In-flight Essentials  – A Packing List

This is a summary of the in-flight essentials – items I pack on most longer flights. I add and subtract according to the duration of the flight and the destination I’m headed to.

Note: this isn’t a sponsored post and any items linked to are done so for reference.
In-flight essentials

Ultimate In-Flight Essentails

Apart from my passport, wallet, laptop and hard drives (these latter two items slide into a cover inside my carry-on trolley) the items above are my essentials and I pack them into a handbag with long straps to have within easy access on the flight. The long straps, I find, help to sling and carry the bag comfortably over the shoulder – the waiting to get to a restroom, a seat at an airport restaurant, a shower in a lounge and finally to board can be long and tiresome and hell on your shoulder/s and back. I carry a lightweight bag these days (currently a bright fabric bag by Vivienne Westwood from her Ethical Fashion Initiative collection made by women in Kenya – nicknamed the “beach bag” by the better half), with long leather straps, and my Mac Airbook can slip in comfortably too, when I need to work.

Food & the Fabulous Top TipThe aviation rules fluctuate  and the international and various domestic rules have recently changed pertaining to how to carry your quota of cosmetics and meds. Some customs regulations still insist you pack your products for personal use in a small zip-lock or sealable plastic bag, others don’t (seem to) mind a small purse. The same applies to liquids like water – on domestic flights within South Africa, you’re now allowed to carry a small bottle of water.*

*Note: This isn’t permitted on flights out of the country. Keep an eye on the signs around  the security check-in area and comply accordingly.

1. Keep Me warm

I always pack a lightweight, inexpensive wrap. Inexpensive, in case you spill food and drink on it…which can happen – hello, turbulence! But pashmina-it-up, as you see fit! Airplane temperatures swing around wildly and I always rely on my fresh-smelling wrap to keep me feeling warm when the aircon is on full blast and to shield my face when the attendants walk through with the anti-bug spray. It also works to cover your face from a nosy (or smelly) neighbour, announcing that you’re not up for a conversation. Now, or ever! Earphones and an eye mask also get the message across effectively. I find I actually use the eye-mask these days  – it seems everyone wants to eat and drink and talk at all hours of the day on a flight, and I really prefer to use the time for reflection or to just rest quietly.

I pack airplane compression socks – though I’m inconsistent with using them, but I always pull on a pair of warm socks on long flights – not pictured. I can’t snooze with cold feet, so it’s a dealbreaker in my case.

2. Keep Me Fresh

In-flight toiletry essentials

Must-have toiletry essentials

The TSA regulations allow for 100 ml or less of liquids or gels that fit into a quart or 0.94 litre sealable, see-through bag. I’ve found the rules have relaxed a bit since 2012 (but please, do check regularly). So now I pack my little products into a purse – like the ones the airlines give you, and place that into a ziplock bag. But I think I’ll revert to using the zip lock bags again going forward.

 Food & the Fabulous Top TipMake sure the bottles and lids are tightly shut  – cabin pressure  fluctuates and you can end up with a mess. I use a little bit of cling film tightly wound around a tube or bottle if I’m not sure.




What do I take? A rich face cream, something very moisturising for my lips like Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour cream which also doubles as an eye cream, cuticle oil and hair tamer (I have it in tiny tubes or decant into a little pot), a small shower gel (for those long-haul flights where you can squeeze a much-needed shower in between), body cream or hand creamdisposable shower cap, hair bands (these things have legs, man), a tiny bottle of perfume, tissues and a pack of half-full (it can get heavy if you take a new pack) moisturising face wipes that double up for a shower-in-a-packet when you’re in transit. I also pack a tiny solid antiperspirant on longer trips and if I’m struggling to sleep and desperately need to catch up on zzzzs on the flight before an assignment, I’ll take a bit of a balm with lavender in it to rub on my neck and pulse points. I cover myself with the wrap, block out the lights with the eyemask and start counting sheep….[airplane travel is never relaxing, for so many reasons]

I pack an itsy tube of toothpaste and a small toothbrush – but the airlines usually give it to you on long-haul flights too. I find my own stash is essential on those multiple-stop journeys – international and domestic – so you get to your final destination not smelling and looking like furry cheese.

I always try to buy a bottle of water at the first permissible point before I get onto the plane. Unless you’re flying business or first class, it’s a long, long wait before your parched throat will get a drop, even if you beg. On the flight, I stick to drinking just water and resist any alcoholic drinks (unless Champagne and flying from Paris- oui!)

Food & the Fabulous Top Tip - EssentialsThis is where those samples you get with your regular products become invaluable. You can get a good two to three applications out of each tube and they weigh very little. I often lose them at the bottom of my bag after a purchase, but make an effort to keep them in a drawer with the onboard supplies. If you don’t have samples, you’ll have to decant into little bottles – most pharmacies and toiletry stores keep them.



3. Keep Me Safe

First aid essentials

Mini first-aid kit

I pack a mini first-aid kit with painkillers, tablets for nausea, diarrhea and stomach cramps, as well as a nasal spray to clear my nasal passages and ear canal before take-off and landing, allergy (antihistamine) tablets because I suffer from hayfever and various pet fur and related allergies, eye drops, lozenges, a little bit of soothing cream for rashes and bites and most importantly: mupirocin (like nasal Bactroban) to eliminate staphylococcal bacteria from the nasal passages, rife on planes, I believe. Well, staph. can exist for days on a plane, but a little application has become my crutch. I also throw in a few plasters into the med. kit. I’m using some colourful mesh bags to store items in my bag. Let’s see how long this sense of order lasts though…


4. Keep Me Entertained

Entertainment essentials

On-board entertainment essentials

I take a charger for my phone (though I do use a Mophie charger case too – too many apps means I’m always in search of juice) – often the plane will have an outlet to charge my phone. I rarely watch movies, but I take my earphones to listen to music and podcasts – New Yorker Fiction, Modern Love and Serial are my favourites. I take my iPad to read on the Kindle, but more often than not these days I’ll take a novel and a guide related to the place I’m headed to. I can’t travel without something to read, even if I plan to sleep on an overnight flight I can’t close my eyes without getting a few pages in at least…And if all else fails, I scribble out a set of to-do lists in my now illegible scrawl in a paper notebook. I find the pens are as pesky as the hairbands and will roam, so now I’m allowing myself to “just live” and take the precious pens with me for the ride

If you’re wondering about the snacks – you’d be correct: I do pack some. Where would the Fab be without the Food?! Chocolate, pecan nuts and a small Tupperware with carrot and cucumber sticks, but only on the very long flights. Say what you will about biz class, airplane food sucketh. 

Again, what I pack depends on the duration of the flight and the destination.

What’s your essential in-flight item?

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