10 things to bring with you into the sky

I’ve discovered one of the subtler pleasures in life: sleeping in the same bed for more than 3 nights in a row. I’ve just gotten back from 6 weeks of travel, and flew roughly 200,000 miles in the past 24 months. I’m *very* happy to say that I don’t expect to get on an overseas flight for four or even six months.

To make flying a little more bearable, I’ve honed my in-flight travel gear. I’ve blogged before about what to bring for field work (parts one and two) but here’s what I think you need for the sky:

1. First, a little zippered pouch to carry items 2 to 8. In my experience, the easiest way to get this is to nab one from a first class seat on your way from cattle class to the exit.

2. Eyemask

3. Earplugs

4. Folding travel toothbrush and travel toothpaste.

5. Meds for any developing country revenge that could hit you on your 36 hour flight home. I carry ibuprofen plus a few pills for malaria, nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, and flu. Plus our all-purpose pal: Cipro.

6. Sleeping pills. The humanitarian worker’s (secret) best friend.

7. Travel-sized moisturizing cream. Because the airlines seem to have made the planes even drier (who would have thought it was possible?), probably because carrying the extra water is expensive. After two 12 hour flights n a row, I otherwise emerge flaky.

8. A doohickey that gives your personal pair of earphones two prongs instead of one, so you can enjoy the movies with nicer sound.

9. Empty plastic water bottle (with a wide neck). Because you never get enough water to drink. It can go through security empty and is easily filled by water fountains and stewards.

10. Energy bars, in case you sleep through a meal, find one particularly inedible, or are accustomed to eating more than one square inch of lasagna.

I don’t go in for the neck pillows but I am considering a silk blanket after seeing a seat-mate pull one out. The airline ones are usually too small or too few. Silk is packable and warm. And if you usually finagle your way into an exit row seat (as I do) you need the warmth–exit rows and bulkheads are much colder because of the door seams.

Eric Green recommended an inflatable pillow thing that you hug and lean on. Looks promising, but I have yet to try. Jeannie did, and did not love it, but Eric swears by it. A little bulky for me.

I hope this brings you some measure of joy. I met a despondent Indian man having his Evian bottle seized at Thai airport security. I gave him idea number 9 and I think he wanted to hug me.