On a good day, you'll get to the airport, breeze through security, get on your plane, and take off and land on time. But that doesn't always happen: delays are a fact of life when you travel. While you can't make the trip go any faster, you can put together a kit so you don't get bored, hungry, or too uncomfortable if your plane gets grounded.
Let's be honest: this is a first-world "emergency" kit. Most of us can imagine far worse scenarios than getting stuck on an plane or in an airport for an extra few hours. That said, discomfort is not required just because it's the default option. With the right considerations and a small amount of preparation, you can make sure you're ready for any flight. Let's take a look at each problem you can encounter and how a small change in what you pack can solve the issue.
Your Flight Gets Delayed For Hours
When you have a delayed flight, you'll generally find yourself in one of two places: in the terminal or on the plane. When in the terminal, you have access to (overpriced) food and water as well as room to roam around. Furthermore, many airports have power outlets and USB chargers widely available so you don't have to worry about running out. In-terminal delays don't really require any special "survival" tools, but you should always ask for vouchers if a flight gets delayed for long enough. Airlines are not required to provide them, but sometimes they will when requested. (If you're lucky, you'll also have access to an airport lounge).
When stuck on the plane, you want to have plenty of entertainment. Sometimes you'll have access to the in-flight entertainment system during delays, but don't count on it. Here's what you should bring:
- A book you want to read, or a ereader to bring many
- A tablet for reading, playing games, and watching movies
- A portable gaming system if you prefer a dedicated gaming device
- Magazines for more passive reading when you don't have the attention span for a book, and for reading when taking off
- Anything else you might enjoy for a few hours
This doesn't require any special preparation, for the most part. All you have to do when packing is think what you'd like to have with you if you had to spend the entire day locked in a room with other people you may or may not want to talk to. When you look at packing for a trip that way, you'll make sure you bring what you need to avoid long bouts of boredom. One other reminder: make sure everything is charged before you pack it. And on that note . . .
You Don't Have Access To Power
Unless you're flying on a more recent Qantas plane with USB chargers (or heading to the US or elsewhere overseas), you're unlikely to have at-seat power. So bring some backup sources:
- A USB backup battery will only charge USB devices, but that covers most modern devices. Before you buy one, however, make sure you know what each port on the battery does as each one usually provides a specific amount of power. Some ports can charge tablets and others can't. In some cases, certain brands of devices won't charge at all. Most batteries can handle a variety of charging needs but you should always make sure it meets your specific requirements before purchasing.
- A laptop backup battery will add a bit more weight to your bag but also greater versatility and power options. Windows and Linux laptop users often have removable batteries and can just buy an extra to swap in when the other runs out. Alternatively, external battery packs for laptops are an option. Most external laptop batteries also can charge a few USB devices, so if you need a power boost for all your gadgets you shouldn't need to pack lots of extra power sources.
Always test and charge any battery before packing it, and keep it in a safe and padded part of your bag to prevent damage. The last thing you want on a plane is a battery that leaks. Also bear in mind that some airports are picky about people travelling with extra batteries.
Your Back, Neck Or Other Body Part Hurts
Plane seats suck. You don't see anyone wishing for one in their home because their discomfort is pretty much unparalleled. While you can't do much to change that, you can improve your comfort with a few items:
- Neck pillows help. That's why you see them on so many people when they fly. The best ones contain memory foam or micro beads; both options are affordable. Alternatively, you can DIY your way to an plane pillow with a laptop sleeve and a hoodie. Just stuff the hoodie into the laptop sleeve when you need a pillow and rest on it. You'll be surprised by how comfortable this is if you stuff it evenly. As a bonus, both of these options don't require any extra packing space. You can wear the hoodie and your laptop can wear the sleeve. As for the neck pillow, you can just hook it around the strap of your bag so it doesn't waste any room inside.
- Back pillows can help your posture in a poorly-designed seat. You really just need something small to create a little back support, and you can create that with a hoodie and laptop sleeve as well. This prevents buying and packing an actual small pillow, which can take up a lot of room. If you ask a flight attendant, however, they might have some small pillows on board you can borrow. Alternatively, you can pack a couple of tennis or lacrosse balls and put them behind your back. Holding them there will not only help you sit better, but can massage your lower back muscles on the plane. This is a useful option, but a temporary one. Too much hard pressure on your back isn't good for you so save this for shorter flights or just use it for a portion of a longer one.
- A few pills can help if things get particularly uncomfortable. Get a small pill case and fill it with painkillers (ibuprofin is always a solid choice) for headaches, a sleep-inducing antihistamine if you want to take nap without the effects of a sleeping pill, and nausea medication if you need it You can include whatever you like, of course, but those solve the most common in-flight ailments. Hopefully you won't need anything at all.
Again, you can't pack your way to complete comfort but these items can help keep you feeling pretty good or at least better than miserable. That's not a ringing endorsement, but you can only do so much about an aeroplane seat.
Overall, you shouldn't need to pack much more than you normally do to actually enjoy a flight delay. If you have the right entertainment, enough to eat and drink, and the tools you need for general comfort, delays won't feel like such a problem.
The Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.