The ten carry on essentials you should bring for a comfortable, enjoyable flight.
I do quite a bit of flying.
Having been on 6 flights in the past year and planning for several more in the coming months, I am familiar with the ins and outs of comfortable flying.
The longest flight I have been on was a ten hour flight from Seattle to Taiwan. Long flights require a bit more preparation, energy, and time than shorter trips. I say time here because long flights can be B O R I N G. Who wants to sit in one spot for 6+ hours at a time? Not me! That being said, it is often a necessary inconvenience if you have a passion for travel.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money on the latest gadgets to have a comfortable experience. This list includes items that you probably already have, with a few suggestions to make your long haul flight more enjoyable. I have written this list of carry on essentials in the hope that you will feel prepared, happy, and comfortable the next time you fly!
10 Easy Carry On Essentials for a Long Haul Flight
This can be an easy thing to overlook because the assumption is that water will be provided for you on the plane. This is true, but it is usually not nearly enough. Most of the time, you are given a small cup and can get a refill every few minutes or so (if the attendants aren’t busy). In reality, you will need much more water than you would expect, because the cabin air is especially dehydrating. I always bring my own large bottle of water (purchased after security) so I never have to do without. It will keep you feeling refreshed and prevent headaches!
I am constantly eating. Apparently it is a sign of a fast-metabolism, but I can’t go more than an hour without eating something. Long flights usually include one or two meals (depending on the length of the flight), but this may not be enough to sustain you for the entire trip. Whether you bring your own snacks from home (that meet the requirements for security), or get them at the airport, try to bring at least a few snacks in case you get hungry. There’s nothing worse than having your stomach growl for hours on end, or eventually opting to pay $10 for an additional meal. I recommend snacks high in protein to keep you feeling fuller, longer. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks, which can be dehydrating.
3. Comfortable Clothing
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is easy to underestimate how uncomfortable long flights can be. Sitting for 3-5 hours is surely not the most enjoyable experience, but a 10 hour flight can be a roller coaster of being too hot, too cold, too itchy, too frumpy over and over again. Layering is key! If you are traveling from a hot to cold climate, or vice versa, this is especially important to keep in mind. When I arrived back from 90 degree Costa Rica, I found myself in snowy Seattle with only a sundress and flip flops on. Don’t make the same mistake that I did!
Here’s my Go-To Outfit
- Leggings (comfortable for sleeping and easy to style)
- Flats (can slip on and off during security and while sleeping)
- Tank Top (in case I get too hot)
- T-shirt or long sleeve shirt
- Sweatshirt (in case I get too cold)
- Optional: rain jacket or windbreaker depending on the climate
- Minimal jewelry
- Hair tie (just in case I want it up out of the way)
- Socks (for keeping feet warm)
- Underwear (I always bring an extra pair)
4. Neck/Sleeping Pillow
I’ll be honest, I used to think neck pillows were ridiculous. I understood the concept behind them but I resolved to never get one because I thought I could just “stick it out”. Well, inevitably, I caved. It may be possible to make it through a shorter flight without a pillow and even get some shuteye, but with a long flight it is much more difficult. If you are like most people and traveling coach class, it can be nearly impossible to find a comfortable position. Neck pillows provide ample support for your neck and a place to rest your head. There are many great options on the market, so find something that works best for you. Don’t wait until the airport like I did because they are much more expensive there!
5. Ear Plugs and/or Headphones
Having a good pair of comfortable (preferably noise cancelling ) headphones is such a must. Ear plugs may help if you are trying to get some sleep as well. I like bringing headphones because they are often more comfortable than the ones provided for in-flight movies, and give me the ability to listen to my own music on the plane. I found this out the hard way when the provided headphones kept slipping off of my head and hurting my ears. Also, being able to listen to your own music will help you fall asleep when you are trying to beat the jet lag.
6. Hand Sanitizer/ Wipes
Planes are pretty gross, no doubt about that. Thousands of people fly on airplanes every day, carrying with them a variety of illnesses, conditions, and hygiene standards. It a good idea to do what you can to prevent from getting sick. That’s why one of my top carry on essentials is hand sanitizer. Antibacterial wipes also allow you to wipe off surfaces (like trays, handles, and headphones) before you touch them. Just be sure that you bring sizes that meet security requirements.
Keep in mind that there is often no way for you to charge electronics like tablets, laptops, phones, and iPods on a plane. I love to bring my tablet along to watch pre-downloaded movies, but sometimes the battery doesn’t last the full ten hours. Keep in mind that you WILL get bored, so the more things to keep you preoccupied, the better. Books, games, notebooks, etc. really help to eat up the time. Don’t assume that bringing a single book will be enough to keep you occupied for the entire flights. Bring a couple of options and you will be good to go.
8. Gum/Medications/Sleep Aids
Make sure that you have the medications that you need for a long flight. These should be safely kept in your carry-on, even if you THINK you won’t need them. It is always better to have them on hand “just in case”. This also applies to feminine hygiene products. Some people find it helpful to have sleep aids (medications) to help them rest. I have never used these myself, but be careful to read the instructions carefully and know whether or not it is safe to consume alcohol with them. Additionally, chewing gum can help to relieve the pressure in your ears during takeoff and landing.
9. Movement/Compression Socks
I had never heard of compression socks or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) until I was researching how to prepare for long flights. Sitting still for long periods of time can lead to dangerous blood clots and other complications. Try to walk around the cabin every few hours or so, and move around after sitting in a position for too long. Compression socks can also help prevent DVT.
These items vary from person to person, and really depend on your style and needs. While I prefer not to wear makeup while flying, I know this is not the case for everyone. Bring whatever you think you will need to make you feel fresh- whether that is lip balm, moisturizer, face wipes, makeup, eye drops, whatever. I would say to avoid heavy scents to be courteous to other passengers. Consider bringing items that will help you feel moisturized. As I mentioned, long flights can be very dehydrating.
My Carry On Essentials:
- Toothbrush and paste
- Lip balm
- Face/body wipes
- Small hairbrush or comb
- Scented body spray (for after landing)