The travel season is upon us!

As expats, this time of year could mean one very long distance flight (paid for with the blood, sweat, and tears and no doubt at an expensive premium), or a number of flights stitched together (with a train trip, car ride or boat involved at the end of your journey).  This could mean delayed flights, canceled flights, or #treatyoself by cashing in some frequent flier miles for that upgrade you’ve always dreamed of.

Having flown on one of the longest flights in the world (AUH-LAX), I can tell you that being in the air for 16 hours and 45 minutes is probably too long for anyone to be on a plane (and we were fortunate enough to be flying business class).

Given I tend to make 2-3 long haul RT long haul trips a year, I’ve got my routine down to a bit of a science.  Although I usually am fortunate enough to fly business class, I do make the (very) occasional coach class flight.  Fortunately, living in the Middle East, I have access to three pretty fantastic airlines (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar).  For me, prepping for the flight starts with a specific seat.  Certainly, I’ve gone with the luck of the draw, but if I can, I secure my favorite seat (first bulkhead, directly in front of the bulkhead = no one behind me).  As I get closer to the flight, I obsessively check to see whether or not the seat next to me will be occupied or not.  Sure, this is all a bit of obsessive, but I like to know what I’m getting into.

After almost missing a flight on Christmas Eve 2004, despite leaving four hours early for the airport, I now usually get to the airport 2-3 hours early.  Laugh all you want.  Missing a flight to the States isn’t exactly like missing a regional flight.  After getting through security, I make use of one of the lounges and then head to the gate just about the time the flight starts boarding.

So, what does my carry on contain?

1.  First and foremost, my headphones.  While I’m partial to Beats, I think almost any over the ear types will work.  Yes, more often than not you will receive a pair on the plane, but what if they are broken or not available?  Also, I hate most noises (hello misophonia), so these are essential for cutting out most sounds.

2.  Ear plugs – yup – I double up!  You never know when the screaming baby is going to be seated near you, so I pack these just to be safe.

3.  Disposable socks (an unused pair usually left over from a previous flight).  As soon as I’m in my seat, I take my shoes off, then put on the travel socks over my regular socks and discard after the flight.

4.  Hand sanitizer.  Sharing germs for that many hours?  Seems necessary!

5.   iPad mini loaded with books.  I never know what I’ll feel like reading – so, I have 5-6 books to choose from.  While some people may prefer a physical book, I prefer to carry all my novels with me.

6.  Eye mask.  Although many of my flights are during daylight hours, I might want a snooze.

7.  Pack of Kleenex (for inevitable spills and needs that arise).

8.  Spare shirt (for when I arrive, or if I manage to get something on myself on the plane).

9.  Fleece jacket/pashmina.  It can get cold, or I can use my jacket for a pillow.  Packing these items tends to be the case even if I’m going somewhere warm.

10. Laptop (for writing).  If I can get in the zone, I usually manage a decent writing session on these types of flights.  I’m hoping for a little over 2,000 words tomorrow.

11.  Podcasts/relaxation app.  Sometimes you just want to zone out.  Podcasts are perfect for this, as is the Pzizz sleep app.  Even though it’s very rare for me to sleep while sitting up, the Pzizz app is a great way for me to kind of zen out for as long as I want (you can set the time that you want it to run).  If I were truly clever, I would look for podcasts relevant to where I was traveling, but I don’t usually get that far.

12.  Water in some form.  After getting severly dehydrated on the DXB-BOS flight, I know double check to make sure I pick up a big bottle of water before getting on the plane.

And, as always, I keep my fingers crossed for an upgrade.

What do you carry onboard?  Are there any special treats you make sure to take on a flight?