What to Take On the Plane for an Overseas Flight

I travel a lot, and because I am obsessive about taking exactly the right things (but not too much!), many people ask me what I take on an overseas flight. I am a Carry-on Only kind of girl, so my carry-on is reserved for my clothes and the things I don't need to have readily available to me on the plane. The things I want to use during the flight go into a small, lightweight backpack that fits under my seat. My tiny travel purse fits inside, so I comply with the rule of only two allowable items on the plane, a carry-on and a personal item.

Here is the list of my "on the plane" must haves:

1) Smallish, lightweight backpack, satchel, or tote (your "personal item,"  taking the place of your purse)

You need a bag that satisfies the requirements of most airlines as a "personal item." Check your airline's website for "personal item" dimensions. It must fit under the seat in front of you. It should have many pockets that are easy to reach without having to put the whole backpack on your lap. I have several of these backpacks in different colors.

Tip: Most international airlines don't care that your personal item is the correct size, they care about the weight. If your backpack is jammed with heavy items, you could be asked to "lighten your load" before they will allow you on the plane. Weigh your personal item AND your carry-on before you leave for the airport. Follow your airline specifications, even a few ounces over can cost you.

2) A very soft down pillow
Don't laugh. I have a really soft, light as air pillow that literally squishes down to nothing and fits in the bottom of the center of my backpack. I use it instead of the icky airline pillow (we don't really know where that's been, do we?) and when I get where I'm going I am so happy I don't have to rely on a hard hotel pillow.

Tip: Take an old pillow that you don't care if you lose. Put a colorful pillowcase on it so it doesn't blend in with the hotel linens. Make sure you pick a really lightweight one.

3) Blow up horse shoe shaped neck pillow
The blow up kind folds down to nothing and can be adjusted according to your preferences. I much prefer the blow up kind to the ones that are stuffed. You can find them in the travel section of Target. Here's a nugget I didn't know until recently, the opening of a horseshoe pillow goes in the back, not in the front.

4) iPad/Smartphone
I download a few movies, some podcasts, and TED Talks to keep things interesting in case the in flight entertainment isn't my taste. If you are new to TED, you are in for a treat, click here. I also love to listen to Rick Steves podcasts about the places I'm going. You can find all of his podcasts and videos here.

5) Noise canceling headphones
My friend Steve lent me his Bose for a flight to Paris. Expensive but they covered my ears and blocked out all of the engine noise of the plane. I also used them in the hotel room for watching movies on my iPad when I couldn't sleep. Just remember to include extra batteries so you have enough juice to use them on the trip home. Here are a pair that get good reviews on Amazon.

Tip: The iPad and headphones take up a lot of room. You can accomplish the same thing with a smartphone and some ear buds, if you are short on space and don't mind watching video on your smartphone. I love my Apple AirPods Pro.

6) Hand sanitizer AND sanitizing wipes
I don't mean to be negative but an airplane is a really dirty, germy place. I don't want to touch ANYTHING in the bathroom, and I always wipe off the tray table before I touch it.

7) Nasal spray
The dry air on the plane can be uncomfortable for your eyes, sinuses, and your skin. I always bring a saline nasal spray to keep my sinuses hydrated. A small bottle is about $4 at the drugstore.

8) Eye drops
I like Thera tears. Best price I've found is at Target.

9) Face and hand lotion
I bring one that I can use on both. I buy whatever I can find at the drugstore in the area that has travel sizes.

10) Slippers

The best are cloth slippers with a rubber sole. The minute I get on the plane I take off my shoes and put on the slippers. They are also great for using in the hotel, and I can throw them in the wash when I have a chance to do laundry.
These are the slippers I have: Isotoner Terry Ballerina
To buy them on Amazon, CLICK HERE.

Tip: The rubber sole is essential. Bathroom floors get pretty nasty on long flights. I put the slippers in a plastic bag when the flight is over so that I don't get germs on my belongings.

11) Ear plugs
I am totally addicted to Quiet Please ear plugs. They go in as soon as I get settled in my seat (if I'm not using the head phones). They are a must in the hotel. I order them on line because the kind I like aren't carried in any of my drugstores. I included them in my nugget titled, "Good Sleep is Golden."
To order on Amazon, CLICK HERE.

12) Travel size toothbrush, or Wisps, and a travel bottle of mouthwash
You can pour a little mouthwash on your toothbrush and brush your teeth. Wisps are little disposable toothbrushes from the drugstore that are coated with something so you don't have to have toothpaste.

Tip: The water that comes out of the tap in an airplane bathroom is not safe for drinking. You don't want to brush your teeth with it! Frankly, I don't even wash my hands with it. I put my toothbrush, mouthwash, hand sanitizer and wipes in a plastic bag and always bring it with me to the bathroom. If you want to wash your hands with soap, take a bottle of drinking water into the bathroom with you. It may sound germaphobic to some, but being sick on vacation is not fun.

13) Meds
Take your meds at the regular times at the time zone you are in. Don't try to figure out the time it is at home and stay on your old schedule. Your body will adjust. If you normally take your pills when you wake up in the morning, stick with that habit no matter where you are.

14) Paperwork about your hotel (in an easy to reach pocket)
When you get off the plane you will be tired, excited, and making sure you have all of your stuff. It is so reassuring to me to be able to hand the taxi driver a piece of paper that shows the name of my hotel, the address, and a map of exactly where it is. (Many hotels are on little side streets, don't assume the taxi driver knows exactly where to go.)

More on the plane tips:

-Don't wear any fragrance on the plane. You may smell nice at first, but nine hours of Chanel #5 can get very old for everyone around you.

-You may prefer to sit closer to the front, but so does everyone else. A seat in the back often means empty seats next to you, or even a whole row where you can lie down.

-If you are traveling with someone and neither of you want to sit in a middle seat, book two aisle seats across from each other.

Do you have any "must haves" when you travel on an overseas flight? Tips to share about how to make a long trip more bearable? What did you wish you had on your last long flight?

If you are struggling with checking a bag vs. carry-on only, read my most popular article on the subject, 
"The Twelve Steps of Over-Packers Anonymous".

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