Inside: Today, I’m sharing a list of my long-haul flight essentials! Long flights can be a stressful start to an otherwise fabulous trip and over the years, I’ve learned a lot about making the experience better. Read on for my long-haul flight survival kit!
I’ve been flying long-haul flights since I was a baby. In fact, my first long-haul flight was when I was 6-months old and my parents flew with me from the United States to Kolkata, India!
A long-haul flight is a flight that takes about 6 hours or longer to reach your destination. If you’re flying from the United States, most international flights would be considered to be long-haul. And as much as I love travel and being on airplanes, long-haul flights can be stressful on your body.
Long Flights Can Be Rough
When you’re 30,000 feet in the air and you need oxygen, the only supply of fresh oxygen that the plane can circulate is very low humidity. That dry air causes dehydration, dry and flaky skin, chapped lips and even nosebleeds. The pressurized air in the cabin can cause ear pain, and that combined with a lack of quality sleep/jet lag can have you arriving at your destination in pretty rough shape. Which is basically why I put together this long-haul flight survival kit for my family.
These essentials for a long flight have made traveling overseas a much better experience for my whole family and I hope they do the same for yours.
Essentials for a Long Flight
My husband and I tend to be minimalist travelers. We travel almost exclusively with just a carryon bag + backpack (or large purse) and so I promise you that even though this list may look long, it’s really not that much stuff! All of my long-haul flight essentials can be tucked away in a purse or backpack for easy access right under your seat.
I like to pack my things in this bag. You can use it as a purse OR a backpack, it’s reasonably stylish and comes with a built-in USB port!
Meanwhile, my husband prefers this backpack. It’s anti-theft, slim, and also has an USB port
When my daughter was little, we used this bag. It’s perfectly sized for a toddler, has a lot of pockets and was lightweight and easy to carry! Now that’s she a bit older, she just uses her school backpack.
My Long-Haul Flight Survival Kit
I wanted to share a list of my long-haul flight essentials. This is everything that my family brings along on a longer flight and it’s really made a big difference on how we feel when we land. I’ve categorized the items below as “basic essentials” that I think would help everyone, things specific to extra “light sleepers” like my husband, and a few things that I love to pack especially for my little one.
Basic Essentials for a Long-Haul Flight
These items are for my comfort and health on longer flights. They help combat the dry, pressurized air in the cabin and make me arrive at my destination feeling recharged and ready to go!
Water bottle: We always pack water bottles for traveling and it’s extra important while you’re on a long flight. We bring an empty water bottle through security and then fill up at the water fountain when we are heading to our gate. These are our favorites because they are insulated/double-walled which means they keep liquids cold for hours and who wants to sip room temperature water on a long flight?! They are also super affordable, easy-to-clean, and sweat proof!
Hydration mix: We also bring along little packets of hydration mix, like this one. Even with a water bottle, we’ve found that it’s really hard to stay hydrated on these longer flights. The airline attendants will bring you a cup of water if you ask, but they are tiny little cups and it’s never enough. These hydration packets offer us 3x the electrolytes found in typical sports drinks, have no artificial ingredients and taste really good, too! We bring 2 packs per person – one to take on the flight there, and one to use on the return flight!
Compression socks: Did you know that there is a risk of developing blood clots deep in your veins (DVT) when you travel for a long distance? These clots can form in the deep veins in your legs on flights over 4 hours because of the lack of movement when you’re sitting in a confined space for a long period of time. My sister-in-law has had these form after long flights, and a close friend from high school passed away from DVT (though not related to a flight!) so it’s something that I am quite aware of.
We like to get up and walk in the aisle often to keep up our movement (and if I’m being honest, I’m almost always fidgeting my legs, lol) but we ALSO make it a point to wear compression socks. These socks can help squeeze your legs gently in a way that improves blood circulation. We toss a pair of compression socks into our backpacks and change into them when we get settled on the plane. We got ours online.
Mini disposable toothbrush: Ok I love mini disposable toothbrushes in general. I like to have one in my purse or at my desk at work. But I ESPECIALLY consider these to be one of my favorite long-haul flight essentials.
Hear me out – I do pack a regular travel toothbrush in my toiletries kit. Which I then put in my carryon and store in the overhead compartment. Those are great for using in hotels while you are AT your destination. But on a long haul flight? A mini disposable toothbrush is life. These tiny brushes come packed with a drop of super-concentrated toothpaste and do not require any water. Have you ever gone to wash your hands in an airplane bathroom and read the little sign that says the water is “non-potable” (aka DO NOT DRINK). Lugging your water bottle into the already too-tiny bathroom is a huge hassle, and I love being able to use a mini toothbrush, spit, wipe, and come back to my seat fresh and clean. They even have a little toothpick on one end.
Deodorant: I feel like this is an obvious thing, but I think many people toss these into their checked bag or carry on bag that they store in the overhead compartment (which is harder to get access to while in the air) so I always make sure I toss my deodorant into my purse/backpack for easy access.
Hair brush/Comb: Same with a small hair brush or comb. Your hair looks ROUGH after being pushed up against a cold plastic-y airplane seat. Also, if it’s a situation where I’m landing early morning and won’t likely have access to my room til check in at 3, I like to stick a travel size container of dry shampoo in my bag. A couple spritzes, a quick brush, and I’m ready to drop my bags at the hotel desk and head directly to the museum!
Travel pillow: These are such a life-saver. Early on, I’d leave for my trip without a travel pillow because I secretly thought they looked a bit “extra” but then I would gaze at the travelers smarter than me, all comfy and asleep, while I elbowed my husband awake to help rub my cramping neck, and I changed my mind. Travel pillows aren’t “extra” at all. They certainly make my list of long-haul flight essentials. My favorite travel pillow is this one. It’s ergonomically designed, and you can it in any position.
I don’t know if I’m just weird, but depending on my seat, I sleep in different ways – for a window sleep, I sleep with my head to the side up against the window. For a middle seat, I sleep with my head facing down toward my chest, and with an aisle seat, I sleep with my head back and tilted slightly away from the aisle. The great thing about this travel pillow is that it is flexible and you conform it however you need!
Large scarf/blanket: I like to pack a large scarf that can be used as a blanket. I’m always cold on flights and really love having a blanket to snuggle up under. Large scarfs can be folded up and stuffed into a small zippered pocket of your backpack and take up almost no space at all.
Helpful tip – make sure you buckle your seatbelt OVER your blanket. Otherwise, if there is any expected turbulence on the flight, the airline attendants will wake you up to check to see that your seat belt is fastened.
Chapstick: Dry air = dry, chapped lips. I like to have something that’s more on the heavy-duty side.
Eye drops: This might just be a “me” thing, but I have pretty dry eyes in general. If you wear contact lenses, I’d recommend changing into glasses for the flight, and using some lubricating eye drops as needed. I personally love “gel” eye drops, and have a stash of samples of this from my eye doctor that I love to pack. But really, any eye drops will work. They are such a relief for itchy/scratchy dry eyes!
Pen: I recommend tossing a pen in your bag to help fill out customs forms before you land. Airline attendants typically pass these forms out about an hour before landing and while they do have a couple pens to pass out, I always recommend packing one in your essentials bag.
Snacks: Most long haul flights will offer a meal service, but I always recommend packing a few snacks. I like to throw in things that are prepackaged so if you don’t finish them, you don’t have to toss them out when you arrive. Things like protein bars, crackers, pretzels, Chex-mix are our family favorites. Please avoid anything with nuts or peanut butter as many people are allergic.
Entertainment: I recommend packing an iPad/iPhone with movies already downloaded on them. Most long flights will have movies to watch during the trip, but I’ve been on more than one flight where there have been some technical issues. On one flight, a mom with young kids was sitting in a row where none of their tvs were working and the poor kids were so bored the entire time. It’s always nice to have some back up entertainment. A good book or a couple of magazines are easy to toss in your bag.
Back up charger: We try to make sure our devices are fully charged before boarding. But we also like to have a back up charger with us. We use our phones ALOT when we travel – for GPS, Face-Time with family, to take photos, so it’s really important to have fully charged devices all the time. Back up chargers are amazing!
Long-Haul Flight Essentials For Light Sleepers
My daughter and I can sleep through basically anything. My husband? Yeah, not to so much. He’s a light sleeper and likes to include a few extra items to help encourage better sleep.
Noise cancelling headphones: My husband swears by these. They’re great for light sleepers to block out noise on flights, but also helpful for loud talkers and crying babies. He splurged on a pair of these headphones from Bose, but you can find more reasonably-priced options like this set from Soundcore. I feel like these would also make a great gift for travelers!
Melatonin: He likes to keep some melatonin on hand to help regulate sleep, and to ward off any jet lag. Melatonin is a hormone found in your body that plays an important role with sleep. Unlike other sleep aids, Melatonin not habit-forming, and it doesn’t cause you to be sleepy the next day. They also have kid-friendly gummies, and our doctor actually recommended these to us to help with jet lag!
Eye mask: We don’t pack eye masks, but I’ve seen several people do this on our flights so if you’re sensitive to sleeping with lights on, you might want to toss one in your bag.
Long-Haul Flight Essentials For Kids:
I wanted to share a couple extra things I used to toss into my bag when my little one was a toddler. Traveling with kids can be stressful enough, and a couple of simple items can really elevate your experience.
Post-it notes: There’s something endlessly fun about post-it notes. When you have a toddler, you can keep them entertained for hours with a simple pack of post-its. We would stick them on the windows, pull them off, draw pictures on them, play matching games by drawing the same picture on the underside and see if she could find matching pairs, and so much more. I also really appreciated having them on hand when I was potty-training my little one because she was terrified of those automatic flush toilets. I would just stick a post-it note on the sensor and we’d be good to go!
Triangular crayons: Ok, so every parent is told to pack coloring books and crayons to keep their little ones entertained on flights. And the first time I did, we lost almost all of our crayons as they rolled off the seat tray, never to be seen again. The second time we flew with her, I came better prepared. I packed these triangular crayons. They won’t roll off!
Do you have any must-pack items that I left off my list? I’d love to hear about it!