10 Things Full-time Travelers Never Fly Without
Short flights along the coastline or country-hopping through Europe are easy enough to prepare for, but when you’re tangoing through multiple time zones or spending more than six hours on a plane? It’s important to fill your personal item with the necessary goods to help keep you entertained, healthy, and (at least somewhat) zen.
Every type of traveler requires something different to spend an extended period of time up in the air — snacks for some, technology hacks for others, and for most, a solid neck pillow or blanket are needed to lure the ever-elusive plane-seat sleep.
So alongside a few of my personal recommendations, I asked six full-time travelers — some of whom have spent years circling the globe — to share what they pack to help them survive a long flight. If you’ve got a long travel day on the horizon, consider this your shopping list.
I just hit my one-year anniversary of being out of the U.S., and in the last 12 months, I’ve taken upwards of 45 flights. Exploring remote parts of the globe is fascinating, but it does require patience to get there. I tend to get a bit uncomfortable if I feel sweaty or messy in my seat, so I pack a ”touch-up” kit in my carry-on to use right before landing. In it, I include a toothbrush and toothpaste, travel-sized face wash, a change of underwear, deodorant, and my personal favorite: IT Cosmetics CC powder. With sensitive skin, I’ll break out if I wear heavy makeup after being up in the air for 12 hours, but I still require a bit of coverage for acne. This conceals, but doesn’t clog, and has me ready to deplane, drop off my bag, and hop on a tour bus to see the sites.
To buy: sephora.com, $35
As part of the new — and growing — community of digital nomads, vacationing and traveling are two very different beasts for me. Though I sometimes find the time to pull out a page-turner in a park in Mexico City or de-stress with a coconut off the street in Chiang Mai, most of the time, work and travel are coinciding every hour. If I have a heavy load of deadlines, I’ll often skip sleeping on long-haul flights in lieu of uninterrupted work hours. With a quiet space and no fellow travelers to distract me, I find it easier to power through stories. But my MacBook Air and iPhone don’t always last as long as I need them to, so I pack this portable USB power bank from Mophie to ensure my technology is as powered-on as I am. (Thank you, coffee.)
To buy: amazon.com, $150
Toms Classic Slip-on
There are countless travel shoes out there — all of which serve a purpose. Though I choose specific athletic shoes for hiking and flip-flops for the beach, when it comes to exploring a city or taking a long flight, I reach for my Toms. They’re easy to put on and take off, and I tend to get antsy on a plane and constantly change positions (sorry, neighbor), so having flexible shoes is helpful. I also appreciate their softness, breathable fabric, and, of course, how easy they are to clean.
To buy: toms.com, $50
Bach’s Rescue Pastilles
While plenty of aspects of your life shift as you make your way through your passport pages — your worldview, your appreciation for culture, and so forth — others remain the same. For Theresa Boehl, editor at BeachDeals.com, constant travel hasn’t fully freed her of her fear of flying. To help ease her nerves, she brings a handful of these natural stress-relieving candies along in her carry-on bag. She finds them especially helpful in a bout of turbulence. “With a cup of chamomile tea, they get me so relaxed I can actually rest a little on the plane. Plus, they taste really good and are sugar-free, alcohol-free, and non-habit-forming,” she said.
To buy: amazon.com, $9
Therm-a-Rest Compression Travel Pillow
Take a scroll through any travel packing list and nearly everyone will recommend a different travel pillow. While some allow your neck to hang, others give it support. Some are meant to attach to your carry-on, while some break down to fit inside your backpack. Everyone’s resting habits require a different need, but for Boehl, the best pick is this versatile option from Therm-a-Rest. She appreciates how it rolls into the size of a water bottle and is easy to unravel in tight quarters. “It's made with a soft foam filling and you can machine wash and dry it. I love it because it’s not only appropriate for the plane, but also for times I may need it on my trip, whether that’s in my hotel, in a car, or a bus, or on my seat while I'm working,” she said.
To buy: amazon.com, from $18
World’s Best Fleece Travel Blanket
Fact of flying: even though you’re likely sweating while waiting on the tarmac, once you’re up in the air, that cabin will get chilly. Also true: even when airlines offer blankets, they’re not always the cleanest items to wrap around your body, especially when your immune system is already compromised. That’s why travel photographer and blogger Emma Pamley-Liddell always BYOBs — you know, brings her own blanket. She said this fleece one is not only incredibly soft and comfortable but lightweight, as well.
To buy: amazon.com, $11
S’well Water Bottle
Thanks to the change in altitude, the pressurization of the cabin, and the stale air that circulates, you’ll probably feel pretty thirsty when you’re in the sky for hours on end. And often times, those small cups from flight attendants don’t quench it. That’s why luxury travel blogger Christina Vidal never leaves home without this refillable water bottle. In addition to the brand’s wide variety of colors and styles, she recommends it for the double-walled insulation, which keeps water cool for up to 24 hours and won’t sweat in your bag.
To buy: amazon.com, $35
Devita Solar Moisturizer
It's not just your body, your skin can suffer from dehydration during air travel, too. If you’re consistently taking off and landing, you might notice breakouts, dry patches, and other skin ailments over time. To ensure her pores are healthy, travel entrepreneur Kristin Addis packs this travel-size formula. “It's made with aloe vera, is SPF 30, is affordable, and it's vegan, too,” she said. “Since I spend so much time in the sun and on flights with dry air, it’s important to be able to moisturize and protect myself from the sun without breaking out.”
To buy: amazon.com, $21
Digital nomad, marketer, and writer Amna Shamim struggles to find vegetarian meals while traveling, and can’t get by on chips or candy alone, so she’s had to find an alternative way to fuel travels. These bars are made with natural ingredients, pack a ton of nutrients, and, as she put it, are worth buying in bulk. “I find most bars disgusting or full of sugar, but RX bars are my recent favorite. I’ll stock up on a dozen or two when I’m in a country that has them and keep them as transit-only meals until I’m somewhere where I can stock up again,” she said.
To buy: amazon.com, from $11
Best Self Co. Self Journal
While some carry-on must-haves are practical, others are more emotionally beneficial. For travel designer Kristen Slizgi, a long flight means ample time to catch up on her goals, dream up new ones, and collect her thoughts. To do this, she packs a pen and this journal. “I prefer this 90-day increment approach, which keeps the ideas, goals, and thoughts short-term. For me, this allows space for more check-in points and momentum throughout the year,” she said. “It provides you with a personal place to think about your biggest ideas and put them into action. I find that this makes it easier to accomplish and feels less daunting.”
To buy: amazon.com, $34