Packing Hacks to Make Flying Less Stressful and More Comfortable

Air travel is an incredibly fast and convenient mode of transportation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s particularly comfortable. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Here are a few items I pack in my carry on to make flying (and getting through security) a little more comfortable.

Stay warm in multi-purpose, easy to remove layers:
I almost always travel with only a carry on bag. (Last winter I had to buy a bag in Germany to transport some beer and books home and I seriously forgot how to check a bag. I did the math on the way home and realized I hadn’t done it since 2009!) So everything in my travel wardrobe has to be packable, rollable and multi-purpose.

Unless I’m traveling in winter, I skip the jacket and wear a cozy blanket scarf/wrap instead. Unlike a more structured jacket, it’s easy to toss in the X-Ray bin. (Men can get the same benefits from a tailored zip front sweater. It’s as comfortable as a hoodie, but put together enough to help you score that upgrade at the gate.)

As an added bonus, a wrap can double as a pillow or a blanket in flight. I’m planning to upgrade to a cashmere wrap from (where I’m an affiliate), so I can leave my jackets at home even more often. (There’s a sale going on now through April 15 1:49 a.m. if you’re in a buying mood. Just enter EVENT18 at checkout and you can score 20% off Orders Under $500, 25% off Orders of $500. The discount is good for the men’s sweater too.)

Packing Cubes or Bags:
I always worry a little when the person in front of me hurls all their travel documents, electronics and accessories in those plastic bins. It’s so easy to leave a phone or itinerary behind. Keep it together (both your stuff and your sanity) with packing cubes or pouches. It makes putting everything back in your bag so much easier. And you don’t have to worry about leaving anything behind.

Comfortable shoes you can take off in a flash:
Since it’s highly unlikely that TSA will change its regulations any time soon, travelers at U.S. airports will be stuck awkwardly shuffling through security checkpoints in their stocking feet for the foreseeable future. Do us all a favor and go to the airport in a pair of shoes you can get in and out of very quickly, because nobody wants to wait behind you while you painstakingly lace up your brand new thigh-high boots one lace at a time.

You’ll want to be able to run in the shoes you choose, because you never know when you’ll have an unexpectedly short layover. (I once full-on sprinted the entire length of the Frankfurt airport to catch a flight!) For my next trip, I’m going to try these zip-up ankle boots from Bzees. I have wide feet and high arches, so when the company sent them over for me to try, I was initially skeptical. I usually have to try on about 20 pairs of shoes before I find one that works. But these are seriously comfortable. They feel like walking shoes that fold to your feet. Plus they’re super light and machine washable (!) and they’re anti-microbial, which is an added bonus.

Fun socks:
Since you’re going to be prancing around in front of strangers with no shoes on, why not have a little fun with it? Skip the boring socks and invest in an eye-catching pair instead.

These colorful little numbers from Society Socks, a monthly subscription service for sock fans, totally work. For every pair of socks a customer purchases, the company donates a pair of socks to a homeless shelter. I just finished writing a newspaper article about how socks a major need for shelters across the country, so this struck me as such a smart solution to a common problem.

Yes, you usually get complimentary headphones on a flight. But your own pair of over the ear headphones will be much more comfortable. Plus they cancel out the noise around you and serve as a “do not disturb” sign that anyone can understand.

Earplugs: When it’s time for a nap on an international flight, I always switch out my headphones for a pair of boring but functional air plugs. I bring a few extras with, just in case I lose one. They come in handy at your destination too, especially if you’ve book a bunk in party hostel, a construction zone or a room near the elevator.

Airplane air is notoriously dry, so I slather on lots of thick, rich lotion mid-flight. Just make sure it’s under the 3.4 ounces required by TSA and select one without a strong fragrance so you don’t bother sensitive seatmates. I started using Nivea when I found it in European pharmacies, but it’s available in the states too.

Lip Balm:
My usual lipstick isn’t moisturizing enough for a long flight, so I pack a lip balm as well,. (I’m liking these Moroccan Magic organic lip balms at the moment. I love it when a promotional product actually makes it into my packing list!) Since I’m outdoors a lot when I travel, I use it on my trips too.

A sleep mask:
Yes, you will look like Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” And perhaps this is a little diva-like. But I’m a light sleeper and I swear, I always seem to end up next to the guy that insists opening the window shade when everybody else is sleeping, so I’ll do whatever it takes to snag those extra few minutes of sleep.

What about you?
What are your flight must haves?
What do you think is most uncomfortable part of flying?
What are your tips for getting comfortable on a plane?

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