Long-haul flights can be rough, even in the best of circumstances. Business class travel has mastered the art of making us feel as comfortable as possible while 30,000 feet in the air: hot hand towels, champagne in crystal glasses, toasted nuts in porcelain dishes, white tablecloths—even a real bed with a duvet and pillows. All these small attentions contribute to making us feel less groggy, dehydrated, and uncomfortable. But if you've ever been stuck in a middle seat in economy on a 14-hour flight, you know the true depths of despair international travel can bring.
Because the destination is almost always worth it, we push through the discomfort in the hope of exiting on the other side with minimal jetlag, not looking like we've just slept on a park bench. That said, there are a few essentials to pack in your carry-on that can help tremendously in making air travel as comfortable as possible. Want to feel fresh as a daisy even after an international flight seated next to the aircraft bathrooms? Don't even think of boarding a plane without packing these long-flight essentials.
A Good Pair of Headphones
Wireless headphones are crucial to not getting tangled in your tiny plane seat. Noise-canceling headphones are a plus. You'll thank us when a baby starts crying in the middle of your deep slumber. Make sure to download a few podcasts, an audiobook and a couple of great playlists and tune the world out.
Plenty of Water
Whether you're the type to bring your own bottle and fill it up at the airport, or you prefer buying some when you get through security, don't board a flight with at least one or two large bottles of water. Unless you're sitting in business or first class, getting up to grab bottled water is a hassle, and flight attendants rarely hand out enough water to keep you hydrated throughout the flight.
Planes are so dirty, you'll want a good hand sanitizer to keep you clean throughout the flight. While some brands can dry out your hands quickly, this one is luxe, hydrating, and smells amazing.
A Plush Eye Mask
There's nothing worse than finally falling asleep after watching two movies only to get woken up by breakfast service 20 minutes later. A quality sleep mask lets you set your own schedule. Pair a mask with some noise-canceling headphones and you'll be able to sleep like a baby until you decide it's time to wake up (or the plane lands).
A Hydrating Lip Balm
Speaking of staying hydrating, don't forget to pack good moisturizing lip balm to keep your lips from chapping on your red-eye flight. Reapply it every few hours and you'll never feel your lips dry up.
A Pack of Gum or Mints
Chewing gum comes in handy during takeoff and landing to help you unblock your ears, but it's also really helpful during a long flight in between brushing your teeth. Mints and Listerine strips are great too.
A Vacation Toothbrush
Speaking of brushing your teeth, a good travel toothbrush is great to freshen up before you land. Quip comes in a handy travel case and pulsates for two minutes, ensuring you brush for the recommended amount of time.
A Warm Sweater
Flights always get really cold, so it's never a bad idea to pack an extra cozy sweater. Even if you only end up using it as a mini blanket, you'll be glad to have it when you're shivering in your seat.
A Pen or Two
Let's get real: No one wants to be the person asking around for a pen when comes the time to fill out a customs form. We know—who uses a pen anymore? But they do get handy on flights. Bring an extra one to be a good flight neighbor.
A Book or Kindle
You never know what can happen on flights. Even if you have the best intentions to watch a movie and go to bed, you could be stuck in a seat without a functioning entertainment system and find yourself unable to sleep. Always bring extra entertainment. A book or e-reader will keep you busy for hours.
A Warm Pair of Socks
If you get (literal) cold feet on planes, never leave the house without packing a warm pair of socks in your carry on. There is nothing worse than having icy feet for hours on end.
A Pair of Sunglasses
Few people look their best when deplaning from a 14-hour flight, so a large pair of sunglasses is a lifesaver. Breeze through the airport incognito until you reach your hotel room and have a chance to refresh.
An External Charger
Who wants to get stuck with an iPhone that's out of battery when landing? Forget about figuring out where you're going or ordering an Uber (unless you spend 15 minutes crouched by a power outlet at the airport waiting for your phone to power back on). Instead, bring one or two external chargers to ensure that all your devices are fully charged throughout your flight.
A Headphone Jack Adapter
This tiny inconspicuous adapter may seem like just another tech gadget, but it's genius to allow you to switch between the flight's entertainment and your own iPhone. Once you try it, you'll never fly without it.
Hydrating Hand Cream
Dehydration is real on long flights, and hands feel it double-fold thanks to really harsh in-flight soaps. Pack a luxe travel-size hand cream in your bag. Not only does it smell amazing when you've been breathing plane air for nine hours, but it'll also keep your hands feeling great.
Next up: This is exactly what an airline CEO packs before boarding a long flight.