international plane tips

Tips for Traveling on Long Flights

I’ve just returned from a 2 week trip to Uganda, Africa. Just to get there, I went through 5 airports and spent more than 20 hours in the air for a total of 30+ hours of travel. That’s just one way. This is a list of 10 must-have items for long flights and a few tips for easy travel.

  1. Backpack
  2. Snacks
  3. Jacket
  4. Socks
  5. Neck Pillow
  6. Eye Mask
  7. Ear Plugs/Ear Buds
  8. Passport Wallet
  9. Book
  10. Journal/Pen

Carry Ons – A comfy backpack is a must for any long trip. They can be safely stowed under the seat in front of you meaning that you have access to everything you will need without having to get into the overhead bin. This backpack is my FAVE, but my basic requirements are comfort(this one is padded), side pockets (for water bottles), and an easily accessible zip-compartment. Not only is this a big help to me during my airline travel but you can use it daily during your trip.

Security – We had to go through security at each international airport. Some are more strict than others. One thing is true across the board, you will need to take out your laptop and tablets. Be sure to put all liquids, creams, and gels (3 oz. or less) into a quart-size bag. This means lip gloss, mascara, hand sanitizer, chapstick, foundation, deodorant, toothpaste, ect. Even my snack-sized Nutella needed to be in the liquids bag. Some things that were okay in the US did not pass in the other airports so if it isn’t a solid mass, it needs to be in the bag. This will save you from getting flagged and undergoing a bag search that can delay you to your next gate. Also, make sure that everything is labeled. Items without a label will get tossed.

Snacks – On most of the flights we received food and it was decent. However, there were times that we either didn’t receive food at all or it wasn’t to my liking. To get through airport security, your snacks need to be pre-packaged. I took things like individual trail mix, granola bars, and protein bars.

Warmth – Yes, it’s hot when you first get on the plane but when you are cruising at 30,000 feet and the outside temperature is -70, it gets a little chilly in the cabin. Most longer flights will provide you with a blanket but I also packed a pair of socks and a compression jacket. I would wrap my legs in the blanket and put the jacket on backwards, like a blanket. When you aren’t on the plane, these pack down super tiny in your bag. You will also want to remember to buckle your seatbelt over your jacket and blanket. If the flight attendant is unable to see it, they may wake you up to confirm that your belt is securely fastened. You need to be buckled at all times when seated.

Sleeping – A neck pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs are a MUST! I personally like this one because the neck pillow can be deflated, which saves room in my backpack. They also have kid sizes. For me, sometimes ear plugs aren’t enough so I also downloaded the Relax Melodies app (available on iPhone and Android) to block out noise. Their oscillating fan sound is the closest I have ever come across to the real thing. For sleeping, I found it easiest to put on my neck pillow then push up the headrest and fold the sides in. This kept my neck supported but my head in place to prevent bobbing. Last but not least, I placed on my eye mask, popped in my ear buds, reclined my seat, and propped my feet on my backpack. Voila! I mean, it’s not the best sleep you are ever going to get but it’s the best scenario unless you want to upgrade to first class. Those seats lean all the way back. Nice!

Bathroom – I tried to use the restroom immediately after meals to avoid disturbing my travel mates who may be sleeping later on. A few times I went in just my socks and it was fine but there was this one time that convinced me to put my shoes back on. I would also take my hand sanitizer and wet wipes with me. For packing purposes, just know that you can never have too many wet wipes or hand sanitizer.

Passport Panic – It’s a real thing. The dark blue US passport gets easily lost inside a dark bag or backpack and your heart will palpitate as you try to locate it. You will constantly question if you put it back after presenting it. My suggestion is to have a designated spot in your bag or backpack (but not easily accessible) and make every effort to put it back into that exact location. Every. Time. Check frequently for your passport throughout the day, especially before moving from one location to another (i.e. getting off the plane, bus, taxi, ect). I’m not really a wallet type of person but I wish I would have taken a passport wallet with me. My friend carried one similar to this. It’s bight and colorful and easy to spot. Don’t get the one that says PASSPORT – that’s a security risk. I do recommend a snap or magnetic closure just to make sure nothing falls out. It was also helpful for holding the local currency.

Entertainment – Most of our long flights had individual screens with a decent selection of current releases. You could start a movie or TV show at any time by simply popping your earbuds into the AV jack. Most flights provided headsets but I preferred to use my own. For my Apple users, just remember it’s a standard stereo jack. I would also recommend taking a few books to read and a journal/pen for jotting down travel thoughts.

Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip. Bon Voyage.

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