Anything you can't
The most important items to have with you, before anything that provides comfort or entertainment (we'll get to those), are the things that you wouldn't be able to travel without should your luggage get lost. This list includes your passport, travel documents you might need to show at your destination and any medication you take. If you can't replace it when you land, you should make sure to pack it in your carry-on.
Dry airplane air means dry, chapped skin, which can lead to midflight discomfort. That's why we never board without travel-size hand and face cream. Moisturizing regularly especially during an overseas flight means skin stays supple and hydrated rather than dry and taut. For hands, we like Bliss blood orange and white pepper hand cream, which comes in a convenient one-ounce travel size ($8). For face, we pack Josie Maran Argan Oil ($14), a lightweight oil that absorbs quickly and leaves skin ultra-soft.
Toothbrush and face wipes
At the end of a long flight all we usually feel like doing is taking a hot shower. Since that isn't usually possible directly after landing, we suggest having a means to do the best you can when it comes to freshening up. For us, this means a toothbrush (with mini toothpaste) and some facial cleansing wipes to refresh after being cooped up for hours. If you're on a particularly long flight, it can also be helpful to brush your teeth and wipe your face midflight.
Take-offs and landings often mean a buildup of pressure in your ears, which can cause discomfort and sometimes even pain. One of the easiest ways to alleviate the feeling of having cotton balls stuffed in your ear canals is to chew gum or suck on a hard candy. The chewing and swallowing motions help your ears to "pop," decreasing the pressure.
Let's face it; flying is pretty boring so the more you can distract yourself the better and what better way to pass the time than with a book? Rather than only choosing one, bring as many page-turners as you want with an e-reader. Load the device with your current list of must-reads, and you'll be set for the duration of your flight. We like the lightweight Nook HD+ ($269) for its more than 3 million books to buy (not to mention 1 million free titles) clear, easy-reading display plus the fact you get up to 10 hours battery life on a single charge.
Sleeping on planes is never easy. There's always that one person that seems to be out cold before everyone else has even finshed fastening their seatbelts, but for most of us, getting in-flight shut-eye can feel like an impossible feat. But having a way to shut out light and sound can make a huge difference when it comes to your ability to nod off. Weird lighting, crying babies, beverage carts creaking by — they can all keep even the sleepiest among us awake, but slip on your eye mask and pop in your ear plugs and you've created a mini peace and quiet bubble for a few hours.
Whether you want to do a crossword puzzle or need to fill out a customs form, having a pen nearby always comes in handy on a flight. Jot notes in your guidebook, make a post-landing list of travel to-dos, or just doodle in your notebook to help pass the time. But either way, having a pen or two is an important (and lightweight) addition to any carry-on bag.
Flights can be notoriously chilly and the blankets they provide on planes are never as cozy as you want them to be. We suggest packing either a soft travel blanket or comfy oversize sweater you can slip into or under if you start to get cold. Staying warm also helps when you're trying to sleep.
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