10 Easy Carry On Essentials for a Long Haul Flight

10 Easy Carry On Essentials for a Long Haul Flight

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

1. Water

Carry on essentials- doodle of water bottle and glass

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!

2. Snacks

Carry on essentials- doodle of various snacks

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

Carry on essentials- doodle of 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!

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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

Carry on essentials- doodle of woman with neck 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

Carry on essentials- doodle of headphones and earbuds

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

Carry on essentials- doodle of anti-bacterial 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.

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7. Entertainment

Carry on essentials- doodle of book being read

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

Carry on essentials: doodle of gum and medications

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

Carry on essentials- doodle of someone wearing 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.

10. Toiletries

Carry on essentials- doodle of toiletry bag

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
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturizer/Lotion
  • Small hairbrush or comb
  • Scented body spray (for after landing)

I hope you found this list of carry on essentials useful and enjoyable. Feel free to comment with your favorite must haves in the comments below!


32 thoughts on “10 Easy Carry On Essentials for a Long Haul Flight

  1. Wow nice job. You listed all of the essentials. I cant think of anything to add. Sleeping pills and an extra change of clothes ( including underwear) are top of my list.

  2. Gorgeous pics! And you nailed it, really. Back in my old long haul days, I’d have been crazy not to have any of this stuff… I learned from experience. Wish I’d seen this 5 years ago! X

    1. Fortunately I learned pretty quickly, as I am someone who gets restless and uncomfortable pretty easily lol Glad you enjoyed the pics as well! Thanks 🙂

  3. Nailed it! My boyfriend is English, so we do quite a few trips back and forth from the UK (21 hours total, with one leg usually around the 14 hour mark.) Entertainment and comfort are huge for me, as I’m not a person who sits still easily! But you have literally hit on every one of my must haves – love it!

  4. I find it really, really hard to fall asleep comfortably on planes these days, even considered mini bolsters to hug and such. Great post! I have an upcoming 13-hour flight (omg) and I’m gonna take a look at compression socks + the other things you recommended here!

  5. Oh my god, yes. I hate those pitiful little Barbie’s Malibu Dream Cups they give you water in.

    For toiletries, I swear by dry shampoo and cucumber face wipes. They go a long way toward making you feel human straight off a plane.

    1. Yes! I need way more water than that and I hate having to bother them for more over and over. Those are both really great suggestions too! I am pretty minimalistic so I don’t bring hardly any body products with me but I could see dry shampoo being a life saver!

  6. Great list. I took 34 flights in 2016 and I have a go-to travel kit for long haul flights especially. I have most of what you mention and I also travel with an awesome black-out eye mask and black scarf for when I really need to sleep 😊

    1. You definitely got me beat! lol I may consider trying a sleep mask as well. And for some reason I always bring a scarf wherever I go because they can be used for so many things!

    1. I actually added that to the more comprehensive downloadable carry on packing list- because that is definitely a good thing to bring as well if you are prone to getting cold!

  7. Awesome list – I used to travel quite frequently (every week, basically), and I think you hit every item that’s important to me, which says a lot as I think I’m a quite prepared traveler!

    One item I couldn’t live without, though, is my amazon basics USB charger! It lets me keep all of my devices (phone, tablet) running throughout the airport shuffle and long flight. Granted most (all?) international flights have power outlets, but I like to over-prepare 🙂

    Great article!

    1. That’s a great idea- I should get myself one of those! It would come in handy all over the place. Fortunately my phone has a long battery life but my tablet does not. I usually charge them at the airport but a USB charger would be so handy. Thank you for the suggestion!

  8. Always love your doodles!

    Looks like we’re quite similar travellers. I haven’t found a comfortable way to sleep with a neck pillow, though. I always forget to bring snacks on my flight, especially those around Europe. Hopefully, I’ll remember that for my next flight 🙂

    1. Yeah sometimes you STILL can’t find a comfortable sleeping position! I saw a video for a “sleeping pillow” of sorts, but it looks like a tray that you put around your neck. Really interesting lol Def gotta have the snacks tho!

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