I'm pretty familiar now with the hell that is "around the world flying." I'm not gonna sugarcoat it here, it pretty much sucks. You're trapped in a tube. In the sky. Relying on other humans to navigate this contraption that still boggles my mind.
I grew up around planes. My dad was a pilot. I shouldn't hate them, but I kind of do. Sometimes, I think everyone at an airport is a congregation of the most annoying people on the planet. And then, I get on a plane where I have to pass through the first class cabin to get to my seat in coach. WHY do they make you do that? I don't wanna see their lay-flat seats and duvets perfectly folded beside their glass of champagne. I certainly don't make eye contact with these people who are so comfortable ALREADY before the plane even takes off, because in this moment, I do not like them very much. Chill out, not necessarily them as people. I just really think it would help if they didn't look so pleasant, feet up, drink in hand while I'm trudging through the aisle with my oversized carryon that I probably won't be able to lift on my own. "Help me I'm poooooor." (More Kristen Wiig quoting coming up later in the post.)
So what's in my small carryon bag for about 20 hours of travel? Having a little experience, I've compiled my must-haves:
1. My own set of headphones: those little earbuds the airlines give you are crap. I recently purchased on-ear pillow-soft cushioned headphones from Monster. They are the DNA model which keeps noise out really well - there's other bells and whistles to them but I haven't done much with them except watch movies. They fold up too and pack really well into this cute little pouch I miraculously haven't lost yet.
2. Kindle and paperback-up: I always have a few novels already downloaded to the kindle before I leave wifi. That said, the battery can start to drain on these long flights and some airlines still don't have in-seat outlets for chargers. So, I always pick up a random paperback to take with me in case I need to save some juice.
3. Sleep Aid: I don't use Dramamine for motion sickness. I use it for the sleepy time. It's seriously a miracle, and I only take half of one at a time because I'm so afraid of ending up like Kristen Wiig en route to Vegas on Bridesmaids. "There is a colonial woman on the wing!" Anyway, I don't even know who invented this, but I want to hug this person. I'll pop a half one and be out for like 4 hours at a time, but it's not so heavy that you would forget where you are. If you're wanting to calm a few nerves as well as get some Zzz's, I swear by these homeopathic sleep melts made by Bach Flower Remedies. You can get them at any Whole Foods type store and they just melt in your mouth releasing some all natural ingredients like white chestnut and cherry plum. I use these interchangeably with melatonin tablets when I'm trying to get over jet lag as well.
4. Neck pillow: I don't go anywhere without my Travelmate neck pillow I bought on Amazon years ago. It's made of firm memory foam and puts all other neck pillows (like the ones filled with God knows what? Sand?) to shame. Twelve bucks well spent and no, I don't go into the restroom wearing it. What is wrong with people? I've actually seen this!
5. Ear Plugs and Eye Mask: I'm usually situated by a screaming baby. I love babies, so I can't fault them for wailing when I want to be doing the same thing. I'm also usually listening to someone hacking up a lung. Please. Airlines. Give away complimentary cough drops. They usually DO give away ear plugs and an eyemask, so there's that.
6. Snacks: KIND bars are my jam. I don't eat plane food because it's full of nasty preservatives. I know. High maintenance. But I'm totally happy with my plethora of granola, crackers, and protein bars. I also always always bring a giant bottle of water on board after I've passed through security.
7. Extra outfit: pair of comfy pants and a tee is all you need in case you get stranded missing a connection and need to freshen up. A blanket scarf or shawl goes a long way too. Blankets on planes have always grossed me out a bit, so I just put those on my legs and wrap myself up top in something I own and that I know has been washed.
8. Necessary toiletries: I always pack eye drops - these are a lifesaver when your contacts are clawing at you for sleeping in them. Other goodies include a toothbrush/paste, some face wipes, and a good lip balm because nothing is more dehydrating than airplane air. I love my organic ginger coconut lip balm from EcoLips.
9. Socks: I usually wear slip ons to make security easy and my feet would die in constricting shoes on a plane. And because I get cold almost all the time, I sneak a pair of socks on my feet before I drift off.
10. Lastly, here's a quick rundown of some great apps I use to make traveling easier:
- Smart Traveler: the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is great for international travel. When you sign up, you get the most current info about the country you're visiting including travel and weather alerts, embassy locations, tourist info, lists of English speaking physicians, visa requirements and transportation tips. It's just a really great way to stay connected to the State Department - this way they have your contact info in case of an emergency like a natural disaster or family issue. Peace of mind is all it really is.
- GlobeConvert: I use this currency converter basically every day living abroad, but it's just a handy calculator anywhere. No wifi needed.
- Mobile Passport: I just registered my passport with this for the first time, so we'll see how effective it is but essentially, it allows travelers to register their passport and declaration info via their phone bypassing the line in US customs.