Mar 1, 2022 | The Post

backpacking woman

There’s no denying it – long flights are tough. But after 4 years of travelling, we like to think we’ve got a pretty good handle on all the things you need to survive the longest of flights (and even longer layovers). There’s a fine line between packing enough to be comfortable and packing too much, but after years of trial and error, we’ve deduced our carry-on to these long flight essentials.

Comfort & Sleep Long Flight Essentials

1. 3-in-1 Travel Pillow

There are travel pillows, and then there are 3-in-1 convertible travel pillows. These are an absolute game-changer for us as backpackers because they’re so multi-purpose. The regular U-shape is great for planes, but they can then be converted into rectangles which is awesome when you’re staying somewhere with a crappy pillow. They can also be transformed into a cylindrical pillow if you need a little more support. When it comes to long flight essentials, these are top tier and we cannot live without them.

2. Sleeping Mask

It goes without saying, darkness is pretty essential for most people when it comes to getting some decent shut-eye. Sleeping masks make all the difference when you need to block out overhead lights, open windows and in-flight entertainment screens. Our preferred sleeping mask comes with eye indents to protect your eyelashes and mold to your face.

3. Earplugs

Snoring. Kids crying. Rowdy neighbours. Drown it all out with some trusty earplugs. Tripled with your neck pillow and sleeping mask, and you’re in for the best sleep at 40,000 ft you’ve ever had. Not to mention these ones help prevent the dreaded airplane ear discomfort and blockage.

4. Socks

Cold feet are the worst, and airplane temperature always seems to be sub-zero for some reason. So, if you’re the kind of person who likes to travel in open-toed shoes like Zowie with her Birks, don’t forget to pack a pair of socks in your carry-on for the ultimate in-flight comfort. Sandals and socks are totally acceptable in the sky.

Long Flight Essentials

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Entertainment Long Flight Essentials

5. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Don’t settle for the freebie headphones they hand out on the plane. Come prepared with a decent set of noise-cancelling headphones and turn your flight into a movie theatre for one. Our pick are the Apple AirPods Max – are they expensive? Yes. Are they the pinnacle in sound engineering? Yes. Is this a hill we’re willing to die on? Also yes.

6. Kindle eBook Reader

A long flight essential for any bookworm is a Kindle or any similar eBook reader. Why take up sacred luggage space with one chunky paperback when you can have an entire library of books on a paper-thin Kindle? Don’t get us wrong, we’re not denying the value (or smell, IYKYK) of good old-fashioned paperbacks, but think of all the space you can save.

7. Portable Charger

This one’s a no-brainer. Most new aircraft come with USB outlets now, which is great as long as you’re not an iPhone user with a new USB-C cord that doesn’t fit. No matter how good your battery life is, a portable charger is one of those long flight essentials just about everyone needs.

Long Flight Essentials

Toiletries Long Flight Essentials

8. KN95 Mask

Masks are one of those ‘new normal’ essentials that make sense now that we think about it. Recycled germs in a metal tube… gross. Plus, some airlines still require masks in this day and age, so do yourself a solid and get a decent KN95 mask to keep the nasties out.

9. Hand Sanitiser

We can’t be the only people that now think about every solid surface that has been touched by the hundreds of human beings before us. Keep a bottle of sanitiser handy (pun intended) at all times, and pack a few extras in your checked-in luggage to be safe.

10. Chapstick

Pucker up, no one likes dry and cracked lips. Airplanes suck the life and moisture out of your lips, which is why Burt’s Bees is one of the most essential of our long flight essentials. They’ll come out feeling better than before you boarded.

11. Moisturiser

The same goes for skin. You’ll need to make sure whatever moisturiser you pack in your carry-on is less than 100ml to meet international flight regulations. We go through moisturiser fast in the tropics after all the sun and saltwater exposure, so we always pack a few spare in our checked-in bags.

12. Travel Toothbrush

Nothing feels better after a long flight than brushing your teeth. It’s like an immediate reset button that makes you feel less trash after spending 10 hours drinking, eating and sleeping in a chair.

13. Deodorant

It’s amazing how musty you can smell after doing nothing at all. Beat the stress sweats that seem to come with travelling (or maybe that’s just us?) and have a roll-on deodorant at the ready. Plus, this Native one smells delish and is Paraben and Aluminium free!

14. First Aid Kit

You never know when you’re going to need a bandaid, so keep this TSA-approved First Aid Kit handy at all times, whether that’s on your flight or on an adventure. As we like to say, better to be overprepared than to end up on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

15. Mentos

A lot of people recommend chewing gum in their long flight essentials, but we personally prefer Mentos. It’s delicious, helps unblock your ears by sucking, plus you don’t have to worry about where to put your flavourless gum once you’re done.

16. Essential Medication

One of the most important things when travelling is to keep your essential medications in your carry-on, not your check-in luggage. If that luggage gets lost in transit, at least you’ll have any important meds with you. Also, if you’re travelling for a long time and need months worth of medication, make sure to get a certificate from your doctor stating each drug and why you’re on it.

Long Flight Essentials

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How to Pack a Backpack

Organisational Long Flight Essentials

17. Document Folder

Such is the world we’re living in that we now have to cut down an entire forest to print all the documents needed to travel these days. Vaccine proof, negative test results, health declarations, mandatory health insurance… the list goes on. Keep things tidy with a document folder and reduce just a fraction of the stress.

18. Passport Wallet

Keep your most important travel items safe in an RFID blocking passport wallet. There are slots for your passport, credit cards and boarding passes so you don’t have to go ruffling through your bag every time someone asks for your boarding pass or passport.

19. Notebook & Pen

You never know when you’re going to need to jot something down or start a travel journal, or maybe you’re just bored out of your brains and want to doodle. A notebook and pen aren’t just long flight essentials, but life essentials too. Plus, you’ll likely need to fill in incoming passenger forms at some point in your travels, so having a pen at the ready prevents having to share stranger germs.

Long Flight Essentials

Miscellaneous Long Flight Essentials

20. Filtered Water Bottle

A lot of airports now have drinking fountains where you can fill up your bottles with clean drinking water. This will save you from having to buy plastic bottles to stay hydrated while you spend a 7-hour layover sitting on an airport floor. We stand by the LARQ purifying insulated water bottle for our travels, which eliminates bacteria and viruses, turning unsafe tap water into perfectly fine drinking water. Tried and tested by us for over 3 years now.

21. Sweater

No matter how hot the climate in your destination is, you’re most likely going to come across some arctic air conditioning during your travels. As people who get cold easily, a cosy sweater or hoodie is definitely one of those long flight essentials we can’t live without.

22. Comfy Travel Pants

Just like a sweater, long pants provide the ultimate warmth and comfort during long travels, especially if you end up sitting on the ground of an airport for 12 hours. Carson is obsessed with these pants from Lululemon, but as with anything Lulu they come at a price. If you’re on a tighter budget, Zowie usually just finds a pair of lightweight long pants from Cotton On.

23. Snacks

Depending on your airline, you might have unlimited snacks included in your ticket, but can you ever really have enough snacks? Our go-to snack for long flights is Chex Mix or other similar, filling snack. Just remember, if you’re flying into Australia to declare any and every food item you have, or better yet just bin them before disembarking. Aussie biosecurity laws are some of the toughest in the world.

24. Emergency Cash

Last but by no means least, in fact probably the most important is an emergency stash of cash. If you end up in a hairy situation with no access to your cards, at least you’ll have a couple hundred bucks on you for desperate times. We usually keep ours in our home currency, so that if we don’t end up using it, we don’t have to convert it back to Aussie or US dollars once we get home.

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