Out of all the preparation and processes required to have great travel experiences, I can honestly say that flying is the most stressful. There is so much-a-do about nothing when it comes to preparing for and taking a flight. The longer, the worse. From waking up early to get to the airport, to waiting in security lines, to the uncertainty about who is going to sit next to me, from struggling to use the armrest, and turbulence. I am not a fan. Regardless of what happens, I am always sure to bring a few essential items to get me thru the flight, and make the experience more comfortable.
A light jacket can serve to keep you warm when they turn up that germ-infested recycled air, or it can be a neck saving pillow for those long flights the morning after you stayed up all night partying and/or packing.
2. Travel guide
I recommend using a trusted travel guide like a workbook...draw and write directly on the pages. Aside from electronic resources, travel guides in book form can be an on-the-ground go-to for reliable information about your destination. Use a portion of the flight to review your itinerary and read up on the destination.
3. Unlocked smart phone
How did people survive before smartphones?! Neanderthals! I recommend purchasing an inexpensive, unlocked smartphone for international travel. Unlocked means that it is not tied to any specific carrier, and can be used on local carriers by simply inserting a local carrier’s SIM card once you arrive to the destination. From there, you’ll simply need to buy airtime as you go. You’ll have a local number, and not worry about roaming charges or losing the phone that you use back home. In-flight, it can be your entertainment device, or you can use it access essential travel apps. More on those in a subsequent post.
4. Pen and notebook
Use a small hardbound notebook to jot down reflections, addresses to cool places, contact info for new friends, and to keep track of expenses. Having a pen is definitely essential...and your seatmate will surely ask to borrow it to fill out those pesky immigration documents upon landing.
5. Passport and identifying documents
Keep your passport handy if you’re paranoid about losing it, and you will need it to fill out immigration documents upon landing.
6. Charging block and cord
Charge your gadgets on the plane, arrive juiced and ready to let loose!
Most international flights have a more robust offering than domestic US flights, although it's not always appetizing. Pack your own goodies to eat on the flight, or tide you over until you find a meal at the destination. Oh, and mints/gum are essential post-nap refreshments and help to decompress those eardrums!
These in-flight essentials can make flights more bearable. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you’ll make the best use of the flight time--if you aren’t using the time to catch up on sleep!