I love to travel, but I hate hate hate flying. Actually, it’s not the flying I hate so much as it is the ordeal it takes to get to and from the plane. Being on the plane, up in the air–that’s cake…usually. But the rest of the air travel experience is something I could do without.
I spend a lot of time on airplanes. Maybe not as much as, say, an executive who flies from city to city on a weekly basis, but certainly more than I’d ever expected to. In fact, I never set foot on an airplane until I was 22 years old. Now, living three thousand plus miles from my entire family, I make the cross-country flight from California to Ohio (and back) at least 4 times a year. Throw in a couple of flights for conferences and the odd vacation, and I’m typically at 10 round-trips a year, with many of those having at least a couple legs. Boy, do my arms get tired!
I have no fear of flying, but I dread every minute spent in the airport. Maybe it has something to do with the hour I fly at (I’m typically torn from my bed around 3:00 a.m. to catch a shuttle to the airport for my 6:00 a.m. flight), but I am certainly at my least patient and most irritable in airports. Between the unseasonsed travellers, the over-priced food and beverages, the akwardness of dragging luggage through crowds and into bathrooms, and the lack of communication from the airlines regarding flight status, it’s enough to frazzle the most sedate of us. That’s why I make sure to always pack some zen.
My carry-on bag is my solace from the colicky babies, angry men on cell phones, and overly cheerful (though ultimately unhelpful) airline employees. After 5-ish years of flying, I’m finally getting close to the perfect bag of zen to get me through just about anything–including late nights on horrid airport benches and floors. I just made the big West > East Coast flight this past weekend; here are the contents of my latest goody bag:
Tea — I’m not a fan of the standard black tea they serve on airplanes, so I always keep a stash of my favorite teas on hand when I fly. This trip I brought Tazo’s Zen (green), Calm (chamomile) & Passion Teas, Bigelow Peppermint Tea, and Trader Joe’s Revive Tea. A nice alternative to coffee, with less caffeine so I can actually catch a few Zs on the plane. I just ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water when they come through the cabin for the beverage service.
“Snacks” — This can vary tremendously from flight to flight, depending on the length, time of day, destination, budget, etc. Since my last flight was a redeye, snacks were minimal–individual packets of omega-3 trail mix from Trader Joe’s, a third of a Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate bar, and a Quaker Fiber & Omega-3 dark chocolate granola bar. Other time I bring whatever I have on hand in my appartment that can travel at room-temperature and needs to be eaten: chopped veggies, crackers, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, string cheese, granola, cookies, etc.
Peppermints — Sure, I have that fantasy that I’ll end up seated next to a savvy, sweet, sophisticated, appropriately chatty dreamboat. Ooh, and handsome–dashingly handsome–did I mention that? Never happens. I’m always next to the way-to-talkative, recently divorced, older than my father creeper who patronized my politics and career choice while at the same time thinking he’s actually got a chance at getting my phone number. Delusional much? Ahem…back to the mints: they’re not just for keeping my breath fresh for Mr. Dreamy! Peppermints are also good for calming my tummy if I start to feel a little uneasy during some turbulence (and don’t have a dashing seatmate to occupy my attention!).
Oral-B Brush-Ups — These little strips slip over an index finger and have little minty nubs to brush your teeth in a pinch. Note: Poking your index finger around your mouth cleaning your teeth this way is NOT a pretty site; best to do this in the airport or airplane lavatory and NOT while seated next to Mr. Dreamy.
Reading material — I’ll bring a good book, but only if I happen to have already started it prior to the flight. I can never seem to get into a new book on a flight. I usually end up bringing the most recent issue of one of my magazine subscriptions. I can flip through and bookmark pages for future perusing if I’m not keen on doing any in-depth article reading. Aside from their bulk and heft, fall issues of fashion magazines are great for flying because of all their pretty pictures!
iPod — An iPod full of great music is a no-brainer for any long trip, even a commute! I have mine with me constantly, so it’s natural that I would have it in my carry-on! In addition to my music library, before a flight I load recent podcasts from some of my favorite NPR programs. Music is great for tuning out or falling asleep, but occasionally I want something a bit more engaging, and podcasts are great for that. In-flight is a good time to catch up on recent programs I’ve missed, too. Just be sure to keep your tabs on your iPod! They’re easy to lose in airplane seat pockets. Last spring I was flying with a broken arm and inadvertantly left my sweet little iPod Nano in the seat pocket in my struggle to deal with my other luggage one-handed. Sadly, I’m now reduced to my old OLD old-school iPod Shuffle til I can justify buying a new iPod.
Big fuzzy wool socks — I tend to travel in ballet flats–they’re cute yet comfy and easy to jog in if necessary to make a connection! However, I do not typically like to wear socks with flats, so things can get a little dicey when I have to take my shoes off at security. Not every airport provides little booties for your feet anymore, so I’ve taken to bringing my own temporary foot covering. Not only do they get my feet safely through security, they’re also great in-flight if I want to kick off my shoes and get a bit more cozy. I got this great pair in New Zealand and they go absolutely everywhere with me now!
Hair bands, bobby pins, and a collapsable hair brush — Self-explanatory.
Quart-sized Ziploc full of liquids — Eye drops, saline nasal spray, contact solution, hand lotion, face lotion, lip gloss, mini tube of mascara, tiny tube of white shimmery cream eye shadow, concealer, tiny tube of Aquaphor, Solar Oil (nail oil), roller-ball applicator of grapefruit-vanilla perfume, and two allergy nasal sprays. Yup, that all fits into a quart-sized Ziploc. The eye drops, saline nasal spray, and lotions are especially crucial to surviving the dry cabin on a long flight. OH! And I almost forgot: antibacterial hand gel is a must. Noooooo swine flu! Stay away swine flu (among other things)!
Other non-liquid toiletry types — Smith’s Rosebud Salve, Burt’s Bees Lemon Cuticle Cream, travel contact lens case, compact mirror, ibuprofen, Neutrogena power mineral foundation, inhaler. tissues, individually-wrapped wet naps.
Eyeglasses — I always make sure to pack essential, irreplaceable, things which I cannot do without for long (if at all) in a carry-on. These things include prescriptions and other daily medications, jewelry, small electronics like my camera and laptop, checkbook, wallet, etc. While much of this can be safely stowed in my larger carry-on in the overhead bin, my glasses are always in my smaller “goody bag” under the seat in front of me–that is, if they aren’t on my face. My glasses aren’t reading glasses; they’re a replacement for my contact lenses. My contacts do not fare well in the cabin’s dry air, and while I leave them in and refresh my eyes with eyedrops on short flights, for long or redeye flights I take my contacts out and opt for glasses.
My bag of zen is a work in progress, updated as my needs and whims change. I have a sturdy shoulder bag that is my dedicated carry-on, and keep many of these necessities in it, stocked and ready for my next flight. When I’m packing, I simply add fresh snacks and the staples (glasses, cosmetics, etc.) that I’ve been using daily since my last flight. It takes a couple of extra minutes during the ugly packing process, but this bag has been the saving grace for many a late night trapped inside Chicago’s infamous O’Hare Airport.
What are your must haves for flights–or long trips, more generally? Maybe you’ll inspire an addition to my goody bag!