It was about three hours before catching my flight to Tampa, Florida, that it hit me it might be a smart idea to start packing. Trust me, it’s always like this. Packing is one of the most complicated steps of the travel process for me because according to my travel creed, you can’t pack your main bag until you’ve already packed your carry-on, because well, what if you decide last-minute that you don’t want a 500-page book bulking up your carry-on bag, but try to stuff it in your main bag and there’s no room? Fail. That’s why I’ve learned you must pack your carry-on first, but even that presents difficulties because you have to estimate how much room you need for your laptop that’s still charging and for those snacks you still have to buy. I get it; times are tough, and what you pack in your carry-on will ultimately decide the nature of your inflight experience and that’s why I take mine seriously.
I don’t know about you, but something freaks me out about being stuck on an airplane with nothing to do besides resorting to my phone on airplane mode or even worse, staring at bad advertisements in SkyMall, although a quick skim through does tend to happen every flight. Reading through the March 2014 issue, I can’t help but wonder if people consult graphic designers before publishing ads in SkyMall? Visuals aside, I found products with names like “Slip…aaahs” for…you guessed it, slippers; the “Talking Dog Collar” so you can hear your dog speaking English; and my personal favorite, the “Looq,” a twenty-four inch pole you can use to take group selfies. Their tagline is, “Embarrassed when asking strangers to take pictures?” Um, no; I’m more embarrassed to fling a twenty-four inch metal pole in the air to take one silly picture.
This is why you bring other things to do on a flight. I’d like to present my minimalist list of carry-on musts:
Laptop and charger.
Derr. When you’re a broke travel blogger, you use the dead time on your flights to rack up your blog count. Psh, who am I kidding, that never actually happens when I want it to, so I tend to just take it back to the basics with some Solitaire or Backgammon (and no, I’m not 85).
Bringing your laptop for onboard entertainment is not rocket science, but one thing many people don’t do is preload web pages to read on the plane. News articles, interesting blogs, song lyrics, emails to which you can start drafting responses – you see the possibilities?
The people who say travel is expensive are the people who buy a bottle of water for $3.99 at the airport. Don’t be that person. The TSA won’t let you take through a water bottle filled with water through Security, but what they will let you take through Security is a water bottle not filled with water. From there, you can go to one of the stations near the restrooms to fill up your bottle. Why you think I carry my FIJI bottle everywhere?
Hair wax container.
Or any container. You can use this to stash your headphones, gum, or money, so they’re not all just chillin’ at the bottom of your bag collecting the grimy lint. We’ve all owned a pair of earphones that used to be white.
I tend to use hair wax containers for their actual purpose: the hair wax. Shocker but hey, this Indiana-bred, dry, dirty blonde hair without product looks like a fluffball, and since gel is too Ross Gellar, I have to carry along something as my choice product so I don’t look like Richard Simmons the entire flight.
It’s also cylindrical which means you can drop that baby on the floor and roll your foot on it for a nice foot massage…and that actually is not a joke. We typically recommend bringing along a tennis ball, but a container is also heavy-duty and multipurpose.
Warby Parker glasses.
If you’re blind like me (-4.25 haaaaay), it’s an absolute must to bring your glasses. Extra points for quirky frames that make you look like you just walked out of the MoMa. If I suffer an eyelash-on-the-contact attack and my entire eye goes red, I can’t just stick it out for the rest of the flight. Did I mention I have terrible eyesight, where I seriously would have to get two inches from my screen to even see what I’m typing right now?
Aside from potential eyelash attacks, carrying along your glasses is also helpful in the case that you want to sleep onboard and are one of those people who follow your Opthamologist’s orders and never wear your contacts while sleeping.
What’s great about Muji notebooks is that many are unlined, which is great for creative weirdos like me who want to use a notebook for many things. I use mine to write blogs (again, only half-true) or to write grocery lists, to-do lists, episode treatments, travel itineraries, study notes, etc.
Of course agendas are a great way to organize your upcoming weeks and flights are an appropriate time to catch up on all of that, but ever since 7th grade, I have used my agenda to also jot down what I did that day. It takes ten seconds. It’s the best feeling to flip back to three months ago and laugh again at something funny that happened, or to see who you had met up for coffee with, or what happened that one night at the bar and think “damn, that was three months ago!” You can tell yourself that you’ll remember, but most people can’t even remember something interesting that happened last week. I know I wouldn’t be able to without my adopted Muji agenda-baby.
Two Muji pens.
You need something to write with.
There is nothing worse on a flight (besides maybe crashing) than not knowing the time or how much time in the flight you have left. Mind you, it may be 2014, but not every flight has TVs in the back of every headrest. I particularly don’t enjoy that moment when your flight attendant asks you a question, and you try to open your mouth to respond, but realize the airplane is so loud that your voice is nearly mute. Repeating yourself three times is not a good look for anyone; buy a watch, people. It’s also handy when you’re traveling between time zones and are not sure if your phone automatically changed time or not.
Nothing hits home more for me than a book in French to show me how bad my French has gotten despite working part-time as a French professor (read: translating every word). It’s always a nice feeling to pick up some new vocab or practice a rusty grammar concept.
So, you’ll have your own go-to items that you stash in your carry-on, but these are my recommendations, so you don’t plan to just sleep the entire time then get stuck next to the screaming baby or think you’ll just watch a movie onboard only to find out that movie is Gigli.
I’ll leave you with this; As I write this post on my laptop, I glanced at the article my neighbor is reading and it turns out to be another classic ad for a SkyMall product: the Zombie Statue that makes it look like a bronze-coated zombie is crawling out of your nicely landscaped garden. Give it up for SkyMall, Ladies and Gentlemen!
Let’s be honest though, I’m just wondering what happened to that one ridiculous blow-up cushion you could put on your lap and lean your head on…?