Travelling to far off, exotic locations is the main reason I have a job. Sure, a roof over my head and running water is a perk too, but I love to travel. However, I like to stretch my dollar so I can go on multiple trips in a year, which means I'm a budget traveler. No luxurious first class here, unless I've found a good deal, which I do occasionally. Unfortunately, budget is also synonymous with long routes and multiple layovers.
For me, it's worth it for multiple trips. But to make the long hauls bearable, I've learned a few things are essentials for packing in your carry-on luggage.
This is my number one pick for any flight, but especially for international flights. Why? Well, I learned from experience. On what was supposed to be an epic trip to Tahiti for our honeymoon, started a bit rocky. Once we boarded the plane and I settled in for our long red eye flight, I woke up running to the airplane bathroom. At first, I assumed I had food poisoning or that I was, in fact, dying. Yes, I am dramatic, but it was awful. It turns out, the ‘ole stomach flu joined me in economy. I can’t really put into words the horrendous experience it was, but you can imagine. Small airplane bathrooms, flight attendants knocking at the door every 15 minutes, lines forming, you get the picture. At one point, I fell asleep in the bathroom because I was too scared to leave it. I was a mess. I looked like Frank Gallagher when I emerged. Sweaty, exhausted and miserable. In fact, I had sweat so much during the flight, my spray tan had morphed into something that resembled a tiger striped Dorito. Once we exited the plane, I tried so hard to keep it together through customs. I was terrified they wouldn't let me into the country because I was sick, which now seems like the logical thing to do, but I was so genuinely worried I would ralph in line. But somehow we made it through just in time for me to run to the airport bathroom. I remember looking at myself in the mirror - I was wearing my cute, trendy, sweat soaked and newly orange "just married shirt" and simultaneously laughing and crying. I undoubtedly felt sorry for myself.
However, I met the nicest woman while wallowing in my self pity. She not only coddled me a bit, but she gave me face wipes, toothpaste, mouthwash and even deodorant. She was a God send and I'll forever be grateful for her kindness. Still, if given the option, I think I would have traded all of those magical items for one tablet of anti- nausea medication. But you live, you learn. Since that trip, I don’t travel anywhere (even short distances) without the basic medication in my carry-on bag.
2. Ear Plugs / Noise Cancelling Headphones
Face it. You don’t want to roll the dice. You don't want to take your chances with your seat mate - it'll either be a crying pterodactyl of a child behind you, a snoring champion or Karen from Iowa who wants to tell you about her knitting club. Count on it.
The best advice I can give you here is to invest in some good noise cancelling headphones, preferably the kind that double as entertainment headphones. It's a two-fer, because being entertained on long haul flights is almost as important as blocking out the noise from snoring Steve. We also know that the $3.00 quality set they offer you in economy are rubbish. If you buy the 2-1 option, you can pack less, have a more enjoyable podcast experience and only pay attention to outside noise when the alcohol cart is moving down the aisles.
3. Entertainment / Technology
Like I said above, entertainment can help you enjoyably pass the time. However, make sure you download all your favorites before the flight. You don't want to be stuck on a flight where you have to pay for WiFi on board or they don't offer WiFi at all.
Most flights have a decent range of movies, so I typically use my download space for Netflix series, podcasts or audio books. If you have kids, iPad's are always a win. Of course, they are a win for many adults too. I always have a book downloaded on my phone or iPad for the flight, sometimes two, just in case. Oh, and don't forget your chargers! The majority of updated airplanes now have USB ports in your seats to charge your devices. However, I always bring a separate external charger, just in case. The last thing you want to do is be unprepared and have nothing to keep you busy.
4. Travel Pillow
A travel pillow is a must, but those travel pillows you snag at the Hudson's shop won't cut it. If you're desperate, see if the terminal has a Brookstone or something similar. Pillows are an investment opportunity into your sleep. It's difficult enough to sleep in a cattle car full of strangers, but if you're rolling your sweatshirt into a ball for a pillow, you've just added to your hours of wakefulness. Lucky for us budget travelers, we have a multitude of options to choose from - pillows with hoods, pillows that you put on your tray table, pillows that act as neck braces, inflatable pillows, memory foam pillows, the list goes on. I chose to go with the standard memory foam pillow and it's been a gem. It cost me about $70.00 USD and has been worth the cash. My favorite part is the fastener at the bottom. Originally, I assumed that gadget was for attaching it to my luggage, nope. That bit of kit allows you to keep your neck pillow in place while you are sleeping - game changer.
However, I am planning on adding these other pillows to my inventory in the near future. Stay tuned for their reviews.
Layers - Even with that lovely little adjustable vent above your head, I still have issues with temperatures on planes. I always recommend traveling with light layers, nothing bulky. If you get cold, you can always ask for a blanket, but you're hosed if you've worn a bulky sweatshirt with no layers underneath. No one wants to sweat for 12 hours.
Another good rule of thumb with layers is to understand your departure and destination. Many times, I am flying from cold to hot or vice versa. It's always good to have layers to help you transition.
Compression socks are a must - even if you are healthy and don't tend to swell. Being in the same position, especially seated, for long periods of time does nothing for our circulation. So, get up as much as you can during flights, pump your feet while you are sitting and as much as you like to window seat, opt for the aisle. This will motivate you to get up more since you won't have to bother someone else to move. For me, I always pack my compression socks and put them on right before I board. It's much easier to navigate those socks at the gate rather than the tiny airplane seat.
For compression socks, I would find a cheap pair on Amazon. I've never had any issues with my $12 pair. Save your money for a travel pillow or upgrade.
Slippers / Fuzzy Socks - I think this item depends on your level of germs. For me, I always want something comfortable on my feet. I always take my shoes off on long haul flights, because, who wants to sleep in their shoes? But, I am not about to take my shoes on and off every time I want to move around on the plane, which is why I pack either slippers or fuzzy socks to wear over my compression socks. These are those slippers you get in your stockings at Christmas or your grandma buys for you at birthdays. They are super cheap and worth it, even if you only use them while traveling. Trust me guys, I look like a real hottie on long haul flights, but I am comfortable AF.
I always feel like I need a shower after a long flight. Heck, I feel like I need a shower about halfway through a long haul flight. But since that's not an option, I pack some essentials to help fight the "ick" feeling.
face / body wipes - I basically take a shower in the bathroom with these things.
skincare - I pack and follow the same skin care routine on long hauls.
travel size mouthwash / toothpaste
Depending on where I am going or what I am doing when I arrive, I will often pack additional skin products like single use face mask or eye gel pads. It's not a bad idea since most flights leave you dehydrated. Plus, you don't have anything better to do, right?
Snacks, because duh. And because airplane food still sucks, unless you are flying first class or business. But make sure you pack safe snacks - steer clear of any foods that can cause you an issue in customs i.e., fruits, beef jerky, etc. I always think I'll eat them on the plane and usually don't. Once again, from experience, customs never likes to see an apple in your purse.
Also, make sure you pack the appropriate quantity of snacks. For example, I pack extra for myself because I know my husband will finish his before we get there and will undoubtedly be hungry. I assume this is similar with children, so always pack enough snacks to get you and everyone else you are travelling with through the flight. No one wants to pay $14 for a bag of mixed nuts.
9. Eye Mask
This is a new thing for me and has been a winner. Invest in a good eye mask and always pack it for long haul flights, especially red eyes. Eye masks save the day when the flight staff decides to turn on every light in the plane for your 5:00 am breakfast wake-up call. And like I mentioned earlier, no airplane breakfast is worth a few extra hours of sleep.
Check out this link for all the best eye masks - it gives you information on fit, pros/cons, the works. https://upgradedpoints.com/best-sleep-masks-for-travel
So, I am not sure what it is like travelling with kids, just yet. Working on it, as we speak. However, I will tell you to check your airlines. Some airlines, like Air New Zealand have great travel options like a Sky Couch. The Sky Couch turns the entire row of seats into a couch for you and your family. It of course comes at an additional cost, but may be worth it, if you're travelling with kiddos.
They also have a bassinet option for babies and toddlers. Good news, this option comes with a much smaller price tag. The last time I checked, they offered the bassinet for free, if you upgraded your seat to a front, exit row. The bassinet folds down from the wall in front of you. There is a weight limit, so have a look at their website for more information. I know other airlines offer similar services, so have a look when booking your tickets. Sometimes those tickets won't be the most budget friendly option, but they will make your flight much easier to navigate with kids.
I debated on whether or not I should post this blog, due to our inability to travel, unease at the economy and overall concern for health. However, I decided to (obviously) go for it.
I think it's important to remember why we are staying home and what we loved before all this began. For me, it's definitely travelling, but more importantly, travelling with my tribe.
I still day dream about it as much as possible and where I will start planning our next trips, when I can. So here is to helping you day dream as well. Hopefully, we'll all be able to travel again soon.
In the meantime, start checking your travel gear. You want to be ready to enjoy the stale recirculated air, bad airplane food, snoring seat partners and vast travel destinations again. I know I can't wait. Stay safe, friends. xx