As a career traveler with hundreds of flights to my name, here are the things I absolutely, categorically, must have on board with me for an international flight. These things are for convenience, comfort, health, and safety.

  • Hand Sanitizer. 

According to a recent study, self check-in screens at the airport have about a gazillion times more bacteria (the bad kind) than the average public toilet seat. I use hand sanitizer every time I touch something that other people in the airport and on the plane have touched.

  • Moist Wipes. 

As soon as I sit in my seat, I pull out a moist wipe and wipe down my armrests, tray table, and entertainment screen. Why? Consider how often these things are actually cleaned. Apparently if you’re lucky, it’s once a month. With airlines flying multiple times per day, consider how many travelers before you have picked their nose in your very seat since it has last been cleaned.

  • Scarf/Pashmina.

The temperatures on international flights are pretty cold, and airplane blankets are small and sometimes scratchy. My scarf/pashmina can be used as an additional blanket, or to keep my neck warm, or as an additional pillow, and more. It’s also great to have on the ground on when flying from a warm place to a cold place or vice versa. I’ve even been known to put it over my head while sleeping to block out light and other distractions, and my breath helps to keep me warm!

  • A Change of Clothes.

An already long journey can be made a whole lot longer if your flight is delayed. A change of clothes means you can arrive fresh even if you’ve been traveling for days.

  • A Change of Clothes (again). 

I mention this again because your change of clothes could come in very handy if your checked luggage doesn’t arrive when you do. Having two outfits can get you through at least the first few days at your destination (wash one while you wear the other).

  • Prescription Medication/Nutritional Supplements.

Again this is extremely important in case your luggage is lost or delayed.

  • Pen.

Don’t be that person who has to ask the flight attendant or another passenger to borrow a pen so you can fill out the customs/immigration forms.

  • E-book.

Often the on-board entertainment systems don’t work for takeoff and landing. I amuse myself with my ebook during these times.

  • Power Bank/Portable Charger.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll have an outlet (or a functioning one anyway) for your phone and other devices. A power bank ensures your phone will still have a charge when you land.

  • Reusable water bottle (1 litre, full).

I don’t use single-use plastics/waste, which means if I want to stay hydrated on my flight, I need to bring water on board with me, so I don’t need to ask for a plastic cup every time I want a few swallows of water. (Edit: to clarify, bring the water bottle through security empty, and then fill it after clearing security)

  • Laptop (fully charged).

While this is obvious for most people (nobody checks their laptop), I mention it anyway, because as a location independent entrepreneur, my laptop is essential to my travels, and a long-haul international flight is a great place to get work done.


Nora Dunn
, Traveled full-time for 12 years (The Professional Hobo)


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