It doesn’t matter if you’re hopping on a short-haul domestic flight or you’re embarking on a transatlantic red-eye, proper flight preparation will always make your in-flight experience that much more comfortable and stress-free.
Ensuring your carry-on bag must-haves are always packed will allow you to sit back and enjoy your flight. And, not to mention, bringing all of your favorites with you from home will save you from overspending at the duty-free or overpriced airport convenience store.
Who knows better what makes for a comfortable flight than the people who spend their lives traversing the skies? We spoke to a handful of flight attendants and long-haul pilots to get their insights on the best products to make flying a more comfortable and streamlined experience. And, as it turns out, all it really takes is a little extra planning to streamline your experience like a professional. Here’s what airline crew suggest adding to your packing list for a more comfortable flying experience.
According to former flight attendant Zoila Streich, a comfy change of clothing and a pair of casual shoes that you can slip on and off will make the entire airport experience so much less of a hassle — especially if you’re traveling for the good part of a day. Slipping in and out of your shoes at security and being able to change into a fresh shirt between layovers can make a world of a difference.
We love Allbirds Wool Runners as a travel shoe because they’re incredibly versatile. They’re made from sustainable and ethical ZQ Merino wool, so they’re soft to the touch while also offering moisture-wicking and odor-stabilizing features. You can wear them from the airport to touring around your favorite destination.
Flight attendant Sydney Key always recommends traveling with cash. “You never know when a credit card machine might be down, or when you might find yourself somewhere tap-to-pay technology hasn’t yet arrived,” she says. “A bit of extra cash on hand can save you from a bind if plastic or digital currency won’t cut it.”
This tear-resistant, durable leather cash envelope is a terrific option for carrying bills if you want to keep them separate from the rest of your travel wallet. The envelope is the perfect size to fit in a purse or clutch — or in the safe when you get to your hotel room.
New York City-based flight attendant Ashley Yang likes to keep a well-stocked carry-on bag, including the right tech to keep her charged and ready to go once the flight lands. A TSA-approved portable charger will help ensure you always have access to your personal in-flight entertainment and that you won’t have to search the airport for an outlet if your seat doesn't have outlets built-in.
The Anker PowerCore 13000 is our pick as the best overall portable charger. We love the device mostly because of its charging capacity. At 13,000mAh, it carries enough juice to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Its size is perfect for travel, as it won’t take up much space in your carry-on bag or favorite travel backpack.
In addition to bringing a portable charger, Yang also recommends bringing a travel adapter. If your travel plans take you abroad, you'll be well-equipped to handle the change in electrical outlets around the globe. In fact, this option from Epicka works in more than 150 countries including the US, UK, Australia and Europe. It's got four USB ports, one USB-C port and one AC socket to keep up to six devices charged at a time throughout your travels.
It's hard to find true comfort without having a pillow and a blanket. “First is a pillow and a blanket, principally when we are doing long travels,” Streich says. “You have to be comfortable for hours and not for a couple of minutes.”
This EverSnug Travel Blanket and Pillow combination offers a comfy microfleece material that can easily be thrown in the wash between flights. It comes in six different colorways — light pink, black, burgundy, gray, navy blue and teal — and is more substantial than the thin blankets often handed out on the plane. Not only will this travel blanket and pillow combo keep you comfortable, but it'll also help you get more sleep on your long-haul flight.
Getting good sleep on a plane is all about setting the scene — and that includes creating blackout conditions for your eyes. “As for the sunlight, it is great for getting over jetlag and adjusting to the local time, but when you’re trying to sleep, it can be a problem,” says Boeing 787 Dreamliner pilot Charlie Page. Consider a blackout eye mask — especially if you’re sensitive to the lighting changes on flights. Creating a perfectly dark environment will help you drift off to sleep, wherever you are.
We love the Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask — in fact, it won the title as our best overall sleep mask. It features a genius nose wire so that it blocks any and all light that might escape through other eye masks. It’s made of 100% cotton fabric, so it’s extremely soft against the eyes.
As we fall asleep, our sense of hearing is the last sensation to fade out, meaning that a sudden noise from the galley or the crying baby five rows ahead can jolt you awake again. To counter this, a good pair of earplugs is essential, Page says.
“There are all kinds on the market, from the freebies you get on board the aircraft, to ones that you can have custom-fitted to your ear canal, but I use a midrange set from Flare Audio, which have double rubber tips,” says Page. “Not only are they excellent at muting any external noise, they are so comfortable that when rolling over onto my side, they don’t dig into my ear and disturb my sleep.”
It's always good to be prepared for the unexpected. “My number one product was my small first aid kit,” says Streich. “My feet were getting hurt all the time because of all the time I spent on my feet — sometimes I’d go almost 12 hours with the same pair of shoes.” And as a passenger, you never know when you might need a bandage or ibuprofen.
That said, you’ll want to ensure any first aid kit you’re packing in your carry-on is TSA-approved. In other words, no sharp items or large bottles of antiseptic — all liquids and gels need to be less than 3.4 ounces. This mini first aid kit fits the bill, though you may need to remove some sharp objects before taking it through airport security. It comes packed with bandages, gauze pads, first-aid tape, antiseptic towelettes and much more.
Always remember to pack good travel snacks in your bag. If you get to the airport and security takes longer than expected, you may not have time to grab something to eat before it’s time to start boarding — especially if lines for food and drink are long. First Officer Nick Motlagh says his snack of choice is a protein bar or meal replacement bar. “They don't take up much space, and they are a simple, healthy way to prevent hunger while on the go,” Motlagh says.
These Rise protein bars are available in seven different flavors — from almond honey to snickerdoodle, chocolate banana, mint chocolate chip and more. All of the flavors have at least 15 grams of protein per bar, and each of the flavors only has five ingredients or less.
It's no secret that airplane air is dry. While some planes are better than others in terms of keeping humidity in the air, you need to drink plenty of water and aid your skin in retaining its moisture. “The air in the airplane can be very dry, and we need to look professional and well-rested, always,” explains Streich. She recommends carrying a moisturizer with you.
We particularly like the Aussie Flyer Face Base by Lanolips. Its rich formula is super moisturizing but won’t make your face look greasy. Plus, at just 60 millimeters, this moisturizer is TSA-approved to be one of your carry-on luggage must-haves.
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