Top 10 Things to Pack in your Hand Luggage
Flying in a jumbo jet is incredibly noisy: The average noise level inside the plane in flight is about 100 decibels, which is louder than a jackhammer at 50 feet and loud enough to cause short-term hearing loss (source).
My favourite earplugs by far are Mack's silicone earplugs, which are widely available.
2 Neck pillow
After trying several different neck pillows, my favourite is a fleece pillow filled with proper pillow stuffing. I found the plastic inflatable neck pillows uncomfortable, sweaty and not at all long-lasting. And I found neck pillows filled with polystyrene beads never really supported my neck properly.
This sounds like a strange thing to be taking flight, especially one past the Equator — but if you roll a beanie down over your eyes it blocks out the light way better than those travel eye masks and it's much more comfortable, too. God knows why, but when I roll a fleece beanie down over my face on a flight, I feel cosy and warm and totally removed from all the activity around me.
4 Small bag with tie-string ... or the Seat Pak
I'm 6'2" and weigh 130 kg so economy class flying is cramped, to say the least. On most flights my knees are touching the seat in front ... but I've come up with a cunning solution!
Getting rid of the airline magazines gives me about 2cm of extra legroom. And rather than putting my stuff into the magazine holder, I have it in a small bag suspended between my knees, with a tie-string looped around whatever is left in the magazine holder. Happy days!
5 Document wallet
It's not essential, but it's much easier to manage things when all your documents are in one place: passport, tickets, money and driving licence.
6 Throat sweets
The dry, recycled air can give you a bit of a sore throat on a long haul flight. So grab some throat sweets.
My favourites are Strepsils antibacterial lozenges. As well as being soothing, my (totally unscientific) hope is that they provide a bit of protection from breathing everyone else's germs.
7 Small water bottle
It's easy to get dehydrated on a long flight due to the extremely low cabin humidity, which is 10% or lower, well below the tolerable range of 20 to 60%. Airport security these days tend to only allow 100ml maximum of liquids, which is tiny — a single can of Coke is 300ml — So bring an empty bottle for water on the flight and fill it up after you've cleared security.
The dry air in an aircraft cabin on a long haul flight gets pretty uncomfortable. So for a bit of luxury pack a small tube of moisturiser.
9 Flight socks
Being stuffed into an airline seat for hours at a time increases your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis, when a blood clot develops in one of the deep veins of the body.
The risk of DVT is 3x higher in passengers on long-distance flights (more than eight hours) than for the general population. The risk of DVT is also higher for passengers who are older (the risk rises after the age of 40), overweight, taking oral contraceptives, pregnant, or who have certain medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease, or are recovering from major surgery.
Flight compression socks may reduce that risk, so it's probably worth wearing them, especially if you're at an increased risk of DVT.
Note: It's not yet proven whether taking aspirin will reduce the occurrence of DVT. Aspirin is widely used to help prevent blood clots in arteries (which can cause strokes and heart attacks) but it doesn't seem to prevent clots in veins.
There's always a risk that the airline will lose your baggage but hopefully you won't lose your hand luggage. So it makes sense to carry at least some of your medications and other essentials (like contact lenses) with you in your hand luggage.