I don't really love plane rides... they're boring, crowded, and it grosses me out that we're all breathing the same recirculated air for the whole time. Unless it's your first time and everything is new and exciting, you probably won't actually enjoy the flight, especially if you're alone, as I was. So then, if having fun isn't the goal, what is?
Here I've listed four goals to make your flight a more pleasant experience, along with the items that can help you achieve those goals...
goal: stay hydrated
The average in-flight humidity is only 12%, which is drier than most deserts (an average home has 35-60% humidity, for comparison), so one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy and feel better on a flight is to hydrate! Be sure to bring or buy water before your flight.
Tip: To save money, you can bring an empty water bottle (as long as it's empty it can go through security) and fill it up at the water fountain so you don't have to pay for overpriced water bottles.
You can give your skin an extra boost of hydration and feel a little fresher if you bring a small bottle of lotion with you. Just remember to pack it with your other liquids when you go through security!
The dryness can be especially irritating for those of us who have contacts. Consider packing your contact solution in the bag with you on the plane for easy access.
Goal: Stay Entertained
You probably don't need a reminder to bring your favorite electronic device - phone, tablet, e-reader, etc. - to entertain you on a plane. Do consider doing a bit of prep work before you leave to make your flight more enjoyable. Download whatever in-flight entertainment app the airline is using so you can stream free movies, compile a playlist of your favorite songs to help you sleep on the plane, or purchase an e-book or magazine for the flight.
This one is sometimes harder to remember... Don't pack your extra battery pack or charger for your electronic device in your checked bag, as you may need it at the airport or on the airplane. Airports are getting better about providing free charge stations (usually USB and traditional wall outlets are available) and some planes even have USB outlets on the seats now. In the future, you may only need the cord!
Even if you don't plan to listen to music or (for whatever reason) aren't bringing or using an electronic device, I still recommend that you bring headphones or earbuds. There are two reasons for this. First, because on longer flights they often have screens on the back of the seat in front of you so you can watch movies, and it really sucks to be without sound for those. Often earbuds will be available for purchase (or sometimes free) on the flight, but they're invariably terrible, so just bring your own. The other reason is so you can use them to demonstrate the universal "do not disturb" gesture by putting them in (even if they're not attached to anything!) if you want to avoid speaking to your overly-friendly neighbor on a flight.
Book or magazine
Airports are always full of stores selling books and magazines, and I like to treat myself to a new one (even if it's just a $4 magazine) when I fly. It'll give you something to read/look at even if your electronic devices run out of battery or start to give you a headache from looking at the screen for the whole flight (as often happens to me).
Goal: Stay comfortable
If you don't like that ear-popping feeling when the plane ascends and descends (and who does?) one way to make it a bit more bearable is with chewing gum. Working your jaw to chew the gum can help get that uncomfortable feeling in your ears to go away faster, and you'll be doing your seatmates a favor by freshening your breath at the same time. Alternately if a seatmate has bad breath, you can politely offer them gum "to help with the ears". Pretty sneaky, eh?
Sweater or scarf
I think bringing a scarf or sweater is one of the most important items on this list. A scarf or sweater can be used in the traditional way to keep you warm on sometimes-frigid planes, as a blanket or covering, or rolled up as a makeshift pillow to help you sleep.
I personally don't bring an eye mask when I fly, but this item is here to remind you that you should bring whatever you need to sleep (if you plan to nap on the plane), whether it be a neck pillow, earplugs, medication, or an eye mask. Sometimes little things can make a big difference when it comes to comfort!
Goal: Stay Healthy
Flying can be rough on your immune system. Changing time zones and disrupted sleep patterns combine with airport and airplane germs and the dry air of the plane to create an immune system nightmare. It's not uncommon to get headaches from the dryness or motion sickness from turbulence in the air. Whatever medicine you need to get through the flight, be sure it's on the plane with you and not left at home or in your checked luggage!
Planes can be pretty gross... how many people have touched your armrests or tray table since they were last thoroughly cleaned? Keep germs at bay by bringing antibacterial wipes. That way you can do a quick wipe down of your area before takeoff for some peace of mind. It'll also help when it's time for the in-flight meal or snacks. You can wash your hands right at your seat before you eat!
Time zone changes and unbalanced airport meals can have your stomach growling at unexpected hours when you're traveling, and there's nothing worse than going hungry for a full flight. There are usually snacks provided on shorter flights and meals on longer ones, but that doesn't mean they'll be enough to satisfy you, or something you'll want to eat. Play it safe by bringing your own light snack on the plane. Just be careful if you're traveling internationally - you won't be able to bring fresh fruits or vegetables across borders so check before you bring anything "fresh".
Bonus Goal: Stay considerate
Here are a few ways to be considerate when flying:
1. Keep anything you need during your flight in the purse/briefcase/messenger bag under the seat in front of you. Don't put it in your carry-on, as it can be really irritating to other passengers when you have to get up, find your bag, and rifle through it for the thing you needed.
2. Move as quickly as you can through the security line. No one likes waiting in that line, and you can speed up the process for you and your other passengers if you have your passport/ID and ticket out and ready to go, your liquids packaged in a ziploc bag as required, and your laptop/electronics at the top of your bag so you can easily pull them out and put them in a bin. I also always forget and somehow end up wearing a shirt with a zipper, metallic sparkles or metal snaps which can hold you up in the metal detector, so... don't do that. :)
3. Don't bring anything with a strong odor on the plane. You're all breathing about 50% recirculated air, so you never know whom you're giving a headache if you wear a strong perfume, or whom you're making feel sick with your egg salad sandwiches (watch those snacks especially!).
4. Some people like to talk and meet people on planes, but a lot of people don't. Always respect cues that your seatmates don't want to talk - good signs are headphones in, eyes closed, or an open book, magazine, or laptop in front of them.
5. Be flexible about switching seats with people. Flights are almost always more enjoyable when you can sit by your traveling companions, so spread some travel karma by being willing to switch seats with people so they can sit by their friends and family. There really isn't that much difference between a window, middle or aisle seat anyway, and the karma might come back to help you out at a later date!
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this guide for things to pack with you for a flight. Do you have suggestions? What are your go-to items when it comes to packing for a flight? Comment below!