Years ago, I'd read somewhere that if you're ever stuck in the middle seat on the plane, the best way to claim your armrest space was to keep everything you'd possibly need in the seat-back pocket. This way, you can avoid relinquishing your space when you reach down under the seat in front of you.
So I spent the next few flights perfecting my ideal pocket set-up. And, like any true travel nerd, I still get a little thrill seeing all of my seat pocket items all assembled before the flight. And whether you're protecting your armrest space or just trying to stay comfortable and organized, scrunching and stretching down under the seat in front of you is no fun -- especially if the seat is reclined. Here's the setup that lets me access everything I'll possibly need during a flight -- and all within arm's reach:
1. Gallon-sized Ziploc bag, to store everything. This is pretty much required if you don't trust the cleanliness of those seat pockets. (I really don't.)
2. Small zipper pouch with phone, lip balm, pen, and wallet essentials (ID, credit cards, etc.). Not all airlines are cool enough to let you hang on to your phone during takeoff and landing. I'm addicted to lip balm, and you'll need a pen for those customs forms when crossing borders. The reason for keeping these in a separate clutch or zipper pouch with your wallet essentials? They're useful to have for inflight purchases, and it's easy to take the whole pouch with you when you're traveling alone and need to get up from your seat.
3. Kindle (or tablet device of choice). For entertainment and catching up on the reading I don't typically get to do.
4. Hand sanitizer. In case I'm going to eat anything during my flight, which I probably will.
5. Glasses case. So my frames don't get crushed when I inevitably take a nap.
6. An eye mask and earplugs are my fail-proof weapons for getting more rest on the road. Tip: I keep the earplugs, which are good for a few uses, in a little cleaned out mint tin.
7. Facial tissues, because you never know when you're going to get sniffly.
8. Thermos (mostly). I try to throw one in when there's room in my carry-on or when I have a cold. The Zojirushi thermos I have is a small investment but totally worth it -- it never leaks, and hot water in it has stayed hot through flights between either coasts.
9. Bonus: I sometimes want to watch TV or movies on my computer. While the laptop itself often doesn't fit into seat pockets -- or isn't allowed to be stowed there on some airlines -- I'll pop a pair of earbuds into the seat-back pocket to minimize fumbling.
Now you tell us: What's in your seat back pocket?