35 Tips for a Successful Flight
Avoid a serious case of cabin fever with these 35 tips to keep you—and, more importantly, your kids—happy, healthy, and distracted on even the longest flight.
BLOCK OUT THE NOISE To block out noise on a long flight or in a noisy hotel, I downloaded an 80-minute white-noise track from iTunes onto my iPod. I keep the track on repeat, and it works wonders. It was only $10—which is much cheaper than a sound machine or noise-canceling headphones—and since it's on my iPod, I don't have to pack anything extra. Kim Paschen, Philadelphia, Pa.
VISIT THE SPA FROM YOUR SEAT Flights tend to dry out my skin and sinuses, so I always pack a rolled-up washcloth in my carry-on. During the flight, I ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water, then dip the washcloth and place it over my face. Breathing in the steam helps my sinuses, and the warm, damp cloth hydrates my skin. Meekyung Chung, West Bloomfield, Mich.
TAKE A BREAK FROM EVERYONE I like to sleep on the plane, but I don't like how eye masks block everything out. Instead, I wear sunglasses. They still shut out much of the harsh airplane light, making it easier to sleep, but I can also see around me when I need to. Even better, people don't bother me because they can't tell if I'm asleep or not. Katherine Boury, Seattle
WEAR YOURSELF OUT I always try to work out before heading to the airport. It usually gets me tuckered out enough that I can relax and sleep on the plane. If I don't have time for pre-travel exercise, I take a brisk walk through the terminal before boarding or find a quiet spot in an empty gate and practice a little yoga. Kimberly Gilbert, Raleigh, N.C.
PACK A PILLOW Therm-a-Rest's Compressible Pillow is perfect for the plane. It comes in three sizes, packs smaller and expands bigger than any other pillow, and is machine-washable. Whenever I pull mine out of my carry-on, I get jealous stares: People always ask where they can get one. REI sells the pillows for $15 to $25, depending on the size (rei.com). Sheila Lauber, Anderson Island, Wash.
BRING YOUR OWN LINENS They're useful in a million different ways. Obviously a soft cotton pillowcase makes those scratchy airplane pillows bearable, but it can also be used to gather loose items when deplaning. A nice sheet will cover up an ugly bedspread or sofa, and makes a great tablecloth or picnic blanket. Dori Egan, Pleasant Hill, Calif.
TAKE A "BATH" For long, overnight flights, pack a dry washcloth in a Ziploc bag in your carry-on. Right before landing, ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot (not boiling) water. Very carefully pour the water into the Ziploc bag and then wipe your face and hands with the steaming cloth. It's like having a portable sauna! Henrietta Scarlett Ober, Rexford, N.Y.
PAMPER YOURSELF Create your own comfort kit—the kind that a few international airlines still give their first—and business-class passengers. Fill a Ziploc bag with some lip balm, a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, a small bottle of hand lotion, a sleep mask, a pair of socks, and some eye drops. Don't forget to bring a bottle of water, too. Carolyn Whitman, Gulf Breeze, Fla.
HAVE A BALL I always pack an inflatable beach ball in my carry-on for long flights. When I'm ready to sleep, I just blow it up, put it on my tray table, and curl over it to sleep. I don't have to worry about my head bobbing from side to side as I sleep, and I never have a sore neck when I wake up. Connie Race, Tooele, Utah
HAVE A BALL, TAKE TWO A beach ball can replace many expensive in-flight gadgets. Depending on how much you inflate it, the ball can function as a very comfortable footrest, as back support, or as a lap pillow to support your book. Dorothy Vincent, New York, N.Y.
REST YOUR FEET Many airlines give passengers socks to wear on long international flights, but we all know what a sad mess airplane lavatories can be after a few hours. I keep a pair of rubber-soled slippers in my carry-on and slip them on as soon as we're airborne. My feet stay comfortable during the flight and dry when I use the lav. When it's time to take them off, I slip them into a plastic bag (usually one of the free laundry bags found in the hotel room closet) and tuck them away till my next flight. Lori Lamb, Peoria, Ariz.
DON'T MIND THE MIDDLE The middle seat isn't always awful. On a recent trip overseas, I called too late to confirm an aisle or window seat. After explaining the plane's AB-CDEFG-HI configuration, the customer service agent urged me to take the very middle seat, E, because D and F have less footroom. (In some rows, there are metal boxes underneath the seats in front of you that house wiring for onboard electronics.) I went along with her advice somewhat skeptically, but I ended up with plenty of room. The people on either side of me weren't so lucky. Audrey Ting, Secaucus, N.J.