Traveling on the cheap? Chances are you booked an overnight flight, and chances are there aren’t any extra amenities.
Go ill-prepared and you’ll crawl off that plane with the beginning signs of dehydration and fatigue.
Go well prepared and you’ll step off that runway like it’s a catwalk (maybe not quite, but your breath won’t smell, and we can all think a little better with fresh breath).
So how should you prepare yourself for the challenges of an overnight?
I’m glad you asked. Read on for the 15 essentials to survive long flights.
With these godsends in your carry-on (and/or personal item), you will get through the night.
(And if you’re looking for more tips on finding cheap airfare, check out 12 Ways to Find the Cheapest Flight Possible.)
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15 Essentials to Survive Long Flights
Ah, the most important part of the overnight flight.
You will want to prepare for the worst, in which case I mean children in close proximity.
I honestly think I’ve experienced a screaming baby or a kicking child within close range on every one of my overnight flights.
May the odds be ever in your favor (because they’re certainly not in mine).
1. Eye mask
Some of the schnazzy airlines now have planes whose lights supposedly brighten and dim in response to your inner clock, or something like that.
I don’t really get it, and I don’t really trust it.
And even if these claims are true, your neighbor may have the brightness on their TV screen way up, or they may be using a tablet to the same effect.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep unless it’s pitch black.
To combat those pesky airplane lights or your pesky seatmate, go equipped with an eye mask to block out any unwanted light.
(It also does wonders for repelling chatty neighbors.)
You can’t do an eye mask justice unless you complement it with earplugs.
The earplugs I’ve been using don’t exactly drown out any and all sounds, but they dull most noises and make it much easier to fall asleep.
If you’re buying earplugs, make sure you buy packs with several pairs.
Not only will you likely lose a few during the night, but you will also want to replace them once you get grossed out by the ear gunk that ends up staining them.
(This 50-pack should keep you covered for months on end.)
3. Neck Pillow
You don’t know true pain until you’ve slept sitting up without a buffer between your heavy head and your bony shoulder.
That poor, poor neck of yours.
While you don’t necessarily have to buy a neck pillow (lots of people ball up a sweatshirt or scarf), I’ve found the neck pillow to work a lot better.
Bunched up articles of clothing will fall out of shape pretty easily, so you will likely have to readjust the “pillow” every time you shift (which will be a lot, for the record).
With a neck pillow, you don’t have to worry about readjusting, and you can easily move your head from side to side.
I found The One last year, and haven’t looked back since. It’s filled with some type of sponge-y or foam-y material, and it’s covered in what feels like velvet.
You can check out this similar neck pillow, if you’re on the hunt for something tried-and-true.
I’m a very particular sleeper, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.
So even when it’s pitch black, and there’s no noise, and there’s a comfy pillow under my neck, I sometimes still won’t be able to fall asleep.
I have no explanation for this, because I swear it only happens on overnight flights.
So, I bring in the big guns.
This is a medicine specifically for motion sickness.
I don’t actually know if it takes away motion sickness, because it just knocks you out.
Or maybe that is the solution. Whatever.
It gets the job done.
If you’re enlisting the help of Dramamine on an overnight flight, make sure you buy the drowsy version.
I ALWAYS take it on a full stomach, and try to get it down about thirty minutes to an hour before I actually want to be asleep.
I don’t want to have to say this, but please, don’t abuse the Dramamine.
Overnight flights, especially on the lower budget airlines, will be chilly.
In addition to my inability to sleep naturally on overnight flights, I also have horrible circulation and need to plan for warmth.
If you’re anything like me, you should wear a normal pair of socks; a warm, fuzzy pair of socks; plush-lined tights or any thicker type of leggings; jeans or sweatpants; a t-shirt and/or long-sleeved shirt; a sweatshirt; and a big scarf.
For good measure, I also bring a heavier coat to act as a blanket.
Even if it’s summer time, the plane will be frigid, especially at night. Plan accordingly.
And for all you people who like to sleep in the tundra: I envy you. I don’t understand you. But I still advise that you bring a few layers, just in case.
(If you’re not sure how you’re going to pack all of these clothes in addition to everything else on the list, head over to How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro for some tips.)
6. Glasses Case
For all my fellow four-eyes out there, don’t forget your glasses case!
This is something I always forget to bring, and when it comes time to pop in the Dramamine and slip on the eye mask, I realize I have nowhere to put my glasses.
Usually, they end up in my purse or in the seat pocket in front of me. After that, it’s all up to the elements.
Avoid the possibility of scratching or crushing your glasses by bringing your case!
It’s easy to feel crappy after an overnight flight, often because you haven’t dranken or eaten enough.
But what to do, when your budget airline doesn’t exactly provide the most accommodating services?
Bring your own, and thrive.
7. Water Bottle
A common misconception is that you can’t bring your own water bottle to an airport.
As long as you dump out any liquid before going through security, you’re totally allowed to bring a reusable water bottle (which will save you tons of money…and the environment, while we’re at it).
Make sure you fill it back up at a water fountain or in the bathroom before boarding.
Although the flight attendants will make their rounds periodically, the cups are small, and you never know when they’ll come back to offer you the holy grail.
Stay ahead of the dehydration game by bringing your own water.
(If you want to read more on cutting the cost of travel with reusable items, or cutting the cost of travel in general, head over to The Ultimate Guide to Traveling for Free.)
The same goes for snacks. If you’re flying with the cheapest flight possible, it’s likely that food is not included.
Instead of buying expensive (and sodium-filled) snacks and/or meals on the plane, come prepared.
I usually try to eat dinner before getting on an overnight plane, so I come equipped with things like granola bars and bananas for breakfast the next morning.
This will also save you time and money when you finally arrive at the airport, since you won’t have to worry about finding food.
While 6 hours into the flight you probably won’t care how your breath smells, I’ve added this section not only for your own sanity (seriously, it’s much easier to think clearer when you’re all cleaned up), but for the sanity of others as well.
Remember, there’s limited circulation on an airplane.
9. Hand Sani
Trust me on this one.
You never know if the bathrooms will have run out of soap.
You never know how many people have touched those overhead bins.
You never know.
ALWAYS bring hand sani.
This is really four items in one, as toiletries will include your toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, and makeup remover (if applicable).
You really will feel better in the morning with fresh breath and a clean face.
I try to take care of this stuff before I get on the plane.
But if you want to wait till you eat some of your snacks, or if you want to clean up as soon as you wake up in the morning, then by all means, go for it.
If you would rather brush your teeth once you arrive at the airport in the morning, bring gum for when you wake up.
It’s also a nice peace offering to your seatmate, whose personal space you probably invaded throughout the whole night (thanks Dramamine).
There’s going to be at least a little bit of time during an overnight flight in which you’re not sleeping.
Some flights will have TV screens on the back of each seat. But what if you don’t like the movies that are available, or don’t want to watch the movies?
(I was watching Titanic as I flew over the Atlantic in the middle of March. In hindsight, not the best idea for the psyche.)
Instead of staring out a pitch black window, or wishing you had the window seat to be able to stare out, come prepared with some entertainment of your own.
One of my favorite plane activities is simply listening to music and zoning out.
If you don’t already have music on your phone, you can sign up for a free trial of Spotify Premium. This way, you will be able to listen to unlimited music without wifi.
Remember, your phone will be on airplane mode.
And if your trip is long enough that your trial period runs out before your return flight, just sign up for another free trial with a different account.
Sneaky, I know.
If you’re going to listen to music, you will absolutely need some headphones.
I’ve never experienced a flight where someone openly listens to their music without headphones, and you should never be the one to start that trend.
14. Phone Charger
Listening to a whole night of music is sure to drain your battery.
Make sure you have your phone charger close at hand in case the seat in front of you has a charging port.
You’ll feel a lot better arriving in a new/foreign/different city with a fully charged phone.
Books never go out of style, especially when you have hours to kill on a plane.
Think of all the time you’ll have to finish that novel, or to catch up on a diary entry.
Reading also makes the time pass by a lot quicker than simply listening to music does, and it actually keeps the brain active.
Longterm benefits, people.
Overnights are not ideal. Don’t forget these 15 essentials to survive long flights, and to make the most of your (extensive) time on a plane!
(And don’t forget to check out How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro to read more about fitting all of this into just one bag.)
- Eye mask
- Neck Pillow
- Glasses Case
- Water Bottle
- Hand Sani
- Phone Charger
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