When moving between countries, I don’t always succeed in packing light, but I kind of feel like I’ve mastered packing my under-seat carry on bag. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten something out of the overhead bin during a flight, so I always like to have these items ready to go, easy to access from my seat. Some of these are necessities for any trip, but others will make long-haul flights in coach ever so slightly more luxurious, or at least comfortable.
Kindle Paperwhite. This is first for a reason. Mine got nicked from my purse in Kuala Lumpur, and the two months I had to wait to replace it were agony. I think its virtues as a lightweight device that can store thousands of books are well-documented, but still, I love this thing.
Headphones. I splurged on a pair of Bose headphones when I came across a Bose outlet store in Las Vegas last year, and it’s worth it to have comfortable headphones that sound good. They’re not wireless or noise cancelling, but still do plenty to cut out distracting sounds, and they don’t smash my glasses into the side of my head.
Sleep mask. A must for long-haul overnight flights when they insist on keeping the lights on to serve “dinner” at 3 am.
Pillow. Yes, sometimes they give you little pillows, but I am a very unglamorous sleeper and my head lolls all over the place until I smack it on the tray table or against the window or my neighbor. I need one of the silly neck support ones.
Jacket. I’m always cold.
Scarf. See above. Also if you bring a big scarf, it can double as a blanket.
Soft socks. They just make the whole being-stuck-in-a-seat experience more comfortable.
Travel towel. I have a quick-dry towel from REI that is great for being able to wash my face or brush my teeth in between flights. I’ve even washed my hair in a sink out of desperation once and it managed to mostly dry my hair. It also folds up tiny.
Medicines. This is obvious if you have diabetes or asthma, but it’s always good to have the basics with you – painkiller, sleeping pills if you’re desperate. As a migraine sufferer, I’ve struggled to treat it as a disease that requires chronic pain management (which is what it actually is). I’ve been stuck with a migraine on a plane from the US to Istanbul and almost threw up when we landed. Don’t want that to happen again. Also, if you’re traveling internationally, you never know if you’ll find your specific medication quickly enough where you’re going.
I’ve also lately started having problems with my leg hurting during longer flights due to circulation. I try to stretch and walk a lot before getting on the plane, but I still usually have to take some sort of blood thinner to help with it.
Eyedrops. Dry eyes are no fun.
Eyeglasses. I put my contacts/solution in my luggage because having a dried out contact stuck to my eyeball is my personal nightmare.
Chapstick. Again, dry air.
Lotion and eye cream. See above. Plus something that smells soothing might help you relax. For de-puffing your eyes after a long flight, I like Origins GinZing eye cream.
Hand sanitizer. I know I read something about how tray tables have more germs than a public toilet. I forget how many millions of germs, but it was too many.
Nail clippers. Pretty sure TSA lets you have these now. Having a ripped fingernail and not being able to do anything about it for hours is something I can’t abide.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbrush. These things help me feel freshened up before landing or right after landing. I’ll also bring a little perfume sample if I have one on hand.
Chargers for phone + electronics. I usually have a laptop, camera and phone with me, so there are always a bunch of cables and chargers to remember.
Notebook + Pen. In case my phone falls in a river or the airport has useless wifi (looking at you Cairo and Istanbul) I write down (or sometimes print out) flight and hotel information and walking directions to wherever I’m staying. Also for jotting down ideas!
Snacks. Even if I eat the whole disappointing airplane meal, I still need some chocolate or something to snack on while I watch five Disney movies in a row. Bonus points if you have ginger chews.
Water. I usually bring two bottles of water on the plane with me. It takes 30 minutes to an hour after takeoff before crew start offering drinks, and staying hydrated is important for preventing migraines for me.
Comfy outfit + shoes. Thankfully I’m small enough that I can sort of curl up in airplane seats, but wearing soft, stretchy materials helps. I’m not advocating for traveling in yoga pants, but I won’t lie, I’ve changed into pajamas right before a 10 hour overnight flight. Also, my feet get swollen on planes, so shoes that are relatively loose and easy to take on/off help.
Extra shirt + undies. You never know. And sometimes a fresh shirt after a flight just makes you feel 10 times better.
Bonus: here’s my nosy, bossy bunny Mochi who loves to get in the way when I pack.