On a long-distance air journey, you have to balance the need to keep yourself entertained with not crowding out your limited space. What's on the essential list for stuff to keep at your seat during a flight?
We've spent a lot of time at Lifehacker looking at minimal packing strategies, particularly with the recent Hand Luggage Only extravaganza. However, there's one issue we haven't generally touched on much: the question of how much luggage you actually need within reach (that is, in the seat pocket or under the seat in front of you) when you're making an international journey.
That might seem like a pretty straightforward decision, but depending on your in-air habits, it can be quite an important one. A colleague recently complained that a well-packed carry-on bag was likely to cause major shoulder damage, since he constantly found himself getting up and down to remove stuff from his bag during the flight, and that necessitated lifting the bag in and out of the overhead bin each time. (Even assuming your muscles are up to the task, you risk getting decked by a fellow passenger if you're not already seated on the aisles and you insist on jumping up.)
For the sake of this discussion, I'm assuming an economy seat — in business or above, you've got much more room to stow stuff, and far less likelihood of annoying a fellow passenger if you do move around.
What I want at my seat for longer flights is actually fairly minimal. I favour window seats, and I generally don't get up during the flight at all, so I want only the bare of minimum of stuff cramping my style. I like to restrict whatever I've got to something that can easily fit into a long-handled cloth bag, which I can tie shut and stash under the seat while I sleep, and fold up and store if I'm not using it. What I usually stow in there is:
- A pen, my wallet, travel documents. All self-evident, except perhaps the wallet: easier to sleep without it in my pocket.
- A newspaper and some Sudoku puzzles. In-flight reading is essential, but a thick book takes up too much space, and I can't easily dispose of it at the other end. If I demolish the newspaper, I can dispose of it in a recycling bin and pick up another during the stopover. For the puzzles, a pencil with an eraser attached is essential.
- My BlackBerry. On domestic flights, I often stash my laptop under the seat and do some work, but on longer flights, it's easier just to use the BlackBerry if I want to write or organise, and save the battery life on the laptop for airport stops. That might change as Qantas gets more on-board power options in economy via the A380, but I still figure that'll be a while.
- An iPod Touch. I'll always take advantage of in-flight entertainment if it's reasonable, but the Touch is a good backup if it's not — or during one of the inevitable reboots. I also carry an adaptor to use the iPod earphones with the in-flight system, since I find it less wearing on my lobes.
In my pocket at all times, I usually have my passport and a backup drive containing my key work PC backup, for the unlikely event that I'm forced to evacuate the plane. Hasn't happened, statistically probably won't happen, but it's no big sacrifice to carry it even when I'm asleep. If I wasn't good at sleeping on planes, I imagine this list would be rather different and longer, but I'm lucky (or perhaps just pig-headed) in that respect.
Anyway, that's my version. What's your own approach to at-seat luggage? Share your wisdom in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman is grateful that his bladder behaves on long flights. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.