Spending an unreasonably long period of time in an enclosed space with other people - alternatively known as Travelling in Cattle Class - has had its ups and downs. It also has qualified me to talk about the most important things you should be packing in your hand luggage.
1. A jacket.
One of the basic facts of life we’re not taught in school is this: planes are damn cold.
Another basic facts of life is that no matter the airline, the blanket they provide you will have the consistency of tissue paper. The advantage of jackets are that you can also arrange them like a blanket, and position the sleeves over the arm rests.
Why do we want to do that, you ask?
It’s probably the best way I’ve found to stop my arms cramping after I’ve finally fallen asleep. That, and placing pillows on top of the sleeves. You can thank me later.
2. A neck pillow.
For years I had the attitude that neck pillows are for chumps. After all, why waste space and money when you can easily bend the headrests on your plane seat to do the same thing?
Here’s the thing: my past self is the real chump.
Neck pillows are this glorious piece of heaven that can serve as a scarf, neck support, or even as an elbow cushion to stop cramps. Do yourself a favour, embrace your inner princess and get a neck pillow.
The neck pillow I’ve got transforms from a peanut shape to a standard pillow shape, and cost me about AU$30 at Perth airport. Worth it.
3. USB cable to charge your junk.
When I say junk, I’m talking about the super expensive gear that you, and I, most definitely cannot live without - a smartphone.
Luckily a lot of planes these days equip their seats with USB slots that you can use to charge your gear at your own leisure. That being said, I prefer to stay on the safe side and bring a fully-charged portable battery. If you’re taking photos primarily with your phone throughout your trip, you may need one of these when you’re on the go anyway.
Typically speaking, portable batteries are anywhere upwards of about $30, depending on the amount of charge you’d like to store on the electrical brick.
As much as this is such a mum thing to bring away with you, the reality is that you’re gonna have to be your own mum. Take care of yourself, and bring some tissues. You’ll need them at some point during the flight - whether it be due to the neighbour who spills orange juice all over you, really sad in-flight entertainment, or you just need to blow your nose. Have some dignity, take some tissues.
Go on already to your local supermarket and get them - doubtless they have small packets for a couple of dollars, and you’ll feel like a million bucks when you reach for them in a time of need.
5. Noise-cancelling headphones.
Let me tell you a story.
I was recently rabbiting on to a friend about how I didn’t need noise-cancelling headphones, because my normal headphones were perfect for listening to music, and I could settle myself on a plane so that no noise in the world would disturb me, and why would you use all that money just to get a pair of headphones that would take up so much space in your hand luggage anyway?
Then I met Loud Snoring Husband.
In the space of a day after this conversation, I was on a flight that had an older gentleman with who I can only assume was his wife. And what did he do?
He slept the entire flight. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, except that he snored. Loudly. Across the aisle and a row back from me. And when I say snored loudly, I mean enough to compete with the plane’s engine. And every time he would take another explosive gasp, he would hold his breath - just long enough for me to wonder if he had choked on his own respiratory system - and then he would exhale in a manner that wasn’t unlike a car exhaust system.
And then the process would start all over again.
Bless his wife - I don’t think I saw her asleep the entire time during that 13 hour red-eye flight. Her timidity was matched by her husband’s propensity to announce things in a booming, aggressive tone to the whole cabin whenever he was awake. Opposites attract, I guess.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that I guarantee you that you will not need to buy a set of noise-cancelling headphones until you have to sit on the opposite side of a cabin to a Loud Snoring Husband.
And then you’ll spend a good 13 hours cursing yourself for your stupidity.
I’m a self-confessed tech-snob, so I always figure spending a few hundred bucks on a set of reliable, nice-sounding headphones is worth it. Most people tend to stick to their favourite brands - I’m a sucker for Bose and Beats headphones.
Have you ever forgotten something important to take on a long haul flight? Write about it in the comments below!