Home for the Holidays: Travel Essentials On the Plane

November 20, 2014

Travel Essentials: On the Plane

As soon as I even start to daydream about a travel destination, my mind immediately goes to: but what am I going to pack? Just as important as what I put in my suitcase is what I'm going to take with me on the plane. There are so many things to consider: comfort, entertainment, food, all those bulky items you don't want to cram into your suitcase. For those who fly often or if you're just like me and hate the fly in general, having the right things with you can help make your experience in transit as pleasurable as possible.

In an effort to make travel over the holidays - especially for those of us trekking halfway around the world - a little more bearable, I've compiled a list of what I think makes for an improved travel experience:

A nice carry-on | Even if you're stuck back in the cheap seats, you can help yourself feel a little chicer when you invest in a nicer carry-on. Not too nice, as you never know you'll be late to a connecting flight and they insist there's only room underneath the plane for your precious investment bag, but nice enough to make you smile and stand up a little straighter when you de-board alongside ratty old duffles and student backpacks. Right now, I'm loving this new print from Herschel.

A change of clothes | If like me, you've experienced a travel snag that meant unexpectedly spending a night somewhere or lost luggage (Heathrow Terminal 5, I'm looking at you), you've learned the valuable lesson that you always, always, put a change of clothes - if not a few, plus multiple underthings - in your carry-on. While you're at it, throw in a travel-sized deodorant, face wash and mascara, so when airlines do throw a wrench in your travel plans, you don't have to look as disheveled as you might feel.

Multi-purpose personal bag | Just the thought of one of my nice handbags in those dingy x-ray bins has always kept me from carrying an actual purse as my 'personal item'. A much better idea? Stow that nicer bag inside a larger, more durable bag so that when it does fall out on the x-ray belt or you end up deplaning on the tarmac to a bus in the middle of a rainstorm, you won't be any worse for the wear. At your destination, you can use this for mini-trips or carrying home market finds. I've been using my large foldable Longchamp tote for this for years and it never lets me down.

Passport organizer | While it might seem unnecessary, I love to have all my documents and papers all in one place when I travel to reduce stress in what can so often be a stressful experience. I love all the paperless solutions our technology provides us these days, but I'm very much a plan B kind of girl: if your phone can run out of juice/not connect right when you need to pull up a reservation, it probably will. Why not have all this info, along with all your IDs and information in a dedicated place, just in case. Ahhh, don't you feel better already?

Small items bag | With so much you want to have at your fingertips while living in a tiny seat for half a day or more, the more organized you are, the more tranquil and easy your travel will be. Some may call bags within bags overkill, but I call it a Type A's travel dream. Plus, I'm always dying to get all my creams and lip balms out of that heinous ziploc bag ASAP. A travel-themed bag makes it all the more apropos.

Layers | Why try to cram even more into your over-filled luggage when instead you can wear more on the plane? Layering up with things like this poncho, even over your coat, means you get more precious space in your checked baggage, more outfit possibilities at your destination and an option to curl up with in your seat beyond those yucky airplane blankets.

Large scarf | Unless you're headed somewhere tropical for the holidays, you're gonna need a scarf when you get there. So why not take your largest, fluffiest one on your person and it can double as a pillow/blanket/personal entertainment tent. I'm obsessed with this one from Zara right now. Ridiculously large and ridiculously soft.

Your bulkiest/easy-on/off shoes | Those people who can go on vacation with one pair - or, hell, even two - of shoes have my admiration for self-control. My handle isn't 'shoegirl' for nothing. Any good holiday will include multiple kinds of excursions, which of course, require multiple kinds of footwear. Travel in the winter means bulky boots, which can take up half your precious clothes space if they go in your luggage. Instead, wear a pair of cozy, yet put-together-looking boots (you're not shuffling around your living room, after all) that will be easy to slip on and off for security checks, keep you warm and comfy in transit and be great at your destination. My favorite are UGGs, of the non-elephant-feet persuasion, of course.

Cozy socks | Let's be honest, you can't possibly get comfortable enough to sleep with your shoes on. Well, I can't sleep on planes, period, but I do like to make myself a little comfortable on long flights. I'm not talking breaking out the flannel pants and facial masks (people, this isn't a pyjama party), just comfortable enough to stretch my toes in what little room my super long limbs are allowed. I've stolen a pair of these Wigwam ones from my husband because they are the ultimate in warmth and cushiness. It's the sock equivalent of a slipper. Just remember to slip your shoes back on if you head the lavatory. Eww.

Earplugs and eyemask | If you are one of those lucky folks you can sleep on a plane, you might as well make it as restful as possible. Blocking out the light and noise around you is often the only way. Sweet dreams, traveler.

Snacks | While it's true you don't really work up an appetite being sedentary for hours and hours on end, it helps to get some food at some point in your travels. There might be meals or snacks for purchase, but if you have food restrictions, like myself, there's never a guarantee. After reading several accounts of folks requesting GF meals but never getting them, not to mention the thought of multiple layovers with perhaps one terminal restaurant serving a safe option for me on the opposite end of the airport, I figured I'd better be safe rather than starving and bring my own food. These bars have been a staple in my bag at all times, the solid fruit and nuts packing a serious filling and nutritious punch. Plus, they are super delicious. Find what what fills you and slip a few in your carry-on.

Facial mist | It may seem like something only those pampered folks up in first class would do, but for good reason. Airplane air is devoid of moisture, which does the same for your skin. Slathering on layer after layer of creams can just turn your face into a greasy mess, so I like to live as the better half do and bring a travel size bottle of this stuff in my carry-on for a little bit moisture whenever I'm feeling parched. Just don't forget to do touch-ups if you're wearing make up to save yourself from looking like an Alice Cooper wannabe.

Noise-cancelling headphones | Those slightly-inhebriated guys that think they're hilarious. That baby crying. The deafening whir of massive engines keeping you thousands of feet in the air, hurtling along at hundreds of miles per hour. Sometimes, amidst a plane full of people, all with different ideas of how to spend their time, you don't want to be reminded you are captive for an unnatural amount of time with all these strangers. Some good noise-cancelling headphones are worth their weight in gold on the long hauls to restore your sanity. Santa, you wanna hook me up with these beauties for my return flight..?

Back-up battery | Too many hours and too few connections with time to scout power outlets to recharge before the next leg of your journey can mean the technology you so greatly depend on to keep you busy during your travels can fail you. Having a back-up power source to save you when the on-flight entertainment is a disappointment can be a lifesaver.

Before boarding, I always buy a large bottle of water (do you really want to be that person who keeps flagging down the flight attendants for constant refills for your Saharan-like insides?), as well as some magazines that feel like a treat and can distract you from turbulence when concentrating on a book is out of the question.

How about you? What are your go-tos for traveling?


  1. A bag within a bag within a bag? You're brilliant, Kate. I love how very, very different we are :) My in-flight packing = ruckpack filled with books, music, camera, a comfy jumper, a bag of Haribo and as many bottles of water as I can carry. And everything else that I couldn't fit in my hold luggage ;)

    p.s. I've never had problems with the gluten-free tray not turning up - it's always served before the rest of the food and sometimes it's been better than the "normal" option, though on the Lufthansa flight I took to visit my sister last year, well, that gluten-free meal was hands down the worst in-flight meal I've ever had. Ever. Which was ideal on a 10 hour flight with morning sickness. But so, don't give up hope :)

    p.p.s those Uggs are lovely.

    1. Yeah, I'm a bit of an organization freak. You remember my hourly schedule on the fridge when I hosted Thanksgiving! Well, that's how I stay sane in stressful situations. Good news on the food, though! Unfortunately, I'm flying Luftthansa...

      The real-boot UGGs are the best. I once had a security guy at the airport inspect my boots because I told him they were UGGs and he didn't believe me, only knowing the marshmallow-feet kind. There's something to be said for being stylish - and comfortable!

  2. I WISH I were this organized! As far as my go-to travel things are, I'm just concentrating on making sure I have (and do not lose at some point in the trip) my passport and my boarding pass. Oh, and my chapstick. I would break down very quickly without my chapstick. :D


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