My Top 10 Long-haul Flight Survival Kit Items

by on April 18, 2011 · 11 comments

in Points Guy Pointers, Travel Health, Travel Technology

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It’s been a busy year for long-haul flights for me – so far I’ve been to Europe four times and South America once. Traveling, especially on a 6+ hour long flight, always takes a toll, but I’ve learned to minimize the effects by always traveling with a key set of products. My survival kit for every long flight, especially those in coach, is the following:

1) Huge bottle of water. I never rely on flight attendants to supply me with hydration. There are far too many factors that could come in the way of getting good water in-flight so I never board a plane without my own supply.
2) Sleeping aids. I can’t sleep in coach, but one small 2mg pill of Lunesta puts me down nicely and doesn’t leave me feeling “cracked out” upon arrival. Lunesta is a prescription drug, so speak with your doctor if you are interested – mine prescribed me it once I told him how much international travel I do and that I need be be “on” upon arrival. There are potential side effects, so make sure to discuss them with your doctor before making any decisions. There are also non-prescription options as well, like melatonin and good old-fashioned Nyquil. Disclaimer: always try out any sleep aid in the comfort and safety of your own home, before taking to the air, to see how your body reacts to it.
3) Noise-canceling headphones. I personally use Bose QC15 – they can drone out even the loudest screaming baby.
4) Ear buds. Sometimes I even wear ear buds and the noise-canceling headphones to create my own, serene space.
5) Eye mask. I often sit in bulkhead seats that are near the galley, so the bright lights can seep into the cabin. Eye masks take care of that problem nicely.
6) Layered clothes. It can get absolutely frigid sitting in the exit row and sometimes it can be unbearably hot. Wearing layers can allow you to adjust to the cabin temperature at your own will. I personally like wearing jeans, a t-shirt and zip up hooded sweatshirt. I may look like the Unibomber with my eye-mask and huge headphones, but comfort is more important than appearances.
7) Comfortable shoes. My favorite travel shoes are driving shoes. These To Boot New York suede drivers are my current go-to travel shoes – while they are on the pricier side, the quality is impeccable and they are supremely comfortable. I met the President of the company at the Saks store in Boston recently and we had a great discussion about travel and points. He is a Delta Medallion, so I was able to give him some pointers. Maybe I should have asked for a discount :-)
8 ) In-flight Entertainment. I never rely on airlines to supply me with in-flight entertainment. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Angry Birds on my iPhone. On my last trip to Stockholm, I think I played it for 4+ hours. I think it’s a cruel way to punish perfectionists, because I can’t stop playing until I have three stars in every level, which can be time-consuming. Other varieties of in-flight entertainment include books, magazines (Conde Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair) and movies on my beloved Macbook Air 13″.
9) A pen. This may sound silly, but I always travel with a pen. I never like to have to rely on the flight attendant or fellow passengers to supply me with a pen for my customs papers. I also like the ability to write down my thoughts in-flight, like last week when I started jotting down tips for people to become better coach passengers.
10) A positive attitude. While it’s easy to get frustrated by the hassles of flying: bad food, nasty flight attendants, cramped space, inconsiderate passengers, crying babies and the list goes on, I always try to appreciate how fortunate I am to even be able to fly. With so many people in the world who will never step foot on an airplane, I’m just happy I have the ability to travel the world – even if it is sometimes in coach! ;-)

So what are your “must have” items for long flights?

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  • Aaron R

    I often see the dress in layers advice, but I think a useful addendum/corellary to this rule is to dress in -easily removable- layers. I often see travelers trying to remove a tight long sleeve shirt and inadvertently elbowing their seat mate in the face and exposing themselves to everyone on board. (So I guess an alternative is to use the lavatory to change if you have to). Zip off hoodies and the like are ideal.

  • Adam Pervez

    I always have my glasses case or box handy so that I can store them in the seat pocket and not worry about them breaking.

  • Brad Benner

    I’m on a gluten-free diet, so I always bring a few snacks (nuts, fresh/dried fruit) in case the airline misplaces the special meal I ordered.

  • The Points Guy

    @Aaron- great point. I’ve seen a lot of skin on airplanes, most of it I wish I could erase from my memory ;-)

    @Adam- I think you bring up a good point that you should have everything you need at your seat so you don’t have to mess with the overhead bin during flight

    @Brad- smart idea- airline food is hit or miss (usually the latter) so bringing your own healthy snacks makes a lot of sense

  • Frequently Flying

    If I know I’m going to be in coach, I bring my inflatable wrap-around neck pillow that has a velcro closer in front so there’s no head bobbling to either side. It looks like it’s choking me, but it’s actually quite comfortable and does the trick.

  • KenCT

    Absolutely “you should have everything you need at your seat” and for that reason, a t-shirt doesn’t work for me. I wear a loose fitting sport short with one, even two, front pockets. I may look like I’m heading for a safari, but it helps to be able to easily reach my my (1) boarding pass/itinerary, (2) pen, (3) reading glasses, (4) meds, and (5) ATM card (for drinks if flying coach). Much easier than thrashing around in your seat searching for these items in your when you need them.

  • David

    My tiny Samsung netbook is a must-have on my trips. It was about $250 new and has a 6-8 hour battery, is tiny, and fits on my lap on planes, buses or trains. The keyboard is about 90% size, but the processor/RAM is powerful enough to handle large programs like Photoshop and video editing software.

    Two other important things to note for travelers is that this netbook has a US power adapter with only 2 prongs (no third grounded prong). This turns out to be a huge benefit when traveling in foreign countries. Even with a universal adapter, I have not always been able to convert a grounded 3-prong US socket into a European socket.

    Lastly, though I travel with a Boingo account, I use PDAnet and my Sprint cell service to “tether” a free internet connection to my netbook from practically anywhere in the U.S. That’s a huge money saver, especially considering how many hotels still have crappy internet service or CHARGE for it.

    Other than that, I think the most important of TPG’s comments is number 10! It is all in the attitude….

  • Jim

    I don’t do well with the masks, but the first thing I do post-security is get a great big bottle of water. I can’t seem to go anywhere without my iPad now for entertainment (easier to play Angry Birds or watch movies/TV or even read). I’d suggest at least 2 pens. I have no idea how many of mine were “lost” to fellow travelers filling out customs forms.

  • John Schmidt

    For inflight entertainment, iTunes movie rentals on an iPad or iPhone are great too. The iPhone screen is a bit small and a little awkward to hold for a 2 hour movie unless you have a little stand (which came with my iPhone). But it sure is conveniant and since it’s so small you don’t even have to stop watching if you happen to get a meal served – just prop it up against one of the plate. I’ve watched several movies back-to-back on a long flight on an iPhone with still lots of battery life left.

    The iTunes rentals are typically $3 or 4$ which is a lot less expensive than a purchase. Once you rent them you have 30 days to watch. Once you start watching, you have 24 hours to watch. So if you’re travelling with someone, you can watch it then pass it to your companion. Just one word of caution – download the movie when you are on a high-speed Wi-Fi network. If you wait until you’re at the airport and use the public Wi-Fi or the airline Lounge system – some of them are quite slow and the movie can take 2 hours or more to download.

  • Bonnie Crawford

    Chapstick is a must have as well as gum for take-offs and landings.

  • Joseph May

    I always bring my own travel pillow and travel blanket. Don’t rely on airlines to have any available and I know the pillow and blanket are really clean.
    Other than that…Prescription Drugs, contact lens case and fluid, QC15, an ipod and netbook .

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