Between packing for my husband’s frequent work trips (shh don’t tell the TSA agents!) and the trips I have been very lucky to go on, I’ve gained enough mileage to consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to choosing the hand luggage essentials. Now obviously a lot of what you choose to take with you depends on where you are going and how long your flight is, but I usually start with this list and add or subtract what is necessary.
On a shorter flight, say like the four hours to Mauritius, I only took my handbag and made sure to double check I had a lip balm and hair-tie. On other trips, especially ones where there isn’t a swanky airport pick-up arranged or a long layover is included, I choose a more sturdy backpack. My back already takes a beating on those crappy airplane seats, the last thing I want to do it hurt it even more! Plus backpacks tend to have plenty of storage space for the essentials. It goes without saying that I try to keep things to the minimum so that said back problems don’t worsen unnecessary. Find my full list below.
Toothbrush and toothpaste: Starting with the obvious here, but one sure way to make yourself feel more like you is by keeping up your dental hygiene routine. Sometimes I even throw in a little mouthwash, which is a great way to keep your mouth feeling fresh on the plane.
A hairband: Sometimes I like having my hair out of my face, especially if you’ve just made a run for the boarding gate following last-minute changes. Been there, done that and was very glad I packed underarm as well.
Underarm: Nothing fancy required, but I do find that a stick version is usually best. It doesn’t count as a liquid and is often slightly lighter than liquid versions. A spray of sorts can also be great, although aerosols are banned. Those tiny fragrance samples can come in very handy though!
Anti-back: I am a little extra and like following a liquid antibacterial gel with a wipe to make sure I get all the germs before eating or touching my face. I also make sure to do so every so often in between as well. So far it has served me well in that I generally don’t catch any bugs during flights. My routine of taking Airmune beforehand should probably also receive some credit for this.
Baby wipes: On very long, connecting flights, baby wipes are great. I used it to refresh my face and underarms on our connection in Dubai and it made me feel ready for the 14 hour flight onwards. It obviously doesn’t replace a good shower, but for someone who is grossed out by the idea of airport showers this is the best alternative.
Moisturiser: I only ever take two moisturisers with me on an airplane. One is usually a concoction of my favourite basic moisturiser mixed with an oil for extra juicy-ness. I apply this to face, neck and hands. I also always pack a mini 8 Hour cream for lips and any possible dry spots.
Eyemask: They often hand these out on the airplane, but not all airlines do this. Whist it did feel slightly ridiculous the first time I wore it, it has become an essential for me. It is the only thing that stops me constantly waking up when my neighbour’s screen flashes. So I always take one with me.
A fully prepped phone: You might think that your phone can’t do much when on airplane mode, but I find downloading a few of my favourite podcasts is great for when you’re too tired to keep your eyes open but too uncomfortable to sleep. I also always have my charger on hand as most modern aircraft have USB ports that allow you to plug in and charge in seat. You could also download some series or games to keep you entertained when taking a daytime flight.
Your own earphones: Whether noise cancelling or not, you’ll feel so much better with your own earphones than using the gross ones the airline hands out.
Reading material: At this point I don’t know who I am kidding, I rarely read more than a single article on an airplane. I simply can’t get my eyes to focus when I’m beyond exhausted. But reading and paging through a magazine is a sure way to get my eyelids heavy enough for another attempt at sleep.
An oversized scarf: I love to wrap myself up in this soft, massive scarf that is washer friendly. It keeps me cosy on the airplane, but can be worn as a scarf so it doesn’t require packing or carrying.
Hairbrush: Entering the not-pictured zone, I forgot to photograph my small foldable hairbrush. They usually hand these out in business class but I’m sure you can find something similar at a Chinatown near you. My hair has a tendency to tangle like crazy, especially as I usually wear it down. So detangling it makes me feel more human.
Prescription meds: Always keep these on you as you never know when your checked luggage will arrive at your destination. Plus you might need to take them in flight! Be sure to also carry a copy of your prescription. This can usually be obtained from your pharmacist or your doctor can issue a new one.
Travel docs: Your passport (obviously!) and a ‘cheat sheet’ with your flight reference number and accommodation details. The last thing you want is for a taxi driver to start shouting at you in a foreign language if you can’t immediately give your hotel address.
Extra outfit: I also always make sure to pack at least one extra pair of socks, underwear and a t-shirt in case you arrive at your destination sans suitcase.
Electronics & Charger: Other essentials include your camera, cell phone charger (and any other essential chargers for that matter) and a converter plug if required.
There you go, not a single face mask in sight and plenty of essentials included. I think a great way to make sure you have all your essentials is to keep track of the things you use before bed when at home. Maybe make a list a few days before departure and then start eliminating from there. Along with my list, it will ensure that the whole packing process runs smoothly and sets you up for a good start to your holiday!