After years of very little air travel, I’ve got 3 big trips scheduled in the upcoming months; Universal Studios (we’ve got a Harry Potter fanatic at home), Las Vegas for my husband’s 40th birthday, and then a multi-family trip to Mexico.
I’ve never had the stomach to fly much when my kids were babies or squirmy toddlers, so reaching this new place in our lives where they can handle travel without much chagrin is very exciting. I’ve got a lot of planning to do for these trips, and first and foremost is making sure I’m well packed for the flights. Follow along for my go-to list of 15-flight essentials.
- Hands Free Carryall: I find it essential to have a hands-free carryall when travelling, particularly if my kids are in tow. I either opt for a small backpack like this cute one, or a cross body bag that can fit into a larger bag as needed. My reasons for this are two-fold. First, if something is attached to your body hands-free, you are way less likely to set it down and lose it, which of course equals a total travel nightmare. Secondly, not lugging a giant purse around on my arm makes me way more mobile, whether I’m helping my kids navigate the airport or, God forbid, running for a flight!
- Blanket Scarf. I seem to always be either too hot or too cold on flights, which is why layers are key. And the most important layer I’ll be sporting is a blanket scarf. Scarves of course add a stylish layer to any outfit, but these extra-large and cozy scares also serve as a warm blanket for your flight. A quick swoop around the nose and mouth can also create a barrier between oneself and the coughs and sneezes of fellow passengers.
- Travel Pillow that Fits in Your Purse. I have always avoided bulky travel pillows since they steal too much precious packing space in my carry on. But these days I avoid “travel neck” with these sleek pillows that have hidden neck support, are light weight, machine washable (because planes can be a little grody), and designed to look like a scarf rather than 1980’s shoulder pads.
- Noise Cancelling Headphones. We are all a bit of a captive audience of plane rides, succumbing to the whims of fellow passengers, including screaming babies (be kind, I promise their poor parents are way more miserable than you)! Take some control over your environment by sporting some noise cancelling headphones. This way you only hear what you want to, which is hopefully a great movie, podcast, or simply silence.
- Cozy Eyes Masks. Sometimes on flights you want to relax and take in a good movie or book, and other times, say after a bachelorette party weekend in Nashville, you simply want to check-out. Queue up the blanket scarf, travel pillow, headphones, and, then of course don’t forget a cozy eye mask that immediately creates a sense of lights out. I recently picked up a lavender scented mask that not only helps me sleep, but relaxes me with its calming scent.
- Electronic Adaptor and Splitter. Airplane technology often can’t keep up with phone technology, which means my headphones never seem to fit into the jack for inflight movie watching, which can result in having to purchase the cheap airplane versions, that certainly don’t cancel out noise. It always helps to remember an adapter for your headphones for better quality listening and cost savings. Keeping an audio splitter on hand has also helped me out in a pinch, allowing my family members to share a screen if other technology sources are out of service.
- Hand Sanitizing Wipes. It is well known that airplanes are very germy places, and no one wants to get sick, especially when headed on a vacation. I buy several packs of travel-sized sanitizing wipes, which I prefer to liquid sanitizer since I can give the seat trays, seatbelts, and of course my hands and cell phone a good once over before I settle in (yes, I know I look a little nuts doing this but it’s totally worth it).
- Chewing Gum, Hard Candy, or a Bottle/Pacifier. One of my children is especially susceptible to the in-flight ear pain caused by the change in air pressure at takeoff and landing. I come prepared with something to suck- or chew-on, which stimulates frequent swallowing, helping equalize pressure.Now that my kids are a little older, I usually just throw a pack of gum in everyone’s carry on. Hard candies and lollipops also work well, especially for young kids, and for babies, pacifiers, bottles, or nursing at take-off and landing can do the trick.
- Refillable Water Bottle. I always end up thirstier than normal on flights, and the occasional stops by beverage service just won’t do. So, to stay well hydrated and also avoid the dreaded plastic water bottle, I always bring my favorite reusable bottle on flights, making sure its empty while going through security, then simply filling it at one of the many water stations available these days at airports. Staying well hydrated during travel is one of the best ways to stay feeling your best, avoiding the fatigue and headaches often accompanied by air travel.
- Moisturizing Balm, Spray, & Eye Drops. Flights can be very dehydrating. This is due to the low humidity inside a cabin, stemming from a planes air filtration system.And as mentioned above, keeping a hydrated body helps us feel our best, and can even keep us less susceptible to catching bugs.I keep a tube of mild-smelling hand moisturizer, lip balm, hydrating spray (my favorite is the travel-sized Mario Badescu trio), and of course eye drops. Some of my friends go all out spa on flights and sport hydrating face masks during their time in the sky.
- Low-Sodium Snacks: I know, I know. Enough with the hydration you say! But one thing I have learned about traveling is that we all tend to eat out more than normal, and restaurant food (not to mention plane food!) has a ton of salt. This quickly leaves us feeling junky and bloated. I recommend stocking the carry-on with healthy and filling low-sodium snacks. My favorites include apple chips (this brand is so delicious), the #1. snack always in my purse, Skinny Dipped Almonds, small packages of veggies and hummus (because both fresh veggies and fruit can be a challenge to find at restaurants), and either prunes or dried apricots (because hydration is not the only thing that suffers when travelling).
- Warm Socks. In spite of the fact that I will possibly have to walk barefoot through security (ugh, gross, I know) I have on occasion worn my favorite pair of Birkenstocks on a plane ride, only to be quickly freezing once the air gets flowing on a plane. Since one must make all attempts at comfort when being crammed like a sardine among strangers, a comfy pair of socks goes a long way. Plus, if there’s any chance you may have slightly smelly feet, I’m sure your co-passengers will also appreciate the gesture.
- Small First Aid Essentials. Yes, all airplanes will be equipped with first aid essentials, but I still prefer to have some potential life-savers on hand, which always includes Imodium, Tums, OTC pain relief such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen, and Benadryl. Don’t forget Band-Aids and Neosporin for small cuts or blisters.
- Notepad and Pens. Ever notice how being in a different environment opens you up to new thoughts and ideas? It’s always handy to have a notepad and pen on hand to jot these down, make a quick to-do or shopping list, or to simply play tic tac toe or hangman to pass the time with the kiddos.
- Reading Materials. One of my absolute favorite things about traveling is getting in extra reading. To start, I let myself splurge on magazines at the airport (I tend to check these out from the library at home). I wouldn’t be caught dead buying US Weekly at my local store, but on vacation I just might deep-dive into the Jen & Brad romance rekindling rumors. I also love me a good novel, and stock up on both Audible and Kindle books to avoid weighing down my carry on.
Can you tell how much I love to fly? Not much my friends. Being crammed in a small space with strangers in an environment I have little control over isn’t my cup of tea. But I love to travel, so I do my best to be prepared and make the most out of my time in the sky. Got a jet-setting adventure in your future? Stock your carry on with my 15 flight essentials to get your trip started off right.
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