A decent travel pillow
Don’t fall for those cheap microbead/inflatable options that just squish up to nothing when you lean on them, I’ve got three suggestions that will rock your world in the sky. My original favourite is my Evolution travel pillow, it’s made of memory foam and has a clip to tighten it around your neck for maximum support. This has kept me calm and comfy on two NZ-Europe flights and back, so I definitely recommend it.
I’ve also got the Trtl pillow, a more compact option with a plastic bendy guard thing and an adjustable wrap-around piece to secure the ‘pillow’ in place. This one’s a great option for someone wanting something light and easily squeezed into a backpack. It’s not my favourite because it’s a bit more rigid but I’ve got friends who swear by it, so it’s worth a try.
Last but definitely not least, this thing has legitimately changed my life. It’s a ridiculous inflatable full body neck/head support pillow that you rest on the tray table and lean into when you’re so tired that you can’t even hold your body up. You look like a real dick but ten hours into a seventeen-hour flight and your neighbours won’t be laughing at you anymore. Oh, and you can put your iPad inside it for easy viewing that requires zero muscle work. Epitome of laziness or pure genius? I say the latter.
I’ve always been teased for my small ears (mainly by my dad!) so me and your average earplugs are not friends, but my discovery of silicone earplugs has made my overnight flights exponentially more comfortable. They don’t feel like something is jabbing at your brain, they don’t fall out and they are still mega cheap. You’ll find them at your local pharmacy or get them on Amazon here.
I love earphones that fit right over my ears (not hard, see above) and spent six years as a die-hard Beats fan, but recently made the switch to Sony’s h.ear Wireless. You could say I forgot about Dre… (Sorry). My Sonys are super comfy, have passive noise-cancelling to block out major disruptions but not make you completely deaf to what’s around you, and boast excellent sound quality with zero annoying cables.
If you’re keen to plug into the plane’s entertainment system, you’ll probably need to bring your headphone cable AND a plane adapter with two prongs instead of one. There’s nothing worse than getting on a long-ass flight and realise you can only hear out of the right headphone. Except for only being able to hear out of the right headphone and having a child kick the back of your seat for hours on end.
Blanket, pillow, light-stopper and all-round jack-of-all-trades, a decent-sized scarf is an absolute must-have for a long flight. Airplanes always tend to be a bit chilly so a scarf is perfect for a boost in warmth without having to do an annoying costume change in the tiny bathroom.
Portable battery charger
As much as I loooove sitting on the airport floor charging multiple devices during a stopover, my portable battery charger gives me peace of mind that my phone, iPad, headphones and GoPro will last me the 30+ hours it takes to get from London to New Zealand. This Anker one is my top pick! Got money to splurge? Why not check out one of these Away suitcases that have a removable portable charger.
Don’t be the person who gets on a nine-hour flight in skinny jeans and high heels. Airport Alexx is usually found in soft, stretchy jeans, a stripey loose-fitting top and sneakers, comfy but not too untidy (in case of a rare upgrade opportunity!). Track pants, hoodies and fluffy socks are more than acceptable for overnight trips, or go all out and rock a onesie. I bought a grey marle one from Oysho and it’s probably the comfiest item of clothing I’ve ever worn, so it’s my go-to for long flights. Yes, I wear a onesie and yes, I use the inflatable body pillow. Yes, I look cool.
Don’t go overboard! Get a mini pot of your chosen moisturiser for gross airplane air con, some eight hour cream for chapped lips, eye drops if your eyes are prone to soreness on flights, and a small tube of toothpaste. Too easy.
I’d just like to thank the 25 or so people who have lent me pens in the immigration lines the past two years because I never, ever remember to bring one. You’re the real MVPs.
Snacks & gum
I’ve got weird dietary requirements that don’t quite fit into one of their pre-organised boxes (vegetarian, halal, gluten-free) so airplane meals just aren’t my jam. Instead, I make sure that I pack enough snacks to keep me going throughout the trip without relying on anything edible coming out of those little foil rectangles.
Go for muesli bars, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate for some energy, or string cheese or Pringles for savoury cravings, and always keep hydrated with your own water bottle (bought after security of course). Gum is just a good idea (in case of onion or garlic in the meals!) and doubles as a helper for ears and sinuses to clear.
Not something tangible to pack per se, but definitely the most important item on this list. I can’t stress this enough: if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Not only does insurance cover all the things I’ve mentioned above and the rest of your luggage, it’ll have your back if any cancellations or delays affect your travel plans AND you’ll be looked after in case of sickness or injury.
It’s a no-brainer for any trip overseas, but especially long-haul flights or trips to places that don’t speak the same language. I’ve had a bag stolen in Vietnam, a travel buddy need immediate medical attention in the French countryside and some tech gear that broke in transit while flying from NZ, and all three situations were sorted as quickly and painlessly as possible.