I am super specific in my pre-flight ritual, and that includes packing a very particular carry on bag. At this point, I have it down to a science. I know exactly what travel essentials I need, especially for long flights, organized to a T.
Most importantly you need an efficient, compartmentalized bag that is both durable and lightweight. Then you ONLY pack what you need – forget the 3 books you “think” you’ll read…pack 1. And do not use the flight as an excuse to pick up a new hobby like scrapbooking. The extras will only drive you nuts – I know from experience.
Carry On Essentials For Long Flights
Carry On Bag
As I mentioned above, this is not to be taken lightly. Sure, you see everyone on Instagram posing with their Louis Vuitton Neverfull, but I’ll be real with you – it’s a big bag full of disorganization. And packed heavy enough, it will kill your back.
My favorite bag for every flight is the Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft 17L Backpack. I did some major research before our trip to Europe last year with the kids. I wanted to make sure I could stay 100% focused on them, knowing my bag and all of its contents like passport, money, camera, etc. were safe. This bag received the best reviews and I can confirm, after dozens of flights it is well worth the $129.95. Here’s why I love it:
- Super lightweight – like a little over 1lb
- Perfect size – 15.4″ x 10.6″ x 6.3″
- Fits a 13 inch MacBook®
- Phone pocket; Internal pockets to keep your gear organized
- Water bottle pocket
- RFID blocking pocket to protect passport and cards
- Strap detaches and can anchor to any object with secure locking hook
- Reinforced cut-resistant stainless steel strap
- Cut-resistant sewn-in mesh lined exterior
- Interlocking zippers with secure closure (compatible with most standard locks)
- Zip tab to secure zipper in place (can be locked down, lock not included)
One of the best tips to make the most of a long flight is to stay hydrated. Sure you may have to get up and use the bathroom every few hours, but it is way better than the alternative – feeling puffy, groggy and just plain old thirsty.
The key is in the bottle. My favorite is the 40oz Hydro Flask – but you also have to get the straw lid. The TempShield insulation eliminates condensation and keeps water cold up to 24 hours. And the Wide Mouth Straw Lid makes it that much easier to drink. The morning of my flight I fill it up and try to finish it before security. Then I fill it up again and try to finish before the flight. Then I fill it up again to drink on the flight. I know that sounds like a lot of water…but your body needs it in the air.
Additional long haul flight essentials include noise-cancelling headphones. Before the flight download a podcast or Spotify Premium playlist to pass the time while in the air. It’s also a better idea to have your own pair of headphones for watching movies versus renting a pair mid-flight. I like the Sony SP700N Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones because they also include a power bank and have an ambient sound mode so you can still hear pilot announcements if you want.
If you’re a light sleeper or just want ultra silence, then I’d also pack a small bag of ear plugs. Herschel Supply Company has a 3-pack in disposable pouches for $9.99. These are also great for sleeping once you get to your destination. You never know how thin the walls are. During our trip to Rome last year we failed to realize our Airbnb was right below a music school when booking. Needless to stay, ear plugs came in handy.
One of my favorite travel hacks is DewBurst, a compressed dry-to-wet cloth that comes in a compact biodegradable tube. They’re only $3.99 for a pack of 10 and are super convenient when you need a quick freshen up. DewBurst are reusable, environmentally safe, hypoallergenic, preservative free and fragrance free.
Another must-have in my tote bag is lip balm. I personally love Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 because it’s formulated with Squalanea, Lanolin, Wheat Germ Oil and Vitamin E. It will keep your lips feeling nourished at any altitude. I keep a tube in both my carry on and toiletry bag.
Comfort is key on long haul flights and a travel pillow can be all the difference on whether you actually sleep, which will help combat jet lag when you land. I like the Travel Smart 2-in-1 Travel Pillow by Conair because you can use it as a neck pillow or convert to a lumbar pillow. The beaded fill adjusts to the contours of your head and neck and has a super soft, comfortable outer shell. Coming from someone who knows red-eye flights all too well, neck pillows are not all made the same.
As I mentioned above, sleep is vital on long flights, and one of the best ways to make it happen is to block light. The Flight 001 Molded Eye Mask is a fan-favorite in the travel world as it turns the cabin pitch dark, and it’s raised so it doesn’t rest directly on your eyes. The best part – it only costs $18.
For long haul flights in particular, I tend to get a bit chilly so I’ll sometimes bring a blanket. The most raved about brand (thanks to the the Kardashians) is the Barefoot Dreams Cozychic Barefoot in the Wild Throw. It’s definitely a splurge, but it truly is the softest blanket you’ll ever own.
A travel tip I picked up from an eye doctor to combat dry eyes is to use artificial tears, 1 drop in both eyes every hour. It’s also helpful to avoid contacts and makeup as both can cause irritation in the recycled dry air. Refresh Optive Preservative-Free Eye Drops are highly recommended in flight.
This may come as an obvious but you’d be surprised at what you’re likely to miss, especially if packing the night before your flight. I’ll just put it out there – don’t forget your passport and any other documents you may need!
I typically carry minimal cash and mainly only use it for tips so credit cards are my currency. I always call my bank, before I leave, to provide upcoming travel dates, preventing disruptions or transaction issues. In addition, I recommend finding out if your bank has domestic or international partners in the destination you’re headed.
MacBook or Tablet
This is definitely a preferential item on the list, but I personally love to work on airplanes. I find peace in the air and enjoy not having any distractions. As I mentioned above my 13″ MacBook has its own slot in my carry on bag, making it easy to access whether I want to write a blog post or watch a movie. For my kids, we always bring their Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablets, pre-loaded with their favorite movies.
I am not about to leave it to aircraft services to keep me nourished on a flight. I always pack a few low-sugar snacks like protein bars or almonds so I don’t end up devouring the mini pretzel bags they hand out. Sodium is not your friend in the sky. And neither is alcohol. I know a mimosa sounds like a good idea, especially on a vacation flight, but it will leave you dehydrated and exhausted and honestly wouldn’t you rather save it for when you’re actually on vacation – not just en route?
I hope these carry on essentials for long haul flights prove to be valuable and you feel prepared for upcoming travel! Like with anything, preparation is key.
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