You may only brave the long lines and baggage fees once or twice a year, but you’ll be able to fly like a pro once you steal these travel tricks from frequent fliers. Here are the top gadgets and accessories that travel pros say they never board a plane without—and we’re betting that you’ll want to stow them in your carry-on, too.
1. NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES
“I often pop them on as soon as I sit down and flip on the noise cancellation feature to help me begin relaxing right away before a long flight,” Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of travel tips website The Points Guy, says of his headphones of choice, Bose's QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. Bose has released a new version (the QuietComfort 35, $350 at Bose.com), but Honig says he still prefers the older model ($299 at Amazon.com), which has been tried and tested—and he knows won’t fail on him mid-flight.
Honig brings along a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer that he dangles from his backpack ($26 for a 12-pack at Target.com). “Sometimes, I’ll put some on a napkin and wipe down the seat controls and tray table, but I usually just use it for my hands before each snack or meal,” Honig says.
3. BLOW UP NECK PILLOW
These take up very little space in your bag and can be fully inflated in 30 seconds, says Miami-based Halle Eavelyn, author of the travel memoir Red Goddess Rising, who travels at least every quarter but sometimes monthly to speaking engagements and for vacation. “I use them once and then they fold into my same little travel case when I’m done,” Eavelyn says.
4. FACE MASK
An airplane cabin is so dry that it absorbs moisture from anywhere it can, including your skin, says Ava Shamban, a Beverly Hills dermatologist who travels frequently for work. “To combat dry air and fight aging at the same time, use an ultra-hydrating product to revive your skin post-travel. Since it’s a little difficult to do the face mask on the plane, it’s best to do this one as soon as you get to your hotel.
5. EYE MASK
While many airlines pass out eye masks these days (or have them available for purchase mid-flight), one pro goes a step further by bringing his own fluffy one that’s a step above the rest. Johnny Jet, Los Angeles-based founder of Johnnyjet.com, travels around 150,000 miles annually—but he doesn’t go anywhere without a Lewis & Clarke eye mask ($8.99 at Lewisnclark.com), which is plush and blocks all the light.
This is a must for Eavelyn, who pops a pill of the sleep-regulating hormone the minute the flight leaves. “Get into the new time zone the minute you take off, no matter what the airline is telling you by their cabin lights and meal times,” she says. “It also helps with jet lag, so I keep taking it the first few nights I’m traveling.”
7. A CHANGE OF CLOTHES
Eavelyn says she always brings a change of clothes in case her bags don’t arrive with her—and if you're checking the majority of your baggage, it's smart to pack more than one outfit (including clean socks and underwear) in your carry-on. “On long layovers, I also change into those clothes at the airport because it’s a huge refresher,” Eavelyn says.