What to pack in-flight, plane etiquette, and tips & tricks for an overall better experience.
I’ve flown my whole life. I’ve lived a life on the road, from spending the last 15 months as a digital nomad, to running all over the world as a filmmaker paired with international vacations, and as child of divorce getting on a plane every other weekend since I was 9 to visit a parent. I am a machine when it comes to flying and how I approach it. And we’re all aware as to how life can be hellacious in the air (I’m especially talking about Coach. First Class, you don’t need me), regardless of the latest spotlight on how terrible airline flying can be. Here are some things to help make your experience perhaps even enjoyable.
What to Carry-on
I’m all about trying to fit a whole trip in a carry-on bag, but what I am talking about here is what you should have on your personal, the stuff in the bag you put in the seat in front of you.
Tip: Put your bag underneath like this and still be able to stretch out.
I know, you’re thinking that you want to stretch out and the bag in front of you is preventing you from doing this. But it’s better to have access to your stuff and here’s what you do: After you take off, take it out from in front of you, and put it right in front of you, up against your own seat. Put your feet over it and stretch out! I promise, because of the positioning, it’s like it’s not even there and you have all that glorious space. Besides, nothing boils my blood more on a flight than seeing a tiny little backpack or purse in the overhead. That’s valuable space for roller boards and someone had to check their bag because of it. Rude.
Here’s what we’re looking at putting in said carry-on:
Travel Essentials Pouch: This is all the little things you need (or might need) you’ll want to always carry on you:
· Socks: It’s nice to have these if your feet get cold, or to wear if you’re sleeping on an overnight or international flight that’s more comfortable. I have a pair of Uniqlo Heattech socks that are cozy and warm without being bulky.
· Little bottle of sleeping pills: You can buy like 10 at a time and buy a little bottle to keep them in. Don’t overthink these. I buy the drugstore over the counter kind and pop one for overnight flights or when I am trying to immediately train myself to sleep at the right time for international flights. A pharmacist recommended this to me and my stepmom didn’t believe me when I said the generic kind worked great until she tried it on a redeye and became a believer. You’ll sleep much better on flights and it’s worth it. Get the gel tabs, too which are easy to take in case you don’t have water.
· Eye Mask: They might have even given you one on an overnight or international flight at some point — keep it.
· Ear Plugs: I bought a rubber pair connected by a string that came in a little plastic carry box (like these) at a pharmacy and I’m so glad I did. They go in so easily and block out noise and are so comfortable and I can wash them with soap and water after flights.
· Pen: Not only because you never know when you’ll need one, but because you will need one to fill out custom forms for international flights.
Bose noise cancelling head phones: For a while, I had a $30 pair that I bought on Amazon which worked fine, until I asked for a pair of the Bose over ear headphones. HOLY SHIT. I don’t know what I did for so long without them. They are amazing and not only block out babies and annoying conversations, but just the loud white noise roar of the plane and makes everything so much more pleasant. I put them on as soon as I sit down. I have the bluetooth kind, which is good for easily switching from music on my laptop while I’m working, to podcasts on my phone. They also come with an adapter to plug into airplane screen sets. I can’t go back now.
Memory foam neck pillow: I’ve been through quite a few different neck pillows, but when I lost my last one, I ended up going for a memory foam one at the airport Xpress Spa. Truthfully, the thing that attracted me to it was that it rolled up into a pouch so that maybe I would stop forgetting or losing them. But damn, I’m hooked. It’s so comfortable and I practically wear it all flight, every flight. Plus, the fact that it does roll up into a pouch IS great. I clip a carabineer to it and clip it on my carry on and if I am not ready for it when I get on my flight, I clip it to the pouch in front of me.
Uniqlo Travel Down Jacket: This little baby is a traveler’s dream. It rolls up into a tiny pouch and I also clip it on the carabineer to go on my bag and front pouch. I use it as a lumbar pillow when I sit down, which makes a difference for my comfort. If it gets really cold, as long flights can be, I pull the jacket out and put it on. (I recently brought this to a trip to Europe where it was supposed to be warm and I am so glad I had it when it turned out it was very cold at night).
Pashmina: I like having this if I just need a little something extra to put on my shoulders or to use as a blanket. I don’t love the plane pillows and blankets…who knows where they’ve been.
Snack and water: I always try to have a protein bar on me (Kind Bars for me), and to be honest, if I’m feeling hungrier and it’s not meal time, or if I’m feeling delicate (*cough* hungover), I buy a big bag of cheddar Chex Mix at the Hudson News before I board. Always have a little food on you. Even if I’ve been fed and flying at off-meal times, hunger has hit me, or if I was a total bonehead and didn’t eat when I should have, I’m glad I had it. The other thing is to bring a water bottle that you can fill up at one of the fountains after you get through security and before you board. I like having access to hydration without having to wait for the flight attendant. I use a Vapur because I like that it rolls up and also that I can clip it on the pouch in front of me (and they aren’t that expensive — I’ve lost a few).
Computer or tablet entertainment: I used to not like to bring a laptop on vacation, so I only brought an iPad for the shear ability to watch movies on a flight. Now, my life is different and I can’t not bring my laptop. Whichever you prefer, make sure you always have movies. I like to rent a few from the Apple store and they often have great 99 cent weekly rentals. If I forgot or didn’t have time or good wifi to do that, I have at least six go-to movies I can watch that I’ve bought and downloaded already on my computer that I’ll never get sick of (why yes, that IS Mamma Mia and Blue Crush you see on there!).
Beauty essentials: I have these normally just in my purse anyway, but in case you don’t, three essential beauty items you should have on your are Clean and Clear oil absorbing sheets (my face gets SO OILY on flights), chapstick (it can get so dry), and a small tube of hand cream (nothing is better than L’Occitane).
Tip: How to get the best sleep on an overnight flight.
I have this perfected. As soon as they start boarding, I pop a sleeping pill. As soon as I sit down (or if I’m in the aisle, as soon as everyone else that needs to sit down has), I put my neck pillow on, my jacket/pillow behind my back, pashmina over my lap, take my shoes off and put my socks on, my earplugs in, and eye mask on and immediately try to go to sleep even before we take off. This maximizes your sleep time, which was especially important to me when I was often getting off planes to go straight to work/shoots. The neck and back pillow especially save your poor body from feeling its worst in the morning. It’s not perfect sleep, but it’s the best way I’ve found.
We’re all in this together — let’s be on our best behavior.
Overhead space: This bears mentioning again — don’t put your small stuff in the overhead. It’s not fair to take it up for bigger bags. If you have a jacket or hat, put it on top of a bag.
Chairs: I’ve got a couple things on this one:
· Don’t grab onto the chair in front of you as leverage when you stand up to go to the bathroom or whatever. At the very least it’s annoying to the person who is actually sitting in the chair and at the most you’ll wake them up.
· Putting your chair back: If you put your chair back (and I think it’s kind of an asshole move for flights that are an hour or less), do it slowly. Give the person behind you a second to react.
Windows and vents: If you’re in the window on a long flight, put your window down. People will want to nap. Also, if you’re not hot, before you doze off, close your vent. All the open vents contribute to why planes are so cold and how germs get distributed.
Your role in the window, middle, aisle: If you’re in a window or aisle seat — congratulations, you’re in the best position. And on that, I’m a window person because I have a strong bladder and rarely get up during a flight, and frankly, I don’t like to be bothered. I’m often working, sleeping, or enjoying a movie and don’t want to mess up my whole set-up to get up for someone else. If you get up a lot during a flight? Stick to the aisle, and the bonus is that you can stretch your legs into it. So, if you’re in one of these prized seats, stay in your lane. Don’t let your knees or especially not your feet flow into the middle spot — they are in the worst spot and we need to help them best we can. And you should give them both their arm rests — it’s only right. If you’re in the middle? I’m sorry. It’s not ideal (and I’m sorry to the guy whose shoulder I fell asleep on that one time from LAX-LGA when I was in the middle) and I hope one of the windows or aisles is reading this right now to help it be the most bearable.
Phone calls: Need to talk on the phone before take off or when we’re taxiing when we land? No problem, just keep your voice down. On a long flight, I often fall asleep before we take off and don’t want you waking me, nor be jolted after a long flight.
Stay seated when landing if your flight was delayed 30 min or more and you don’t have a connection. This only applies really when the flight attendant asks people to do it, but people RARELY do and then I’m stuck in the back and have to run across an airport. It happened just today and I stayed seated…no one else did. Rude.
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