hours getting there. With a 90-minute drive to the airport followed by 20 hours of flying and 10 hours in assorted airports, we had a darn long journey making our way to Hong Kong.
Packing Tips For Long Haul Flights
The destination was worth every minute it took to get there, but based on this experience and several other long trips I’ve taken, I’ve compiled the absolute essentials for a comfortable trip. No matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be an annoying component to air travel, but packing the right items can make it more manageable.
Comfort Essentials for Your Carry On
Throughout the Flight
Lip Balm: If I could only pack a single item for long-haul flights, I’d settle for a tube of lip balm. With super dry air in-flight, this keeps my lips from cracking and getting sore. I love Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm because it doubles as practical during the trip with SPF and a hint of color.
Water Bottle: A water bottle is second on my list because it’s so annoying to get water onboard. It seems like flight attendants never proactively offer enough to keep you well hydrated on a flight. You’ll feel better when you land if you keep drinking throughout the trip. Contigo Autoseal water bottles live up to their leakproof claims.
Ear Plugs: Crying baby behind you? Annoying conversation next to you? Snorer in the row ahead of you? Basic, boring ear plugs work wonders at blocking sounds, but they are not all created equal. Experiment to find a shape, size, and material that feels comfortable for you; my small ears particularly like these earplugs designed for women.
Eye Shade: There is no perfect eye shade, or at least not that I’ve found yet, but anything is better than nothing when it comes to blocking light. More importantly, wearing eye shades is the international signal for “do not disturb”, so even if you’re not sensitive to light while sleeping, it’ll keep flight attendants and other passengers from bothering you.
Hand Cream: I rarely use lotion at home, but I use it all the time on flights. This little pick-me-up can make a big difference in feeling human ten hours in. L’Occitane Hand Cream is worth a splurge because it never explodes in your bag, doesn’t leave greasy streaks on your smartphone, and has a light scent so your neighbors don’t give you evil looks.
Kindle: How many times will I mention my Kindle before you try it yourself? Unlike a laptop or tablet, there’s enough battery power in a Kindle to provide days of entertainment. The backlight is perfect for reading if the person next to you is sleeping and you’ll have storage space for lots of book choices.
Headphones: I’ll admit it…as much as I love reading, I watch a lot of movies in-flight (assuming the airline offers them). That’s because, in the words of my husband, “TV on, Becky off” and next thing you know, I’m napping. I like simple earbuds because noise-canceling headphones are too bulky to wear while sleeping.
For The Next Morning
Wisps: When you’ve spent hours on a plane, you’re going to feel gross by the time you get off. I swear by showers in the airport lounge, but that’s not always possible. The next best thing is brushing your teeth. Colgate Wisps are better than a standard toothbrush because no water is necessary, so no need to worry if you land in countries where the water supply is unsafe.
Clean Underwear: If you don’t have room to carry on a whole new outfit, a simple pair of clean underwear can still do the trick. Yup, I’m the weirdo changing in airport bathrooms. If you don’t yet have a pair of pickpocket-proof underwear, start with that.
Just in Case
Ginger Chews: I’ve only felt sick on a flight once, but there’s nothing worse than holding back nausea during a flight. I’ve tried pressure point bands on cruises and ferries and found them ineffective, but ginger works for me every time. These ginger chews come individually wrapped so it’s easy to throw a few in your bag.
Advil: Unfortunately, if you’re not eating, sleeping, or hydrating properly, you’re more prone to headaches. Nip it in the butt by packing along your preferred medicine. I hope you won’t need it, but it packs compactly and can be helpful at your destination, too.
Compression Socks: The best way to keep your muscles happy is to simply get up and move on the airplane (or to look like a dork doing exercises at your seat — don’t worry, no one else is looking because they’re too busy sleeping). Second best is wearing a pair of cool-looking compression socks, which are also great after a long hike.
Snacks: Sure, they feed you on most long-haul flights, but there’s no telling if you’ll like it or whether you’ll be hungry again three hours later. Pack a snack for the midnight munchies. KIND bars have protein to fill you up and aren’t messy to eat. My favorite are peanut butter & strawberry (just like a PBJ!)
Sweater: Layering is key on flights since you don’t have any sort of climate control. For some reason, flights are always freezing cold or sweltering hot and never anything inbetween! I love to wear a tank of some sort with a layered sweater, making it easy to adjust as necessary.
Slip On Shoes: Wearing shoes for the entirety of a long flight can be uncomfortable, especially if you want to get some sleep. Make it easy on yourself by wearing slip on shoes so you can get comfortable but still quickly put them on to head to the bathroom.
What I Don’t Pack
While I think it’s important to remain comfortable on long flights in order to get some rest, I also don’t want to lug around a million things for a week just because I want it on the plane. As such, I don’t bring my own pillow or blanket: I’ve yet to find an airline that doesn’t automatically offer them on overnight flights, so having my own is unnecessary (and bulky!).
I also used to bring wet wipes, either for washing up or for cleaning up sticky surfaces on tray tables. After flying a bunch of times and realizing I never pull them out, I’ve stopped carrying them and rely on good old hand-washing or wet paper towels from the bathroom. You know what? It works like a charm.
While it sounds like a lot, all of this fits easily in a purse and slides under the seat in front of me for easy accessibility.
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What Do You Pack for In-Flight Comfort? Share Your List in the Comments!
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Make sure to check out some of my other packing lists:
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