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When flying, it’s important to carry the right essentials

After covering travel products for years, I’ve grown a strong appreciation for the art of proper packing — especially where plane travel and carry-on luggage is concerned. When preparing for long-haul flights, it’s a daunting and often frustrating task to decide what exactly should go in a carry-on bag, and — even more stressful — how to make it all fit. 

Over a number of years, I’ve tested the very best products for travel and there’s a small but strong lineup of items I reach for again and again when preparing for a trip. Read on for the products I simply refuse to fly without to give myself the most luxurious in-flight experience — even with an economy ticket. 

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Essential items for long-haul flights

When traveling by plane, especially on long-haul or red-eye flights, there are a few nifty products that can make a traditionally stressful trip go much more smoothly. A vacation should be fun, and therefore, you’ll want to make sure you’re stocked up on products to allow you to enjoy your flight. Dare I say, you may even be able to catch some sleep with the items listed below at the ready. 

Hydrating skin and lip care

One thing I never fly without is a deeply hydrating moisturizer that can be applied to my face, hands and body. Plane cabins are notoriously drying on your skin, so it’s important to replenish the moisture throughout the journey. A multitasking moisturizer that can address multiple parts of the body is best when luggage real estate is slim (and you need to comply with the Transportation Security Administration’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids in carry-ons). 

I also like to carry a little bottle of Aquaphor. Not only can it be used as a moisturizer for your body, it doubles as a deeply hydrating lip and eye mask. Plus, it has first aid benefits as it can address small cuts and skin injuries that may come up in transit. Additionally, I tote a trusty lip balm — I like stick form for travel, since it doesn’t count as a liquid for TSA purposes. 

My eyes tend to get the most dry when I’m in the air, so I always tote some hydrating and refreshing under-eye masks. I especially like to use them when I wake up after a nap, if I’m able to catch one. I pack individually wrapped eye patches, which are the most convenient for on-the-go use. 

A reusable water bottle

I love my Stanley tumbler as much as the next person, but the clunky silhouette is just not the most practical for travel. Instead, when I fly, I bring my Owala Free Sip, which seals shut to prevent spills, but still has a nifty straw for easy drinking. It’s great for use in flight when you can’t seem to flag a flight attendant. Just be sure to empty it before going through security. Once through, you can refill it at a public fountain near your gate or you can ask your flight attendant to fill it up for you once onboard. 

Items to promote better sleep

I’m not here to lie to you and say it’s easy to catch eight hours of rest on a red-eye flight. (They’re called the red eyes for a reason.) But there are a few simple things you can do to make yourself more comfortable, and therefore make it more likely that you’ll at least be able to sneak in an extended nap, if not a full night’s worth of sleep. Whether it’s a sweater to keep me warm, a packable blanket, an eye mask with Bluetooth ear phones or an inflatable pillow contraption to promote a comfortable sleeping position, I make sure to give myself the most luxurious sleep experience an economy ticket can afford. 

The perfect travel bags

Not all bags are created equal. To fly, you need something that sits in the right sweet spot between compact and roomy. My favorite travel bags are from Lo & Sons because the well-thought-out designs accommodate all my on-the-go needs, including trolley sleeves, shoe pockets, laptop sleeves and more. I usually fly with a roomy (yet not oversized) tote that can double as a carry-on and a beach bag or day trip bag, plus a smaller crossbody for exploring cities and night life hands-free. 

Best carry-on-friendly travel products

Lo & Sons O.G. 2 Laptop Bag

This might be the most perfect travel tote ever created. Spacious enough to fit all of my in-flight belongings, including a 15-inch laptop and my 24-ounce water bottle, the nylon zip-up tote even has a separate shoe compartment. Still, it’s comfortable to carry and has a convenient trolley strap so you can affix it to your suitcase.

Lo & Sons Ayoma 4-in-1 Bag

When traveling, versatility is key. Instead of packing multiple purses, I carry this sheepskin leather bag which can transform into four different styles — a clutch, a shoulder bag, a long shoulder bag and a crossbody bag — by simply adjusting the strap. It’s spacious yet light to carry and has a zipper closure for added security.  

Quince Mongolian Cashmere Wrap

Instead of a traditional travel blanket, I pack this cozy 100% Mongolian cashmere wrap, which keeps me plenty warm on a flight, but can also be used as a scarf or chic wrap during my trip. It comes in 11 gorgeous colors and carries a very affordable price tag compared to traditional retail prices for most cashmere products.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream

Packed with glycerin and niacinamide, this deeply hydrating lotion is safe for use on your face, hands and all over your body. This set includes a travel-friendly tube, plus a larger bottle to use at home or to refill your mini from. 

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Travel Size

The does-it-all balm helps heal dry, cracked and irritated skin and lips with a single nourishing swipe. A little goes a long way with this petrolatum-based product, so the 0.7-ounce tube should last you a while. 

Grace & Stella Energizing Eye Masks

Revive tired and puffy eyes with these hyaluronic acid- and glycerin-packed undereye patches. The gold eye masks feel just as good as they look, thanks to the inclusion of hydrolyzed vegetable protein, chrondrus crispus powder, trahalose and amino acids.

NIVEA Dewy Lip Care with Hyaluronic Acid

This hyaluronic acid-packed lip balm feels like a drink of water for your pout. It feels immediately moisturizing on lips and remains that way for hours after. 

Owala FreeSip Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Available in 16-, 24-, 30- and 40-ounce sizes (and plenty of colors!), this double- wall insulated water bottle keeps beverages cold even throughout long-haul flights. Don’t worry about drips or spills in your bag either: The leak-proof bottle has a lid lock to prevent messes. 

Philips One by Sonicare Battery Toothbrush

Yes, you can conveniently travel with an electric toothbrush. This slim-profile version operates on a single AAA battery for a three-month battery life — plenty of time for your next excursion. It even beeps every 30 seconds of brushing to remind you to switch quadrants of your mouth and it has an auto shut-off after two minutes of brushing. 

Sleep Mask with Bluetooth Headphones

Block out the sounds and sights of the plane cabin with these Bluetooth-powered eye mask that contains flush speakers against your ears. I like to drift off to the sounds of an audio book or just play some loud white noise to block out the crying baby in the back. Don’t worry, your seat neighbor won’t be able to hear what you’re listening to. 

Inflatable Travel Air Pillow for Sleeping

Don’t let the clunky silhouette fool you: When deflated, this travel pillow folds down super small. Although it looks awkward, it’s actually the most comfortable sleeping position I’ve been able to get with the use of a plane pillow — sans neck cramps.

Prices listed reflect time and date of publication and are subject to change.

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