My Travel Survival Kit

I am about to embark on a litte European/North American travel extravaganza which is going to last two months, use up all my money, and hopefully refresh me for another grueling round of ESL teaching applications and interviews. My trip was delayed, but I saw the change of plans as an opportunity for adventure, so I will be dropping in on some friends in Germany now on my way to France.

I love traveling, but sometimes the getting there part can be really challenging. Especially when you can’t afford first class, direct flights, and bullet trains. So as I prepare to go, I thought I would share with you some of things I pack for long hauls and longer layovers.

Sleep Aids: No, it doesn’t have to be medicine to help you sleep (though sometimes I do toss medicine like Advil in my bag to help relieve headaches caused by cabin pressure). Think about the things you’ll need to be comfortable, especially while flying coach. A neck pillow might be a good investment– especially an inflateable one that can be easily stowed in your bag when you land. A sleep mask may also be useful when your seatmate is awake watching movies or using the reading light beside you.

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Extra Clothes: I am one of those people who are always cold. And plane cabins have notoriously unpredictable temperatures. I like to dress in layers (to keep my suitcase light) and bring an extra jacket and wide shawl/scarf I can use as a blanket when the temperature starts dropping.

Skincare: Plane cabins not only tend to be cold, but also dry. My dry sensitive skin can feel like cracking and peeling after 14 hours in the air. I pack a little kit of supplies such as cleansing wipes (not part of your liquids allowance and easy to use at your seat) and moisturizer for my face and hands. Solid lotion bars will also save you on your liquids allowance and you can use them to keep your hands and body feeling moist and supple. A small bottle of toner might be helpful as well if you have acne prone skin.

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Hygiene basics: Sometimes I end up in transit for more than 24 hours at a time. So having the basics of my daily hygiene ritual are extremely important. This includes toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and often dry shampoo. If you have a long layover in a well-equipped airport, you might get the opportunity to do the works with a full shower. Othewise, dry shampoos and deodorant are helpful cheats that let you feel somewhat human again.

Digital Equipment: A power bank or travel charger is indispensible. Charge it over night and depending on the size, it can charge your phone, tablet, or ereader up to four times. That tablet or ereader is also very useful on flights and layovers. Load them up with books, podcasts, and games. And don’t forget your earphones–noise canceling if possible.

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Analog Equipment: I am an analog sort of girl. I love paper books, notebooks, pens, etc. And this can come in handy while traveling. If you’re going to be taking a lot of trains and buses while traveling (as I will be in Europe) you don’t necessarily want to be flashing your tech around. Pickpocketing and purse cutting are very common crimes in many big cities. I am happy to pretend to be a penniless student (while I’m still young enough to sort of pull that off) with a paperback and notebook. Besides, I love to write and taking notes about what I see is a big part of traveling for me.

Snacks: Airports sell food and often so do trains. However, I don’t want to blow half my budget on buying food during a ten hour layover. Nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, and chocolate are some of my favorites to pack. Airports, in my experience always have water fountains. So bring a bottle to fill up instead of wasting money on drinks. Water is the best way to keep your body healthy and fight jet lag.

If you’re new to long-haul flights and long layovers, hopefully this article will give you some ideas on how to survive it. If you’re a veteran of this style of travel, what are some of your most valuable items?