Love it or loathe it, airplane travel is a convenient way to get around. If you’ve got out-of-town family, chances are you’ll be boarding a flight come Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or your grandmother’s 90th birthday.
But convenient as it is, flying isn’t usually much fun. The seats aren’t comfortable, the air dries you out, and if there’s a crying baby on board you won’t be getting much sleep. Unless, of course, you pack the right items. Here’s how to make your flight a whole lot more comfortable.
1. Comfy neck pillow
Sitting in those cramped airplane seats for hours on end isn’t comfortable. Who among us hasn’t woken up from a mid-flight nap, only to find our neck stiff and sore?
Do yourself a favor and bring along a neck pillow to provide some support. It might look silly, but your neck will thank you. Plus, it's a better option than accidentally falling asleep on a stranger's shoulder—not that I've ever done that, or anything.
2. Good headphones
Choose your travel headphones wisely. They should be compact enough to fit into your luggage, and high-quality enough to pipe good sound to your ears through the loud sounds of a tin box—er, I mean, airplane—hurtling through the air at great speeds.
Skip your wireless buds—they’re not compatible with the headphone jack on your armrest, so they won’t help you watch in-flight movies—and opt for wired ear buds.
3. All-purpose moisturizer
Airplanes dry out your skin. If you want to emerge from your flight feeling fresh and comfortable, bring along a small tub of cream that can be used on dry hands, in addition to your face.
I’m a fan of Nivea’s classic blue tin of “Creme,” which is thick enough for rough, dry elbows but gentle enough to use anywhere you need it. My grandmother has been using the stuff on her face every night for years, and her cheeks are always smooth and soft.
Be sure to bring along a good tube of chapstick as well—your lips will get dry, too.
4. Compact carry-on bag
A basic carry-on-sized bag with some good outer pockets and an option for expansion is a travel must. Be sure to pick one that you think you can lift into the overhead compartments, and stow anything you might need to grab in the outer pockets.
Of course, you’ll want your flight essentials with you at your seat, but if you’re flying somewhere cold and want to be able to grab your wool hat when you get to the airport, stow it in that outer pocket.
5. Big scarf
Flights can get cold, and blankets aren’t always available. That’s why a big scarf is essential for airplane travel.
Wear it around your neck, use it as a blanket, or even fold it into a pillow. The options are plentiful, and you won’t be sorry to have it. Even if you're traveling somewhere warm and aren't going to be wearing a scarf once you get there, it's always good to have an extra beach blanket, Sarong, or sun cover-up.
Blanket scarves: wear 'em, love 'em, bring 'em on trips.
6. Water bottle
Airplane travel can dehydrate you. Bring an empty water bottle with you, and fill it up at the gate after you’ve gone through security.
Sure, you’re likely to be offered a beverage on the flight, but here’s my pitch for water bottles: You don’t have to wait for that drink cart to come around when you’re thirsty, and when you’re done sipping water, you don’t have to wait for the flight attendants to collect your half-empty cup before you can fold up your tray table and take a nap. It’s a perfect solution.
7. Hand sanitizer
Do you know how many people have sat in your airplane seat, pressed your seat’s “recline” button, used your tray table, and pressed those same buttons on the television attached to the back of the seat in front of you? A lot. And do you know what people have? Germs. Lots and lots of germs.
Don’t go overboard panicking about bacteria, but it’s a good idea to travel with hand sanitizer so you can clean up before you dig into a packet of peanuts. Nothing ruins a vacation like getting sick.
8. An e-reader
Have you ever thought your book would last the whole flight, only to finish it before you land and find yourself sans reading materials? It’s no fun.
Make sure you bring an e-reader, loaded with multiple books you’d like to read, to avoid this problem. Of course, an e-reader is no good for anything when it runs out of battery, so take care to charge it fully before your flight—and bring the charging cable just in case.
Again, airplanes are drying, and a tin of Nivea Creme won’t help a pair of uncomfortable, red eyes.
Bring along a small bottle of eye drops to keep your eyes comfy, whether you’re reading, watching an in-flight movie, or napping. I personally have had a great experience with these Systane drops.