Crying babies, endless delays, and that one aggressive seat-kicker are almost inevitable travel companions. Doesn't mean you can't have a nice journey: savvy packing will keep you collected and calm. We can't promise the same for the new parents across the aisle.
Upgrade Your Luggage
Rollers sacrifice serious space with all that wheel infrastructure, so invest in a maximum-carry-on-size duffel. We like Thule’s Crossover 40L. It converts into a comfortable backpack and comes with a protective compartment for your smartphone or camera. $150.
A flight without noise-canceling headphones is like a traffic jam with no radio. Protect yourself. We love the Bose QuietComfort 20’s. They’re lightweight, compact, and easy on the ears. $299.
Refill Your Own
Stop buying plastic and bring along this sharp-looking S’well insulated water bottle. From $25.
Bring a Small Tablet
For everything from watching movies to surfing the Web, it’s the best device out there. We still love the iPad Mini because it’s superlight, small, and the most user-friendly gadget on the planet. $400.
Let us now praise Icebreaker’s merino and Lycra boxers: they’re comfortable, fast-drying, and featherweight. Pack two pairs and you’ll be set for a three-day or three-week trip (with washings, dirtbags). From $40.
Essential Overnight Items
OluKai Pahono Lace shoes
Don’t fumble to tie your shoes for a 3 A.M. bathroom run. The Pahono’s heel folds down, so you can slip in and out of them easily. They’re bedroom-slipper cozy but still sharp enough for everyday wear. $120.
CW-X compression socks
We wear these to reduce foot and leg swelling at altitude. $55.
Eagle Creek Sandman neck pillow
Super comfy and deflates down to pocket size. $24.
REI Cushioned Eye Mask and Earplugs set
Blocks out light and the hick-hop blasting from your seatmate’s iPod. $11.
Outside editors recommend melatonin, Tylenol PM, or Ambien*.
* The best way to beat jet lag on a long journey is to hydrate, walk around the cabin every couple of hours, set your watch to your destination time, and swallow five to ten milligrams of Ambien on the longest leg. (I take mine with an airplane bottle of Johnnie Walker, even though our fact-checkers insist this could kill me.) Just be sure you tell the flight attendant what you’re doing, in case you start to sleepwalk—a known side effect. When you arrive, you’ll feel ready to go. Bonus: Ambien is the only sleeping pill that doesn’t slow your breathing, so it’s generally safe at altitude. Most physicians will prescribe it as a travel medication. —Grayson Schaffer