Even with the chaos of the holidays dissipating, air travel is rarely hassle-free. It's typically fraught with crowds and general unpleasantness. To make the experience more comfortable, carry these 10 cheap accessories on board every time you fly.
Airplane cabins never seem to be the right temperature; too often they feel like the inside of a meat locker. If you shed your shoes to get comfortable, thick socks will keep your feet warm. They also offer protection when you have to walk shoe-less through security. Even when wearing summer sandals, bring socks to avoid going barefoot through the scanner, and slip them on again when the onboard air conditioning kicks in.
This versatile accessory can be found everywhere from big-box stores to street vendors, in an array of colors and patterns, starting at about $5. A pashmina can be worn as a shawl on a cold flight and serve as a blanket on a red-eye.
If you plan to catch a few winks on the plane, an eye mask that blocks out the light can make it easier to sleep. Satin and velour eye masks are sold at the dollar store, and even top-rated options from Bedtime Bliss and Magellan's start at about $10.
EARPLUGS OR WHITE NOISE APP
Flights can be filled with chatty seatmates and crying babies, never mind the engine roar. A pair of earplugs can muffle these aural irritants. Alternatively, download a cheap or free app such as White Noise Free and listen with headphones during the flight.
LOTION AND LIP BALM
Cabin air is notoriously dry. Travel-size lotion -- no more than 3.4 ounces -- and a tube of lip balm can keep skin fresh and lips moist on a long flight. Remember to pack the lotion in a quart-size bag to comply with the Transportation Security Administration rule for liquids.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
While many travelers bring a snack in a carry-on to avoid high-priced food at the airport (or in flight), drinks aren't allowed through security. Stay hydrated and save on bottled water by bringing an empty bottle and filling it up on the far side of security. Many terminals have designated stations beside the drinking fountains for filling reusable bottles.
Keep toddlers safely and comfortably in their own seat by bringing a car seat approved for air travel. Cheapism.com's pick for the best cheap car seat, the Evenflo SureRide DLX, meets federal standards for use on planes and starts at about $85. It can pay for itself on a week's vacation: Renting a car seat along with a rental car costs about $10 a day or more.
A small travel pack of tissues is a required accessory, especially with kids in tow. Not only can the chilly in-flight air make noses run, the tissues can be used to wipe down the tray and arm rests, catch chewed-out gum, and clean up assorted spills and messes.
Forget fumbling for a phone while hustling through the airport or sitting in a cramped seat. A wristwatch costing as little as $10 is an unobtrusive, albeit old-fashioned, device that serves its purpose without fuss. It also acts as a backup when a phone battery dies and there's no place -- or time -- to charge.
TOOTHBRUSH AND TOOTHPASTE
Airplane travel can leave a bad taste in your mouth -- literally. Mints and gum provide a temporary fix, but after snacking and maybe taking a snooze on a long flight, it feels good to freshen up with a quick brush.