Whether it’s a short domestic flight or a long flight across the Pacific, there are a few things I never board a plane without. From staying hydrated to getting a little rest, here are my must haves for surviving a flight.
My Favorite Carry On Bags
Before we get to what items to pack, let’s talk about what carry ons we use to pack the goods. Most airlines allow passengers one carryon and one personal item. Typically I pack all of my clothes and shoes in my carryon for my trip so my personal item is usually full with whatever I need on the flight.
For the last 4 years my go to personal item bag has been the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L. I’ve taken this bag with me all over the world and it’s held up GREAT (with the exception of the nylon strap my puppy decided to use for teething). It’s waterproof, durable, and provides nice support and comfy straps for your back and shoulders. The bag was designed with photographers/videographers in mind so it’s made to hold lots of gear. Even if you don’t carry a lot of camera gear with you, it’s still a great bag if you’re in the market for a new go-to bag for daily activities. The inside dividers are customizable and it holds tons of gear including my laptop, iPad, two cameras, microphone, extra lenses, and all sorts of cords and nicknacks.
The other bag I always travel with too is my little REI Travel Kit bag. It’s durable and holds a heck of a lot of stuff. It’s where I store most of the little items that are on this list. I always toss it in my Peak Design bag and just take out this smaller bag when I’m in need of one of the items on the list. It’s nice not having to dig through the entire bag to search for one little tube of chapstick. I highly recommend some sort of toiletries bag like this one!Alright, let’s get to talking about my little must haves for staying healthy and comfy on planes!
Must Have Carry On Items
This probably goes without saying but I’m going to anyway because it’s the absolute must have when traveling. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on a plane where the bathrooms are out of water and/or soap, not to mention the number of germ that come with traveling in an enclosed space with lots of people breathing recycled air for hours. Stay healthy sanitize sanitize sanitize!
Like hand sanitizer, wipes are a must. I always wipe down the trays on the back of the seats and the armrests as well. I’m hardly a germaphobe but on planes you can’t be too careful when it comes to stay healthy. The last thing you want when you arrive to your destination is to spend the first few days of your trip in bed sick.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Good headphones can be pricey so I’m super thankful my in-laws surprised me with these Bose QuietComfort wireless headphones a couple of Christmases ago. These little guys my sane both on planes and in everyday life. Like right now there’s a whole group of 20+ high schoolers on a spring break trip sitting in the rows behind me and if it weren’t for my trusty headphones I’d be losing my mind and not getting any work done. I also have a pair of AirPods which I tend to use for shorter trips (2 hours or less) when I want to travel lighter, but for anything over 2 hours I bring these trusty Bose headphones along for the adventure.Something to consider: If you’re wanting to watch the free movies on a plane you’ll need headphones with a regular headphone jack (usually 3.5mm). While my Bose headphones are wireless, I always bring along the headphone jack to plug into the screen.
Some people have “power suits,” I have a go-to comfy outfit. Maybe it’s because I’m a digital nomad rather than a corporate professional, but my wardrobe is all about comfort. Over the years I’ve worked on curating a closet of quality vs. quantity and I’ve figured out which outfits and responsibly sourced brands are my favorite. Here are a few of my go-to plane pieces:
Studio Wide Leg Pant
About ½ of my closet is Athleta these days. As a certified B Corporation, Athleta is one of the most responsibly sourced chain stores in the country. You’re going to pay a little extra for their clothes but their clothes last a long time.These studio pants are my absolute favorite to fly in because they’re so roomy and comfortable. I also like that they give me enough room in the leg to layer with my favorite compression socks.Pro tip: shot their clearance. You can get some seriously great deals there!
Another piece by Athelta I love to wear when traveling is the Uptempo Top. Super soft and layers nicely.
Hyper Focused Bra
All of me needs to be comfy on the plane and this bra makes that possible.
I’ve had this wrap for years now and I love it even more than the day I bought it. I don’t think I’ve been on a single trip in the last 3 years without this sweater!
Marmot Roice Pullover
I usually will pick between wearing this pullover by Marmot or the Pranayama Wrap from Athleta. Both are super comfortable options!
Women’s Tree Runners by Allbirds
These shoes by Allbird are a newer addition to my closet but I’m already in love. Not only are these the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned, they’re also machine washable!
I’m chronically cold. Even in the middle of summer in the south I bring a sweater with me wherever I go. Planes are always colder than I can stand so I like to travel with a blanket. This Rumpl blanket packs small and is machine washable. It can also be rolled up and double as a pillow if you’d rather have a little extra next support during your flight.
Unless I have something planned right before or after a flight, I tend to board planes makeup free. No matter how I get on the plane, I always wash my face with these wipes as soon as we take off. Travel is already hard enough on my skin, the last thing I need is foundation clogged pores, too.
After I clean my face I apply a non pore clogging moisturizer. Airplanes get notoriously dry so I like to keep my skin well hydrated. My favorite daily moisturizer is this Hydro Gel by Laneige and then I follow up with this Cica Sleeping Mask by Leniege. When my skin is especially dry and when I’m on planes or traveling in dryer climates I apply both to at night and/or on planes.Note: I have oily to combination skin and these work well for me. If you have naturally dry skin you may want to consider a heavier moisturizing cream.
You might be picking up on a trend here— moisturizer! Keep lips hydrated important, too. I’m quite the chapstick connoisseur and these are my two go to favorites: the Glossier Balm Dotcom for ultimate moisturizing and the Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Hibiscus if I want a little color, too.Bonus: the Glossier can also be applied to other places like dry spots on your hands or cuticles, too.
I’ll be honest— I’m that person that brings their own food onto the plane. I’ll try some pretty adventurous foods when traveling, but plane food isn’t one of them. Traveling already makes me feel gross and sluggish and the last thing I want to add to the combo of long hours of sitting on a plane is the food. My go to snack is a banana + a protein bar. If I have the time (and space in my luggage) sometimes I’ll pack a sandwich and/or salad for a little more substance.
While you can’t bring liquids more than 3 ounces through security with you, most airports have water bottle filling stations that are great to take advantage of before you board your plane. It’s tempting to want to opt for Coke or wine on the plane, but try to stick with drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. I always bring my favorite water bottle (empty) through security then fill it up once in the terminal. Bringing your own water bottle is a good way to save $42 on water at the convenience store on your concourse.
From keeping your breath fresh to helping stay awake while trying to combat jet lag on longer flights, gum is an easy necessity to throw into your carryon bag of necessities.
Alright, this isn’t something you pack, but it is something I highly recommend downloading on your phone before taking flight. Spotify (as well as Apple Music, too) gives you the option to download music, podcasts, and audiobooks directly to your phone to listen to when in airplane mode. Spotify is a monthly subscription for $9.99 for individuals or $14.99 for families and it’s well worth it if you enjoy listening to music but don’t want to eat up your cell data.Bonus: If you’re a student you can get Spotify for only $4.99 a month!