13 Essentials For A Long Bus Or Airplane Ride

When I travel, I always prefer to travel light. I hate carrying around bulky, heavy items, and it often turns out that whenever I pack extra clothes, I end up not needing half of them. Besides, packing a huge backpack on a road trip or a long flight just means you’ll have to carry it around for hours. I’ve ended up with some very sore shoulders and neck muscles this way, and those things take a while to recover.

That said, there are some essentials that I find very helpful when traveling. I like to pack a light backpack, and I make sure that I have the following 13 essentials. Whether I’m on a long car, bus or plane ride, these things help.

Comfortable shoes

If you’ve ever sat in any kind of vehicle for an extended period of time, then you already know that shoes can make or break the journey. A pair of shoes that are too tight, not breathable or uncomfortable in any way can make every moment of the ride quite miserable. A good pair of shoes, on the other hand, can get you through even a long, bumpy ride without destroying your feet and ankles.

So, no matter where you’re going, make fashion second to comfort for the ride. In warmer seasons and climates, I like to wear a pair of comfy sandals, as I am a person who hates socks (they make my feet too sweaty). For colder days and climates, a comfy, breathable pair of sneakers is key.


When planning your travel outfit, it can be beneficial to choose a pair of pants with multiple pockets, especially cargo pockets. Women may find this a bit challenging, as pants made for us tend to be sorely lacking in the pocket department. Despite the challenge, however, they can be found with a bit of digging! Pockets can take the weight off of your backpack, and allow you to keep your phone, important documents and some of the items on this list right on your person. They’re convenient and practical.

A second shirt

Depending on how long your trip is going to be, you may want to pack a change of clothes. If you do, pack items that are lightweight, comfortable and don’t wrinkle too easily. If your trip isn’t too long, but long enough, throw an extra shirt in your backpack. It’s easy to spill things on yourself when you’re on the road, and you don’t want to be wearing a stained or wet shirt all day.

Along these lines, toss a lightweight bag in your backpack, in case you need to change shirts mid-ride and don’t want the dirty one rubbing against all of your other items.


Wherever I go, I always bring a bottle of water. I even do this on shorter car trips, because I get dehydrated pretty easily. It may be tempting to bring another type of drink on the ride, but for me, I always regret it whenever I do this because I find myself craving plain water.

There are other hydrating options, such as coconut water, but definitely skip juices, teas and any sugary drinks, as they’ll just make you thirstier after a few hours. If you do opt for these, make sure you have water with you as well.

Healthy, portable snacks

Healthy snacks can make a long ride more bearable.

On a long trip, you’ll need refreshments, but stopping for fast food is a pretty surefire way to feel bloated and tired, not to mention the digestive horrors which may visit you afterward. Your healthiest option is to bring your own nutritious snacks. Choose portable snacks such as raw nuts, dried fruits, sliced veggies or small gluten-free wraps. Secure your snacks in baggies and keep them in your cargo pockets!

Coconut oil

When I spend several hours on the road, my skin starts to get really dry, and also really oily. Bringing a small container of organic unrefined coconut oil with you is a great way to keep your skin from freaking out even in the worst airplane cabin conditions. Just pack a bit in an empty chap-stick tube or another small container, and rub a bit on your hands, face and neck when your skin is feeling dry (it actually helps with the excess oil, too). Just don’t use too much or it gets greasy.

Phone charger

You’ve probably already packed it, but just in case… a reminder doesn’t hurt. You’re welcome.


I don’t like to travel without music. If you’re of like-mind on this, don’t forget your headphones, or your music player if you don’t have music on your phone.

A book

It’s always a good idea to bring a book on a bus or plane ride.

Just one, lest your backpack be weighed down. Or a Kindle. If you have a big enough cargo pocket, you can even slip your book in there.


I’ve found that it’s good to have a cozy but lightweight sweatshirt with you when you travel, even in warmer months. You can use it as a pillow or a neck pillow if you need to, and sometimes airports and buses blast the AC to the point of shivers. You’ll be glad you brought it for one reason or another.

Pocket flashlight

A small, bright flashlight, such as one that can attach to a keychain, is perfect for finding things dropped in those dark places next to and underneath seats.

Pocket fan (depending on climate)

If it’s summer, or you’re in a hot region, a small fan might end up being your best friend, especially on public transportation.

Motion sickness protection

I get motion sickness very easily, so I take steps to prevent this when taking a long trip. If this is an issue for you as well, try packing a small baggie of peeled, sliced ginger or fresh mint leaves. You can chew on these when you feel nausea coming on. Drink plenty of water. If gum helps you when you travel, but you want to skip the artificial sweeteners and additives, try chewing on a piece of tamarind  it’s delicious.

Did I miss anything that’s on your list of essentials?

— Tanya Mead

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