Packing light, pretty, comfortable: overnight flights (and getting some sleep!)

I’ve been on the road quite a bit lately: after a quiet January and February, I was on six long-haul or overnight trips in March.  Most of those flights involved red-eyes from California to home, but Chris and I squeezed in a mini-break to Vienna to celebrate our anniversary.

Packing for overnight flights has gotten pretty elaborate for me.  Once upon a time, from childhood to my early 20’s, I could sleep just about anywhere at any time.  (I was even voted “sleepiest” of my high school class.)  But then I spoiled myself with my first international business class flight in 2005, to Paris, and over time it became more and more difficult for me to sleep in economy class on an overnight flight.

But with so much work travel, I can’t afford to be such a diva.  To sleep on a 4-hour red-eye from California to Chicago (or any other flight), I use the following:

The first pillow gives me a comfortable head rest.  And the second pillow blocks out light and allows me to rest my head comfortably while cushioning the over-the-ear headphones so that they don’t dig into my head.  The headphones block out noises that I don’t want to hear.

I normally prefer aisle seats, but when I’m on an overnight flight I reserve the window seat.  That way, the moment I board a plane for an overnight flight, I don’t have to wait for the rest of my row to show up before buckling in and getting ready for sleep.  I put my roller bag in the overhead compartment, put my Lo & Sons OMG bag under the seat in front of me, inflate the first pillow and position it comfortably, pop on my headphones, start playing an audiobook, take off my glasses, and pop on the second pillow over my eyes.  My goal is to be asleep before boarding is complete.  So far, I’ve been pretty successful!

Is this an absurd amount of stuff for a “light” packer?  Nope: each of these items have earned their place in my bag because I need all three to sleep in economy overnight.  I’ve tried in-ear headphones, but my ear canals are quite small and so they hurt me.  I’ve tried smaller eye masks, but they don’t cushion the headphones against the inflatable pillow so the headphones end up digging into my skull.  And I’ve tried flying without the inflatable pillow, but my head winds up flopping all over and my neck is aching by the end of the flight (and the pain keeps me more awake).

I’d rather give up some clothes and toiletries to make room for these items.  And the ability to sleep means that I arrive at my destination so much prettier!  🙂

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