Do you remember many years (and a lot more legroom) ago, when flying was actually kind of fun? There were snacks, beverages, and on long-haul flights even Economy passengers got a little amenity kit with slippers, ear plugs, and a pen. While I’m glad for environmental reasons we no longer get these, I do miss the convenience. Now I have to remember to pack those things myself.
I also miss the legroom, seats that recline more than an inch, and being able to reach my bag under the seat in front. These days the seats are so close together you need to be a contortionist to get anything from your under-seat bag. Of course you could put everything you need in the seat-back pocket, but that’s problematic, too.
The hazards of the seat-back pocket
The biggest problem with the seat-back pocket is reduced legroom. Anything you put in the seat-back pocket pulls it closer, reducing your already limited legroom. That might be ok for just a book, or your phone, but by the time you add a water bottle and some snacks? Forget it. That pocket will be pulled so far out, it will be pushing against your knees.
Then there’s the issue of the person in front of you. Every time you move something in or out of the seat-back pocket, that person can feel it. Imagine the person behind you taking their water bottle in and out of the seat-back pocket every thirty minutes (or more!). For the entire flight. No one wants that. We’re all already a little annoyed at being crammed together like sardines. We need to do whatever we can to avoid disturbing each other as much as possible. Really, that means avoiding the seat-back pocket entirely.
So if you can’t use the pocket, and you can’t reach under your seat, where are you supposed to put everything?
The genius of Charles Doppelt
That’s where Charles Doppelt, inventor of the dopp-style toiletry bag, saves the day. It turns out that all you need to solve this access problem is a dopp bag and a D-ring. The magic of a dopp bag is the handle on the end. If you hold the bag by the handle, the zipper works vertically. That way you can open it without everything falling out.
The D-ring is to hang it from the seat-back pocket:
With the D-ring hanging system, the pocket stays shut, but you can still get to everything you need. You can move your in-flight organizer wherever you want: right, left, center, or anywhere else you can find to clip it. You can reach it easily, even with the seat in front reclined. If your water bottle has a loop on top, then you can clip that to the D-ring as well. You can even give your water bottle its own D-ring.
There is not much information about Charles Doppelt online, but if you want to read a little bit more, check-out this Wikipedia link .
How to make an in-flight organizer
Now that you know the two things you need for an in-flight organizer, it’s time to build one that is actually organized.
First, find your perfect dopp bag. I like one with a large main compartment. You can even make your own with a pattern like this one from Grainline Studio. I can’t get over how cute their whole set is! I’m planning to make the dopp bag and some accessory pouches from it as soon as I can find the time. But I digress.
The important things to look for in a dopp bag are a nice, big handle on the end, and a zipper that works well. It also helps if the bag is washable. I got mine from Lady Alamo at the Maker Faire Marketplace a few years ago.
Next, you need a D-ring that opens and closes easily. It should be large enough to clip through the handle of your dopp bag without any trouble. A D-ring that is 3-4 inches should be the right size. You can use the same D-ring, or one that’s even smaller, for your water bottle.
Last, you need some accessory pouches to organize everything inside. These should be as small as possible for what they need to hold. It also helps if they’re different colors.
What to put in your in-flight organizer
Only you know what you need for the most comfortable flight possible, but here’s what I bring:
For every flight
I fly a lot, so these items live in my in-flight organizer where they’re ready to go at any time:
- Water bottle
- Small ‘necessary items’ pouch (tiny things that would otherwise get lost)
- Small ‘electronics’ pouch
- Inflatable neck pillow (this Eagle Creek one is my favorite because it’s small, adjustable, and really comfortable)
- Snacks (not shown), as necessary for the duration of the flight
What’s in the ‘necessary items’ pouch
I think of this pouch like a traveling medicine cabinet-meets-junk drawer. It holds all of those little things you sometimes need during a flight. Before every trip, I check to see that nothing has expired or needs replacing. Here’s what I keep in the ‘necessary items’ pouch:
- Nail file (paper, not metal)
- Travel sickness tablets (or any medications I might need during the flight)
- Pressure bands (I had my doubts, but they actually seem to help!)
- Some sweets to help if my ears aren’t changing pressure like they should
- Gummy bears, just in case
- Hair elastic (not just for hair, they’re also good for fixing broken tray tables and holding all sorts of things together)
Tip: If you are traveling internationally, make sure to check the regulations on declaring food you don’t consume during the trip.
For overnight and long haul flights
When I know I will be sleeping on a plane, or if I think I’ll want a nap, I add a few more things to the ‘necessary items’ pouch:
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- Fabric bag to hold my glasses (I hang this one from the tray table lock)
- Tiny camping towel with case (to keep everything else dry after I use it)
- Unscented face cleanser/moisturizer I can use at my seat (and wipe-off with the towel)
I also add a pair of washable travel slippers in a washable fabric bag:
The electronics pouch
This pouch holds anything electronic that I might need at my seat. My laptop and cords are in a separate bag, in the carry-on. That leaves the phone charger, headphones, and any adapters. If I roll the cords up tightly, they fit well in this little pouch. Since it’s bright green, I can always find it, too:
It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit in a dopp bag! By packing efficiently you can have everything you need for a good flight, right within reach. There’s even room to spare (which was impossible to photograph):
Now all you need to do is add snacks, zip it up, and go:
One more in-flight convenience
Another thing I always bring with me on a plane is a triangular scarf. You may remember this one from the Creatorvox no-sew scarf project:
A triangular scarf is great for chilly planes. If you unfold it, it makes a great blanket. You can also use it as a pillow, or throw it over your eyes for a little sleep.
I hope your travels are more fun, and less stressful, with your in-flight organizer. Have any other travel tips? Feel free to share them in the comments.
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