Usually when we talk about "travel essentials", we're referring to longer plane rides, probably internationally, that we look at as something we need to come amply prepared to "survive". While this is a definite must, no one talks about the basics for the shorter trips. We don't need to come as fully stocked, but there are definitely some things that make these trips easier. (Let's call these "shorter" trips less than 5 hours. I still consider Seattle to New York a short trip, relatively speaking.)
1. Absolute numero uno, no questions asked, no matter how long or short your flight is, HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE. Being on an airplane with all that recycled air, at the altitude you're flying at, really dries you out. They say you should have a glass of water for every hour on the plane. I know most of us picture ourselves at the airport or on an airplane with a drink in our hand, but I try not to have more than one or two. It's amazing the difference it makes with how I feel when I land. And if I do have a couple, I just make sure I have that much more water. (And hopefully I'm in an aisle seat).
2. Comfortable clothes. I tried to be one of those people who got all dolled up and wore heels on an airplane once, and I'm just not that kinda girl. Comfort is my M.O. in the rest of my life, so why would flying be any different? I always make sure I'm wearing comfortable shoes of some sort, and definitely stretchy pants.
3. Healthy Snack/Meal. Depending on the time of day/duration, your flight may serve food, or it's usually, if not always available for purchase. Food on airplanes tends to be super packed with sodium, and there isn't usually a very healthy option. Add that to flying at 38,000 feet, a couple drinks, and probably not enough water, and you have a recipe for feeling lethargic, bloated, and just not your best when you get off the plane. I try to bring a bag of almonds/cranberries or raisins from home, or I just discovered these Curate bars, and they're great for on-the-go. Or make a sandwich at home, or buy a sandwich or salad in the airport before you take off.
4. Feel refreshed! It doesn't take long for my skin to feel dried out and greasy all at the same time when I'm flying. I make sure before I leave the house I put on a really good moisturizer under my make-up, and I bring some sort of refreshing, good smelling facial spray with me for during and/or after we land. It's amazing what a cold spritz can do for how you feel.
5. And of course: reading/watching material! Even if it's just an hour flight, it's hard to just sit there and stare at the seat in front of you. I don't read very much lately (really since the invention of the internet), so the plane is a good place to catch up on the quickly growing stack of books next to my bed. And I always try to have some TV shows or movies downloaded onto my computer or iPad before I go. Most planes now have wifi, but you have to pay for it, and rarely, if ever, can you stream shows or movies on it.
That's my bare minimum on any flight! I might add some things, but I never subtract from this list. Just a few tweaks can make your flying/landing experience much more pleasant.