Every flight represents a rare opportunity to do exactly what you want to do for a few hours—with no last-minute calls, meetings, or demands to interrupt you! Use your time wisely by filling your carry-on bag with all of the essentials you need to maximize your mini-break at 30,000 feet.
Sure, getting through airport security can be a bit of a hassle, but if you plan for it, the flight itself can be something akin to a mini-break. Not so sure? Trust us here: taking your seat miles above the nearest cell tower or earthly distraction can actually provide a rare opportunity to get things done, catch up on that reading you’ve been putting off, or simply allow yourself the chance to relax and focus.
The best way to ensure you’ll get the most out of your few stolen hours is to strategically pack your airline personal item—a small carry-on bag that’s usually defined as a purse, briefcase, backpack or small duffle that can easily fit under the seat in front of you (dimensions adding up to no larger than 36 inches total). By keeping the following packing guidelines in mind, you’ll have everything you need to turn your next flight into a much-deserved personal escape.
The most compact way to pack hours of fun into your airline personal item is by taking along an iPad or tablet. You may want to download some movies or games—both newer, addictive gamess like Candy Crush and Farm Heroes as well as old-school classics such as scrabble, Monopoly, and chess—or download any books you’ve been too busy to read. If you want to sample some new magazines (without paying for full subscriptions!) try the app Next Issue. You can access 125 titles for just $9.99 per month.
To keep your power going for the duration of the flight—and with increasingly relaxed FAA rules, you are indeed able to stay turned on from takeoff to landing (laptops being the exception)—be sure to charge up fully before your flight or take along a spare battery pack.
Scored the middle seat on both legs of your journey? Don’t sweat it. The confines of a tiny plane seat can actually help you focus on tasks you might normally put off in your everyday life. One frequent traveler we know uses plane time to catch up on snail mail correspondence, (she packs stationery, stamps, and, of course, her address book in her airline personal item). Another busy jetsetter uses the opportunity to meditate when flying. To do the same, add a comfortable pillow, sleep mask and travel earplugs to your bag.
To feel productive in the air, you can usually plug in with your laptop and keep the workday going. However, if you’re looking for more personal enrichment, a flight can also be the perfect time to brush up on certain skills. Languages, which you can brush up on using a book on your way to a foreign destination, or via course programs, like Rosetta Stone, which can be accessed on almost any tablet or e-reader as a digital download. The comprehensive system can be quite pricey—the CD-ROM / digital download combo runs close to $500, while the online / mobile resource is still close to $300—but there are other free apps like Anki and Duolingo you can use online or off. All you need to bring is your loaded device and your desire to learn.
Whether you’re looking to plug in or tune out, what you stash underneath that seat can keep you properly occupied on a quick commuter or long-haul flight, so get creative and enjoy the ride!
Kelly O’Reilly is a lifestyle and travel writer (and former hotel publicist) and a recent NYC-to-Colorado transplant. When she’s not hitting the trails or racking up frequent flier miles, she’s looking for art and good pancakes.
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