Long haul flights are a wonder. It’s incredible to think you can wake up in one place and be on the other side of the earth by evening time. However, the experience of being on the flight is not always that great. So check out my list of long haul flight essentials below to help you arrive feeling refreshed and revitalised.
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Long haul flight essentials list
I’m not sure whether an eye mask or the next item on this long haul flight essentials list, the humble earplug, is my absolute number one must-have, can’t live without (at least not in any socially acceptable state), for travelling. If you’re sensitive to light when you sleep then an eye mask will be the best investment you make. If you’ve never used one, don’t leave it until your flight to try it out. You need to get used to having something over your eyes. Ideally, you also want to give the elastic time to get a bit of give in it, for maximum relaxation. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you can pick one up for a few pounds in many shops.
If you want something more luxurious though, treat yourself to a Spacemask, or better still a box of them. These magical lightweight masks heat up once you take them out of the packet and they really do soothe your tired eyes whilst smelling absolutely delicious. I can’t get enough of them.
Fighting it out with the eye mask for number one spot on my list of essentials for a long haul flight is my old friend the earplug. Ah, how well you’ve kept me semi-detached from all around me on many a flight. I’ve yet to find an earplug that actually completely blocks out sound. But these tiny additions to your carry on will help keep you from being disturbed by general noise once you’re asleep. I recommend putting them in as you settle down to read for a bit, then they’ll be ready in place for when you drift off to the land of nod.
Combine blocking out light and noise with a sleep headband. Pull it down over your eyes to turn it into an eye mask that plays sound. Bluetooth technology transmits audio from your phone or device to earphone discs in the headband that can be moved to a position that suits you. For an unknown reason, some models have an irritating light that flashes on the control panel. Consider covering it with electrical or parcel tape to maintain happy relations with your neighbours in the sky.
There are a lot of frankly rubbish versions of travel pillow out there, and don’t get me started on the feeble bits of foam some airlines hand out. The omnipresent cheap squishy u-shaped pillows don’t seem to offer enough neck support. Avoid them, unless you enjoy dragging a brightly coloured horseshoe around departures with you. Better, but more expensive, versions have thankfully been developed, like this hybrid memory foam version. If you suffer from a bad shoulder or neck it might be worth splashing the extra cash here, as this is one of the long haul flight essentials you don’t want to scrimp on.
If you’re flying at night, or you just don’t enjoy the feeling of jeans slowly cutting off your blood supply after several hours travelling, then take a pair of comfy leggings in your hand luggage. Combine this with a loose t-shirt and change into your bespoke pyjamas in the toilets before you try to get some shut-eye. This has multiple benefits: it’s like you’ve got pj’s on but in disguise; it helps you to feel like it’s ‘bed time’; it breaks the journey up into more manageable stages and it’s just soooo blooming good to be comfortable on a long journey. There are loads of funky designs available so treat yourself to some you love and look forward to settling down to sleep on your next long trip.
A lovely warm hoody is also a must. Not only will it keep you toasty when the plane temperature chills but the hood can also be used to keep out light and muffle the ambient sound. Even if it’s just a small improvement, on long haul it all helps.
After several hours of sitting in an enclosed space, it can all start to feel a bit yuk. Go change into your clean new underwear and feel the difference a simple freshen up can make. If you’ve got space, pack several pairs plus a few tops and a bottoms or two in your bag. That way if your hold luggage goes missing you’ll have the basics covered for a few days.
Ah the air on an aeroplane, there’s nothing like it for drying out your skin. Don’t fear though, pack an all in one hand/body/face moisturiser and your skin will thank you later. Not only will it keep your skin moisturised in the arid air of the plane, but if it’s one you really like you can enjoy a little bit of ‘me time’ applying it and pretend like you’re having a pampering night in.
A spritz (not a deluge, no one wants to sit next to that) of your favourite scent can lift your mood and help you feel a bit more human, even as you hastily dry the dribble on your chin and brush off the Pringle crumbs. If you haven’t got a travel atomiser, why not ask your local perfume shop if they’ve got any mini samples. These are perfect for taking on board. If you forget all of that, make use of the inevitable herding through the iridescent airport store and get a good splash of something fragrant on the way.
The triumvirate of mini toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash are crucial to having the luxury of a fresh and clean mouth as you arrive at your destination. However, these items take up prime real estate in your plastic bag for liquids. So I recommend buying them after you’ve gone through security (put a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget). It’ll only cost a few pounds and can save you getting in a sweaty and sweary rage as you try to get that fiddly plastic seal to close without ripping your carefully curated bag of liquid goodies.
Comb or thin brush
Similar to the toothbrush and underwear concept, being able to give your hair a quick comb through gives you a lift in the morning. It helps you feel just a few percent more human.
Face wipes and deodorant
Use wipes to remove makeup before settling down to sleep. This works in a similar way to putting on leggings; it helps tell your mind and body this is bedtime. If you’re not wearing makeup it’s a nice way to refresh yourself. They’re also handy to double up as an underarm refresh and hand wipe if you’re out and about on your travels somewhere without a sink. Deodorant – well, because nobody wants to be that guy.
Because you do not want to get stuck for 12 hours with a banging headache and no way to get rid of it.
I’m not a big fan of sweets but it’s true that sucking on sweets helps with air pressure change at take-off. Mint imperials can do the same job and help keep your mouth minty fresh for the start of your flight. Plus if you don’t eat the whole packet they can be a good little sugar boost when out hiking and biking at your destination.
As a lover of books, I was initially reluctant to get an ereader. However, I soon had to admit that their portability is perfect for travel. Now I’m a convert and an ereader is definitely one of my long haul flight essentials. Take as many books as you like without needing to fork out for extra baggage fees. I love the pre-travel ritual of deciding which new books I’m going to download for my trip. I use a Kindle Paperwhite, as it’s got flexible light levels (great for reading in the sunshine) and reduces glare, so you don’t have to blind your travel companions with the glow. If you’re looking for a more affordable option though, you could download the Kindle app on to your phone and fill it with some free reads before you go.
Useful for so many reasons whilst on your travels. Storing dirty clothes, wrapping duty-free bottles and sitting on top of on a rainy day, to name a few. A tote bag is also a fantastic item for your hand luggage. Use it to store all the items you think you’ll want during the flight and pack it at the top of your hand luggage or in the front pocket. As soon as you go past the final passport/bag check, take it out and save a lot of faff getting up and down whilst your fellow passengers are finding their seat.
The fact it’s a soft bag, rather than hard or bulky like a rucksack or handbag, means you can squish it to the size you need to fit under the seat and, as you eat all the snacks you’ve taken with you, it’ll reduce in size, giving you more of that oh so valuable legroom. Use it to store your phone, passport and wallet during the flight. Keeping them safely in the tote avoids having them digging in to you through your pockets for the whole journey. Its versatility makes a tote bag one of my top long haul travel essentials.
The humble scarf. This long haul flight essential has so many uses. Keeps your neck warm. Can be worn like a jacket to keep cold shoulders toasty. Use it to attach things to your luggage if needed. Sit on it like a blanket when out and about. Cover your eyes with it if you forget your eye mask. Wear it like a skirt if you get really desperate for a change of outfit. The potential is endless. Get one with a travel theme to really get you in the holiday mood.
Bonus item to include in your long haul flight essentials
A long haul flight usually means airline food and that is definitely not one of my essentials. The pre-packaged minuscule mush – you either love it or hate it. Either way, if you’ve got the space, having your own snacks to choose from can be a lovely treat on long haul. My favourites are raisins, grapes, a bag of mini cheeses, biscuits and almond popcorn. I’d be lying if I didn’t also say chocolate bars.
What else would be on your list of long haul flight essentials? Let me know in the comments, I’m always keen to add to the list.
If you’re looking for other travel tips, find out whether airport lounges are worth your cash.