When you’re stuck in a flying tube, you don’t always have everything readily available to you that you may want or need. Here are five emergency substitutes you can make do with on a plane that I use all the time as a flight attendant:

1. Tape: Although most airlines won’t have tape in their bins, they probably have bandaids, which basically works out to be the same thing. I find the Band-aids on board come in handy for all sorts of things, and I most often use them “tape” headphones into an armrest jack that is loose or a bit finicky.

2. Ice packs: In the air when you can’t get your hands on a cold pack, you can make your own with some of the ice from the drinks cart and the airline’s universal gloves. Most airlines should have both in abundance. This is great if you’re traveling with an injury that requires icing, as swelling tends to worsen in the air because most cabins are pressurized for 8,000 feet above sea level. A cold pack can also help you feel less nauseated if you suffer from air sickness, or it can simply be a way to help cool down if you get stuck in an airplane that is too hot.


3. Heat packs: Instead of filling gloves with ice, ask your flight attendant to fill it with hot water from the coffee/tea station in the galley. The gloves are water tight, and act like a thick-skinned water balloon when filled with the hot water and knotted. Awesome if you’re suffering from menstrual cramps, or if your muscle and joints are feeling stiff from sitting in the same position for too long. It works because the heat helps improve blood flow. I’ve also used this to help warm up when I’m just “plane” cold.

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4. Sponge: Did you know sanitary napkins are super absorbent? They are the best sponges we have on planes. If a large quantity of liquid has been spilled, I will use a feminine hygiene pad as a sponge because it soaks up a mess more quickly, and saves our limited supply of paper towels and napkins on board.

5. Stain Remover: This is where the feminine hygiene pad comes in handy again, with just a little bit of Seltzer water from the drinks cart, and scrub, scrub, scrub. Don’t try to get by with using the drink napkins or paper towels from the bathroom — both will leave little white pills of paper residue all over your clothes that are hard to remove and sometimes look worse than the original spill.


— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.


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