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How To Survive Long Travel Days

When preparing to embark on a trip overseas there is PLENTY of information out there regarding what to pack, HOW to pack, what not to pack, what kind of bag to pack IN etc. etc. etc. People tend to overlook the fact that between you and an exciting overseas adventure is a 9 hour flight with lots of strangers, smelly people, screaming/crying/mutating babies and exhaustion and stress and DID THE GREASY TEEN NEXT TO ME JUST AUDIBLY FART?!

Air travel is when you get to see humanity at its finest (sarcasm) but with a few tools you can prepare yourself against screaming children, smelly pre-teens and the overall CRAZINESS of international travel. Here are my insider tips on how to survive long travel days.

1. The J Pillow


survive long travel days - j pillow

Make all the comments in the world about how ridiculous this pillow seems or how dumb I probably look swinging this bad boy around on my carry on… I am a J Pillow CONVERT. As someone who embarrassingly sleeps with her mouth open (causing unfortunate drool situations on the reg) this bad Larry lets me nuzzle up in the side of my seat keeping neck supported and mouth breathing to a minimum. Your neighbors will thank you.

2. Peppermint Essential Oil

survive long flights - peppermint essential oil

This is my secret weapon. I was recently on a train in Morocco – a three hour ride sharing a cabin with 4 other Moroccan men who smelled a bit… ripe. Life ain’t fun when you can’t concentrate on anything other than praying to the deodorant gods to spare you from your misery. Enter essential oils. I prefer peppermint but you can also use Lavender or Orange or whatever you want!. Just rub a little of this stuff under your nose and be transported to a minty heaven. Bonus – they’ll help you doze off if you’re trying to sleep.

3. Eye Mask

survive long travel days - eye mask

When first shopping for an eye mask I wanted one of those cute ones (like this Breakfast at Tiffany’s variety or this one that looks like a cat) but lemme tell ya these things just don’t do the trick. I blame my general uneasiness with eye masks on the fact that I usually don’t sleep with one. In fact, the ONLY time I use an eye mask is when I’m on a plane and (even though it DOES help me fall asleep) it’s mostly a visual signal to my neighbors to SHUT UP AND DON’T TOUCH ME. My preferred eye mask kiiiiinda makes me look like an insect but it is SO much more comfortable than anything I’ve ever tried before. Plus it comes with earplugs, which are another clutch addition to any travel kit.

4. USB Wall Charger

survive long travel days - usb wall charger

Let’s be honest, just about EVERYTHING I need to charge these days can be charged via USB cable. Instead of lugging around a power strip, I carry a much smaller USB wall charger. It has 6 ports. SIX! When wall outlets are a hot commodity and there’s only one outlet available in the entire terminal, you don’t want to have to choose either your kindle OR your phone. This thing has saved my butt not only on travel days but in small AirBnb’s and over-crowded hostels as well.

5. Tylenol PM and Dramamine (the drowsy kind)

survive long travel days - sleep

I don’t have Ambien but I DO want to sleep. Dramamine is my weapon of choice because I get motion sickness but Tylenol PM is a trusty sidekick. I always wait to pop these until AFTER I get through ticketing/security check/passport control because LAWD forbid I get detained for questioning while sleepy as all heck.

6. The Bags/How I Pack

survive long travel days - how i pack

Since this picture was taken I completely ditched one of these roller bags. Now I have a Samsonite spinner suitcase that replaced the Dockers suitcase Air Serbia destroyed on my most recent flight to London (they broke off 3 of the 4 wheels and said it was within the confines of “normal wear and tear.” Jerks.), a vegan leather duffel bag (similar here) and my backpack with all my work/study essentials (which I already walked you through here!).

The key to packing a carry on back is to make sure you have easy access to all your essentials (for me that’s my passport, wallet, everything listed above plus my kindle, headphones and notebook) BUT ALSO PACK ALL YOUR UNDERWEAR IN YOUR CARRY ON. There’s nothing worse than landing in Valencia late Sunday evening only to find out that the airline lost your luggage. No stores are open, you’ve been traveling in the same stanky clothes all day and nothing in the world would make you more happy than a clean pair of underwear (true story). My general rule of thumb is to ALWAYS pack at least one spare outfit in my carry on but if you’re out of room, just stuff all your undies in there. You’ll thank me later.

What helps you survive a long travel day? I have a 17 hour day coming up from Spain to Mexico City and would LOVE to hear your tips and tricks.

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Angela Sandall

Angela is a writer, traveller and human being from Chicago, IL. After attending school at Loyola University and working in the world of experiential marketing (where she did wacky things like crane cars onto roofs, ride in the Batmobile and pal around with famous dogs) she started writing and traveling full time. Traveling to a different city every month, she spends her days going to museums, meeting locals and searching for the best tacos the world has to offer.


14 comments

  1. You did mention this in your last post. But with my headphone and kindle, I can survive 16 hour flight without any problem.
    Will definitely give J pillow a try though. ??????

  2. SNACKS! Just got out of a 16 hour flight and I owe it all to snacks ❤️❤️ also, used Dramamine for the first time to heal my travel nausea and it changed my life in the best way!

  3. Don’t forget those comfortable clothes! I always whip out that-jumper-that’s-WAY-too-big-for-me and some loose tracksuit pants. Winning combo! There’s nothing worse than being stuck mid-way through a 13-hour flight with a major (and I do mean MAJOR) wedgie!!

  4. I always follow my mom’s advice to buy a bottle of water as soon as I get through security. Staying hydrated is IMPORTANT. Also, I’ve found that drinking one of those healthy smoothies makes me feel satisfied but not yucky when I have to sit on a plane (or three). Also: headphones are your best friend for loud and uncomfortable flights.

  5. Good list. Not exactly related, but when booking my travel, I always make sure that my flight or train segments are equipped with digital entertainment.

  6. Agree with Adele on snacks! That way if you sleep through a meal because of your JPillow, eye mask and sleeping pills, you won’t go hungry.

    Also, pack magazines – you can toss them as you read them. And essential: solitaire on my phone! ❤️

  7. The essential oil is worth it’s weight in gold! Nobody wants to sit next to a stinky stink, being trapped there for more than 10 hours.
    When I’m on the plane I always use the time to zap through the airline’s media library. It’s perfect to catch up on all the newest blockbusters! Also: SNACKS!

  8. As someone who travels with kids, I feel your pain. But actually, mine travel extremely well…it’s those “other” people’s kids. The ones who refuse to use headphones…and the seat kickers. I’m sold on the J Pillow, had never heard of it before! For me, it’s a book, hand sanitizer and headphones….for everyone!

    1. I’ve seen PLENTY of kids who are angels when traveling, and I recognize it’s difficult to make sure they’re in a good mood all the time. I hope you like your J Pillow and how could I forget HAND SANITIZER. Plane air is so grody.

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