Normally I’m a girl who understands the importance of minimalist travel. Plan accordingly and don’t take more than you need! I can remember the words, “It’s never cute to schlep” being ingrained in me as a child from a mother who ALWAYS checked her luggage for fear of not “looking cute“ while strolling through the airport. For me, however, international travel is a bit of a different story. I overpack my carry-on a tad. It’s just something about 13 hours in the air that makes me want to be prepared for any and everything. Keep reading! I share some of my travel necessities and I hope it helps you prepare for your next international flight, even if you do have to schlep a bit!
1. Durable Carry-on Bag
Instead of carrying on a small tote like I normally do, my go to carry-on for international travel is my Louis Vuitton Keepall 50. I think it’s perfect for schlepping in style and it fits under the seat which is super important to me since I’m a window seat girl and don’t want to keep getting up to get into the overhead bin. Also, this bag is the perfect size for stuffing just about everything you will need for your flight!
2. Neck Pillow
I was against getting a neck pillow for YEARS! It looked so uncomfortable and I never understood the point, but with a trip to Homegoods a little bit ago I found one for cheap and now I’m hooked. Now it’s a bit too cumbersome for normal, domestic travel but for a 13 hour flight, those pillows that they give out on the plane just won’t do the trick and I need something a little more comfortable. I got mine for so cheap and it’s totally worth it.
I am ALWAYS cold so you can just imagine how I feel on planes. No matter how many layers I put on I feel like I’m trapped in an igloo in a tank top and the polyester blankets on the plane do absolutely nothing for me. For international flights, I bring my own travel down comforter from Restoration Hardware. Since it’s down it folds up super small and fits easily into any carry on bag without taking up all the room. And it’s perfect for individual use! It keeps you so warm and it’s totally worth it.
4. Spare Clothes
I have heard countless stories about people on their honeymoon, work trip or just a dream vacation who had their checked bag lost by the airline. As a result they are forced to search the local market for a sarong to wear as a dress and wash and rewash the same pair of underwear until the airline finds their bag and gets it to them. That could take days and is far too stressful! Here’s my tip: Get a gallon zip lock bag (it’s small and you can squeeze all the air out) and pack at least 2-3 pairs of underwear, a plain t-shirt dress, and a pair of leggings. That way, no matter what you’re covered!
5. Toiletry bag
Prepare for anything and everything! What if your bags are lost? Pack your deodorant in your carry-on toiletry bag. This year I went a little overboard since it’s cold and flu season so I packed a ton of Motrin, theraflu and anything else I can find should I happen to fall ill. Worst nightmare? Falling ill 1 hour into a 13 hour flight with no medicine! Be prepared! And after several hours of flying you will need gum or a mint why not pack a small toothbrush and toothpaste so you can always have the freshest breath! To help me fall asleep (since Diphenhydramine, the main component in many drowsy meds gives me a bad reaction), I just love these lavender toilettes I found at Anthropologie they are calming and really help to relax me.
6. Compression Socks
DVT is real! Aside from all of the health reasons, who wants to arrive with swollen ankles, legs and feet that no longer fit the shoes that you’ve had removed for the past 13 hours? My legs and ankles swell terribly and only exacerbated by the fact that I’m a window seat girl who hates plane bathrooms so I’m pretty much glued to my seat the whole flight. Since my dad gets terrible blood clots, I’m extremely cautious. Invest in a pair of compression socks, you can literally get them anywhere and arrive alive and with legs that are swell-free!
I’m often asked how I can travel for so long and not be bored. Keep yourself entertained! The movies shown on the plane and the selection can be hit or miss depending upon the carrier (Ethiad never fails with this!) so download you own. I always bring my laptop with several pre-downloaded movies and tv shows. My rule of thumb is a longtime fave and a newbie to check out. If you’re sick of the screen pick up a book or magazine and the time will surely fly by.
Since my mom doesn’t work in the airline industry anymore, gone are the days of shrimp cocktail in the first class cabin. Now, it seems to be whatever mystery concoction they can throw on a tray and label as food. I’m taking no chances so I bring my own and I go a bit crazy. I’m a snacker so I pack fruit bars, my favorite cookies, pretzels, fruit, cheese and then one actual meal. Even if it’s just a sandwich you’ll be thankful you had it when you pull back the Saran Wrap on that unidentifiable curry fish dish.
For some reason, without fail, I am given a little side eye from several on air passengers for sanitizing my space. It’s crazy! Everything is filthy on a plane and who wouldn’t want to wipe their seat down after some flu infested 2 year old has been sneezing on the tray table, standing in the seat and wiping grubby, sticky hands on the seatbelt. I may be a bit of a germaphobe but I’m taking no chances. I pack Chlorox wipes for my seat and tray table and some sort of hand wipe before I eat. Maybe I’m crazy but I never regret it!
11. Noise-Canceling Headphones
You make your way to the back of the plane to find your seat only to find out that you are seated directly behind an infant on this long, long flight across the world. You sink into your seat and wonder how you’ll ever make it through. My Bose noise-canceling headphones have been my lifesaver in these instances! You can’t hear a thing and will surely be able to sleep or focus on your favorite movie. I love my Bose not only because the noise canceling is top notch but because people can’t hear your music around you so you can crank up the volume and tune out everything around you.
This is small but one that so many people forget about. On a recent trip to the Bahamas we of course, had to fill out our cards for customs. Well NO ONE on the plane packed a pen so we were all passing around so poor man’s pen that he was smart enough to pack. Tuck it in an easily accessible place and you’ll be so thankful you had it! Even if it’s just to complete that crossword puzzle in the airplane magazine.
I hope you feel just a little more prepared for your next international trip. I always make a checklist and don’t check something off until it is physically placed in my bag. Don’t put anything in your checked bag that’s extremely valuable or irreplaceable- keep it with you! Dress in layers, wear comfy shoes and you can relax in knowing you are more than ready for the next 13 hours!