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Day 31: Must-Have Items to Improve Your In-Flight Experience

Packing Hacks is a 31-part series devoted to helping you become an expert packer! Each installment offers advice on how to get organized, pack smarter, save on bag fees, and eliminate packing stress. New to Packing Hacks? Start at the beginning.

Yesterday, you became an expert in products you don’t need to pack. Today, in the last post of our Packing Hacks series, we’re moving on to tips for how to pack the perfect in-flight bag.

You’ll learn:

What to pack to stay cool

Which must-have items will help you stay calm

What to have on hand so you stay collected

Sensory-Deprivation Tools

On my most recent flight, I was met with the perfect storm: a wailing baby and a yappy puppy, both incessantly flexing their vocal ranges. Enter my—wait for it, wait for it—earplugs. Now, I know that you were expecting me to boast about busting out some fancy noise-canceling headphones to block out the shrill cries, but there’s a much cheaper solution that takes up a lot less real estate in your carry-on to boot. Avid travelers, even those with noise-canceling headphones, should always travel with a pair of simple earplugs.

I favor the kind of earplugs you can pick up at the local drugstore or rock concert for a buck. This run-of-the-mill inch of foam won’t completely block out the noise, but it’ll save your sanity. Pair a decent set of earplugs with an eye mask and you’ll discover la-la land, where unhappy babies and pups don’t exist.


Every calorie consumed at the airport will cost you double: Empty calories weigh heavily on the hips, and inflated prices take a toll on wallets. Avoid the unhealthy, overpriced eateries and instead pack a snack before heading to the airport. Yummies such as granola bars, apples, and a PB&J travel well and don’t easily spoil.

Additionally, do yourself a favor and pack an empty bottle you can refill past security. Make your hydration efforts pull double duty by adding a dose of a vitamin-infused electrolyte to your water.

Keep in mind when packing a snack that it needs to be 3-1-1 compliant. So if your snack’s a liquid like apple sauce, yogurt, or a smoothie, it should be smaller than 3.4 ounces and fit with the rest of your tiny 3-1-1-compliant containers in a single, quart-sized clear plastic bag.


Stave off the boredom that comes with a lengthy flight by packing an e-reader or a tablet, or go old school with a book. If all else fails, here’s a tip: Most in-flight magazines have crossword puzzles.

Plan ahead and equip your electronics with movies, novels, music, and podcasts. And don’t forget the headset! For those traveling with a companion, a headphone splitter (which splits a headphone jack so that two people can plug in and listen at once) will make your in-flight experience like a night out at the movies.


Worse things can certainly happen, but when you’re stuck 35,000 feet in the air on a transcon flight without your electronics, it’s hard to imagine a harsher torture. Until all aircrafts are equipped with electrical chargers at every seat, a nearly fail-proof way to prevent such a tragedy is to include in your in-flight travel kit a portable charger for refueling your electronics.

Ways to Get Cozy

Socks and slippers—whether compression socks, fluffy wool slippers, or foldable flats—will help regulate your overall body temperature to ensure you’re at your coziest.

Pack a light throw, a sweater, or (my fave for its versatility) an infinity scarf, and you’ll be snuggly and warm in no time.

Items to Help Freshen Up

Stale mouths, dry lips, and cracked hands are not cute, but those tiny prepasted disposable toothbrushes  sure are. Hit the ground running when your plane lands by freshening up in-flight or, if you need more space, in a gate-side restroom.

Because cabin air is quick to wick, include in your in-flight case a lip balm, moisturizer, and (especially if you wear contacts) eye drops. And remember to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate—even to your aisle-seat companion’s chagrin—with nonalcoholic or decaffeinated beverages.

Miscellaneous Items

Hand Sanitizer: Making it to the washroom before the snack cart passes through isn’t always in the cards, so pack a travel-sized bottle of your favorite hand sanitizer.

Pens: Pens are a must-have item when traveling internationally, in particular to fill out customs and immigrations forms. Writing utensils are precious commodities at 35,000 feet, so if you can spare a few, flight attendants will most graciously accept them.

Gum: If not to keep your mouth refreshed, then bring gum to gift to the parents of the toddler screeching a few rows back. It’s been shown that children’s ear canals are formed differently, causing pressure inside their ears at certain altitudes. Chewing relieves their—and everyone else’s—pain.

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