A well-packed carry on bag can make or break a long flight. As long as you’re well prepared, even the longest plane rides can be comfortable. I’ve been on my fair share of 8+ hour flights, and I’ve been able to curate my essentials so that anything I’d possibly need is right under the seat in front of me. In this post, I want to share my ultimate carry on bag check list to help you make your next flight more bearable.
This packing list is assuming all the normal stuff (clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc) is in a checked bag, or even in your overhead carry on bag. These must-haves are for in-flight use to keep at your seat with you.
The Perfect Bag: Backpacks are my preferred type of travel bag, since they’re easy to carry throughout the airport and down the aisle of the plane. My current travel bag is a custom Harper Backpack from BetterLifeBags. The brand lets you totally customize your bag online, from the appearance and fabric to the number of pockets inside and out. It was really hard for me to find “the perfect bag,” for my upcoming trips, so designing my own was the best solution! Plus, the company’s mission is to give jobs to women who would otherwise have barriers to traditional employment, which is amazing!
Full Outfit: It’s always a good idea to keep a full outfit with you in your carry on bag, especially if the rest of your clothes are checked. You can use it as an emergency change of clothes in the event of spills, or just in case your checked bag gets lost— at least you’ll have an outfit for tomorrow. Alternatively, you may have boarded the plane in pajamas for an overnight flight and want to change right after landing.
Tablet: Tablets are my favorite way to stay occupied during a flight. You can download movies and TV shows to watch and kill time, or have an endless amount of books pre-loaded to read throughout your flight (and trip)! More airlines are now offering free in-flight entertainment through their mobile apps as well, which doesn’t require purchasing the wifi.
Portable Charger & Cords: If you’re relying on your own devices for entertainment throughout your flight, don’t be caught without a portable charger and your charging cords. You don’t want to get to your final destination and have a dead phone after hours of video playing. My favorite powerful yet compact portable charger is the Anker PowerCore 10000, which can charge an iPhone XR 2x and an iPad mini 1.2x from 0%.
Headphones with a Standard Jack: While I have my favorite go-to bluetooth headphones that are pretty much all I wear at home, I always travel with earbuds that have a standard headphone jack. Especially on long flights, many planes have personal entertainment centers now where you can watch new movies (sometimes they’re still in theaters!). These entertainment centers will always have a 3.5mm headphone connection. Don’t take the chance that the plane has earbuds on hand, bring your own! My favorite earbuds aren’t cheap, but the Beats urBeats Earphones are durable and have amazing sound quality.
Non-Digital Form of Entertainment: Pack a short book, activity book, or even a couple magazines in the event that your devices die and you can’t charge them up. It’ll be a lot better than going through the in-flight catalogue over and over again!
Skin Care: Airplane air is incredibly dehydrating for the skin. I always find my face, hands, and lips getting irritatingly dry. Be sure to carry some hand lotion, rich lip balm, and even a face moisturizer with you for maximum comfort. I also like bringing micellar water wipes to cleanse easily in my seat.
Water Bottle: Speaking of dehydrating, I’m already used to drinking a ton of water at home. On planes, I get incredibly thirsty even more often. Instead of constantly ringing the flight attendant, or waiting for the beverage cart to pass by, I bring a reusable water bottle that I fill up at the airport before boarding. My favorite is the Simple Modern Ascent Water Bottle, which is insulated and keeps liquids hot or cold for hours.
Travel Pillow: Sleeping is my favorite way to get through flights quicker. Bring a pillow to make upright snoozing more comfortable. I love inflatable plane pillows, because they’re lightweight and can pack flat when not in use to save a ton of space. The inflatable plane pillow I use is from Amazon. It has a built-in hand pump, or you can blow it up with your mouth. It comes with a cover to keep it safe and clean when in your bag.
Sweater: Sometimes when I’m traveling to a warm destination, I don’t really think about packing outerwear. On the plane, though, the temperature can be up in the air (see what I did there?). I’ve been on planes that are super warm, and others where I’m freezing and curled up in a ball in my seat. Dressing in layers and having a light sweater in your bag will make sure you’re ready for anything.
Painkillers: This is probably my most-forgotten item, and I always kick myself when I have to buy overpriced painkillers at the airport. Be sure to bring on a small bottle to ward off headaches or backaches.
Shower Wipes: I discovered this essential on a 19 hour flight to Thailand last year, and never looked back. Long flights can make you feel grimy, but shower sheets help you feel and smell fresh so you’re ready to go when you land. Some people use baby wipes for this, but I prefer using the Yuni Shower Sheets. The wipes are large, so you only need one per use, and they are biodegradable. The formula in the wipes consist of Neem Leaf Extract to deodorize, calm the skin and soothe inflammation. Peppermint Leaf Essential Oil acts as a mild antiseptic to reduce bacterial activity, while Aloe and Green Tea antioxidants soften and protect the skin.
Hand Sanitizer: Speaking of grimy, keep hand sanitizer with you so you don’t have to run to the bathroom to wash your hands before snacking. I love the Olika Minnie Hand Sanitizer Spray, which is easy to apply, and the shape lets you find it easily in your bag. It’ll also come in clutch if they run out of hand soap in the bathroom… yes, that’s happened to me before. #triggered
Other Hygiene Products: Other products that can help you feel fresh during a long flight include Colgate Wisps for brushing your teeth, deodorant, a hairbrush and menstrual care products.
Makeup: If I board a plane fresh-faced, but we have plans right after we land, I’ll often do my makeup at my seat. However, even if I don’t plan on doing my makeup during the flight, I always bring my beauty products with me on board. I’ve heard too many horror stories of broken or missing makeup when checked in a bag, so I’d rather keep them under my supervision. Check out my post about how I pack my beauty products in a carry on bag.
I honestly enjoy flying as long as I’m well prepared with these in-flight essentials. Do you have any other tips for long flights, or must-haves you always pack? Share them in the comments!