If you’ve flown recently and everything went smoothly from gate to gate, consider yourself lucky. Delayed and canceled flights seem to be more of the norm than the exception and challenges all airlines are experiencing. It’s draining for travelers, and especially the crews, so a passionate group of flight attendants with decades of experience shared their advice on what everyone should bring with them to the airport the next time you fly.
1. Water Bottle
Drink refills are no longer guaranteed on flights, according to our flight attendant experts. If you want more than one serving, be sure to bring your own water bottle and fill it in the concourse before you board.
Travelers also need to be prepared to spend more time than usual in the concourse due to delays. $5 for a bottle of water adds up, so bring a bottle you can continue to refill once you’re through security.
There are a few reasons for this tip. Not all food service locations are open at airports, and the ones that are may have long lines. Once on your flight, some airlines aren’t allowing passengers to purchase food; others only have enough snacks for one per passenger. If you’re someone who’s looking for extra pretzels or you want to buy a sandwich once on board, it’s important to know those options may not be available and to bring your own.
3. Tennis Ball
Sitting for an extended period of time isn’t good for anyone. This handy piece of sports equipment can be transformed into an aid for achy joints and muscles if you’re spending longer than anticipated on your plane or in the airport. Prevention magazine has a few tips on how to best use a tennis ball to get a little pain relief.
They still come in cans of three. Bring the entire can, and you’ll have the most relaxed row on your flight.
4. Pillow And/Or Arm Floaties
I must admit, using a pillow that a stranger likely drooled all over the flight prior always felt gross to me, but to each their own. However, the days of using airline pillows are over. Airlines aren’t supplying them thanks to the pandemic. Not only will a pillow keep you comfortable on the plane, our flight attendants say if you’re booked on the last flight out for the day, there’s a chance you end up spending the night at the airport. If you don’t want to travel with a pillow, our flight attendants suggest bringing a child’s blow-up arm floaty to help with lower back support.
5. Light Blanket
I’d add to this a light sweater or cover-up, but the reason for this is the same as above: Airlines simply aren’t supplying blankets to flyers any more. If you get chilly when you fly, be sure to put something you know will keep you warm in your carry-on, or just wear it onto the plane.
Keeping your cool during flight delays and cancelations can be tough, but a fan can help in the literal sense. You can go old school with a paper version or bring a portable one to use. You never know when you might be stuck on the tarmac without power — or if the vent above your seat will give you enough relief.
7. Games And Toys
Keeping yourself, and those you’re traveling with, occupied during cancelations and delays is the key to keeping your sanity on the right side of that thin line. Grab UNO, Phase 10, or even just a deck of cards and put them in your carry-on. Budding artists may like a coloring book and crayons. Our flight attendants recommend hitting the dollar store before your trip to grab a few new toys you can surprise kids with during delays, just in case the other options aren’t satisfying at the moment.
8. Extra Movies And Books
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Load your device with whatever you use to keep yourself busy while flying and then add a few more to account for any possible delays or cancelations.
9. Headphones With A Cord
Wireless headphones and earbuds can last for hours, but bring a set of earpods that don’t need to be charged and can plug into your device just in case of the aforementioned delays and cancelations.
10. Portable Charger
Avoid that sinking feeling you get when your laptop, kindle, or tablet battery starts telling you it’s running low on a flight by investing in a portable charger. I’ve not only used it on airplanes, but also at theme parks and other locations where a plug-in charger just isn’t an option.
11. Pen And Paper
Any woman with an affection for handbags likely has a few pens hanging out at the bottom of her purse. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t travel with a pen, add it to your list. Paperwork may be part of your flight experience if everything doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped. You may also need to write down information announced over the intercom. Have a pen handy since the airline’s writing instruments could be in high demand.
12. Kindness And Patience
Tensions and delay times usually rise at about the same rate. Being kind to security folks, gate agents, the crew, and your fellow passengers is free, exerts less energy, and is just the right thing to do. Sermon over.
13. Medicine, Keys, Important Documents
These items should always be in your carry-on in case your checked luggage gets lost, but our flight attendants say it’s even more critical to remember now, with the additional delays and cancelations happening. You don’t know if your luggage will end up where you do or how long you’ll be without it.
Two more reminders: Arrive at the airport at least 1.5 hours before your flight (and even more depending on the airport), and all passengers are required to wear a mask, so don’t forget yours.