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Traveling is an incredible way to get away from your day-to-day life, relax, and reflect, not to mention new experiences, but air travel can be incredibly stressful. While these items won’t completely get rid of all the stress associated with flying, they have made air travel a lot easier and more enjoyable for me, to the point where I look forward to getting to the airport, rather than dreading it.
From $159 at Patagonia
The type of luggage you prefer depends on the type of travel you do. For me, duffles like the Patagonia Black Hole Duffle check all my boxes. With a variety of sizes ranging from 40 liters to 100 liters, which meets most airline and train carry-on requirements, they allow you to bring as much or as little as you need. They are also weather resistant, have a handle as well as removable backpack straps, have some internal organization and fold into their own pocket for storage when not in use.
When I was in my 20s I had no problem throwing a 100 liter duffel on my back and hauling it around the airport. Now that’s not the case, which is where the wheeled duffel comes in. It’s a bit high price-wise, but my back has thanked me time and time again.
My favorite feature of all of these, especially given how often I travel, is Patagonia’s iron clad lifetime guarantee. Traveling three or four times a month can be incredibly hard on your luggage and the fact that the brand will repair or replace any duffel is a huge plus in my book.
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To me, hiking backpacks check all of those boxes better than regular individual item-specific bags. If you think about it a bit, it starts to make sense. Hiking packs are typically lightweight and designed to comfortably carry a lot of gear for long distances. Many of them are also designed with synced built-ins, which means you can adjust what you take with you to fit each airline’s limited personal item sizes.
My current favorites are the 22L Patagonia Altvia and the 20L Osprey Daylight Plus, both of which offer features like dual water bottle sleeves, multiple exterior pockets, and a lightweight hip belt (which is removable on the Osprey).
Double check to make sure your personal item will fit. While most airlines don’t always check to see if your personal item is exactly the right size, more often than not budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit will charge you $99 per bag per flight if your personal item is larger than they allow. is big.
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If I could only bring one thing with me when I fly, it would be a bottle of water. It’s incredibly easy to get dehydrated while flying (especially on long flights on older planes) and a bottle of water from the airport will usually set you back five or six bucks, if not more. Plus, every airport I’ve been to over the years has filtered water stations, making it incredibly easy to stay hydrated. Make sure the bottle is empty before security checks.
My go to is a simple narrow mouth 32 oz Nalgene, although it can be a bit cumbersome at times. This 24oz HydroFlask will keep your water cool while being small enough to fit in your backpack’s water bottle sleeve.
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Unless you have lounge access, getting food at the airport can become a budget buster very quickly, which is why I bring my own food to the airport every time I fly. This allows me to not only spend less, but also have healthier options than those offered at the airport. High-protein, easily packable options like beef jerky and various bars are good options that usually keep hunger pangs at bay until I land.
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According to the FAA there are more than 45,000 flights and about 3 million passengers per day in the US. With so many people traveling in close proximity to each other, your immune system will be working hard. Add to that the fact that many people deal with allergies, upset/anxious stomachs, motion sickness and body aches from incredibly uncomfortable seats, you’ll want to carry something with you to address at least some of these issues. Whether you stash some Tylenol in a Ziplock bag or have an organized case for all your pills, you’ll be glad you have it on you, even when you don’t use it. Here is a list of what I brought with me, if I left something out leave a comment below:
This should go without saying, but here it is: I am not a doctor, nor am I giving medical advice. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any medicine.
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Like most travelers, I always try to look at the weather for upcoming trips and pack accordingly, but I’ve had times when I’ve had to board a connecting flight and didn’t think about the weather. what is going to happen. Other times I’ve expected places like LA or Las Vegas to be warm and sunny based solely on reputation and that rain is in the forecast. That’s where a packable jacket like the Patagonia Houdini comes in handy. At just over 3 ounces in weight, I can throw it in my bag and it’s usually the last I think about. But you’ll be so glad you have it when you need it. It won’t keep you dry if you’re out for hours in torrential rain, but for short walks from the airport to cabs to hotels or even long waits on drizzling tarmac, it’ll do well. Will do from
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I usually have two pairs of headphones with me when I fly, a pair of over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones and a set of earbuds. Noise-canceling headphones are my go-to for most of the time. They’re comfortable on long flights, reduce fatigue by freeing your ears from the loud drone of jet engines, and most come with 3.5mm cables that allow you to connect to the plane’s entertainment system so you can enjoy the flight. Time to watch TV or movies.
The earbuds are tiny, have a case that charges them and have come in handy on incredibly long trips (I once took a trip to New Zealand that took 29 hours door-to-door) when my over ear headphones had no battery life Had enough and I didn’t have time to recharge them. Plus, as someone who loves to run in a lot of the places I travel to, they come in handy once I get to my destination.
While you can go the expensive route for these headphones, they shouldn’t be a luxury item for those willing to spend $400 or more. The headphones I currently use cost less than $75 total for both and are about 80-90% as good as the $300 Bose headphones I’ve worn.
from $35 at Patagonia
Before using packing cubes I had a packing ritual. To close my stuff I would sit on the lid, pulling the zipper as far as it would go, hoping the integrity of my bag would hold all my clothes and gear in place until I got home from my trip. It’s incredible to me, not only that I fill each duffel with packing cubes of different sizes, not only how organized everything stays, but how much you can fit into an area using packing cubes based on what’s inside.
My favorites are the Patagonia Black Hole Cubes, mostly for the variety of sizes, the clam shell design, and the warranty. I also have a separate cube specifically designed for all my electronics, the various charging cables I bring with me on each flight, my charging brick, and universal travel plugs. I usually have easy access to this cube in my personal item bag or my carry-on so I can charge my phone and other electronics at the airport. It’s also not allowed to pack large lithium-ion batteries in your checked-in luggage.
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Until the day comes when I have a single charging port in every piece of electronic equipment, it will be necessary for me to bring along a plethora of cables from USB Micro to Lightning to USB-C. As a video producer and photographer, I bring with me even more options for charging batteries and other devices, so organizing them in their own specially designed cube as mentioned above is a Needed. Also, power banks and universal travel plugs (when traveling internationally) stay in my bag in case I can’t find a place to charge my phone on the plane or airport.
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Whether you’re a reader or just someone who likes to play video games, it’s easier than ever to bring along something to keep you entertained on long flights. Instead of bringing heavy books with me on the plane, I can bring my entire library with me, thanks to the Amazon Kindle, which also has apps to get books from your local library for free.
If gaming is more your speed, bringing along something like the Nintendo Switch is a great way to pass the time. If you’re only planning on using it for travel and don’t care about being able to connect it to your TV, the Switch Lite is cheaper and more portable.
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Not all of us are lucky enough to have access to an airport lounge, or sometimes we just don’t have time to shower and clean up after a long intercontinental flight. That’s where wipes come in handy. They’re an easy way to clean off dirt as well as clean yourself, even if we’re just talking about wiping your face and hands. As a traveling dad, wipes are of use now more than ever and I can’t imagine what air travel would be like without them. However, dispose of them properly. Even wipes that say flushable on the package really shouldn’t be flushed.
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My everyday phone case has a slot on the back that holds up to four cards easily and while I didn’t initially buy it specifically with air travel in mind, the fact that I now have to carry my phone and Air travel made easier by reducing one thing to carry and not having to carry two separate wallets. That said, it didn’t fit in my passport, so if traveling internationally the Passport Wallet may be something you’ll want to look into.
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This may go without saying, but being comfortable on a flight will go a long way toward making your overall travel experience more enjoyable. Fabrics like merino wool wick away sweat as well as keep you smelling fresh without having to wash them constantly. Pants with zippered pockets will keep items like your phone, wallet, and passport safe (though please empty them before you hit the security line!) Comfortable shoes shouldn’t be overlooked either. It’s incredibly normal for me to walk many miles on air travel days, so I usually wear a pair of Hokas like this one to keep my feet happy and pain-free.
Technically it’s not something I bring with me to the airport. Life likes to throw you curveballs, which could come in the form of food poisoning the night before a flight to Hawaii or a positive Covid test the day before a ski trip (I’m speaking from experience here). These types of scenarios are bad enough on their own, but if you don’t have travel insurance, they can cost you thousands of dollars if you have to cancel your trip. Spending money on travel insurance isn’t fun, but thankfully it’s usually not too expensive and when you do eventually need to use it, you’ll be glad you did.