family at airport with carry on bags

30 Must-Have Carry-On Essentials For Long Flights

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Long-haul travel is always much easier when you are prepared! These carry on essentials for long flights will ensure you can have a comfortable journey. This guide will help you pack your hand luggage with everything you need plus tips for carry-on luggage for travel with kids too!

When you’re 30,000 feet above the ground for the next 10 hours, the last thing you want is to realise you’ve forgotten something important!

And sometimes it can be the most simple thing!

One of mine early in my long-haul flight days was always forgetting to pack a lip balm. The air conditioning on the plane really dries out your skin. Especially your lips so remembering that small item is now a must-have carry-on essential for me when I fly!

woman at airport with backpack

Preparing For Your Flight

Before you start packing your carry-on essentials for the flight, there are a few things you can do to make your journey more comfortable

Choose your seat wisely – If you’re tall, consider the extra cost of a bulkhead seat so you can stretch your legs. If you’re solo, an aisle seat means no climbing over strangers or asking them to move if you need to use the bathroom.

Wear comfortable clothes – You’re going to be sitting down for a long time so make sure you’re wearing clothes that won’t irritate you or make you too hot. I always wear loose-fitting pants and a t-shirt with shoes I can easily slip on or off, a warm jacket and a pair of warm socks!

Heading overseas? Check out our complete international packing list for families!

The Best Carry-On Luggage For Long Flights

Finding the best carry-on luggage for long flights is important.

It needs to be the right size to fit in the overhead locker, but large enough to carry everything you need while still being within the standard hand luggage size restrictions.

And ideally, it needs to be designed to keep your hand luggage organised. I’ve tried carry-on backpacks, wheeled carry-ons and duffle bags and they all have their benefits. For that reason, there is no one style that fits all for carry-on baggage!

Here are some of the best options for hand luggage:

Carry On Suitcase

A wheeled carry-on suitcase is a classic choice for hand luggage and usually, the first option people think of.

The main benefit of wheeling your carry-on is that it’s really easy to move around with, whether you’re navigating through the airport or down the aisle of the plane.

They are often larger in size so you do need to be careful that they are within the size requirements for hand luggage for your airline, as these dimensions can differ slightly.

A carry-on suitcase is also a good option if you are travelling with hand luggage only, as you can pack everything you need into one bag.

If you purchase a set of roller suitcases, often you can find a bundle that includes a hand luggage size case that matches your larger case.

Be mindful that if they are not part of a set, you may need to wheel two suitcases at the airport, unless your smaller bag is able to sit on top of the larger suitcase.

Here are some great options for carry-on suitcases:

Carry On Backpack

A backpack is a great option if you want to be hands-free while you travel. And, if it has shoulder straps that are adjustable and padded, it can be really comfortable to carry, with the weight evenly distributed across your shoulders.

When travelling with kids, a backpack is often a preferred choice since you need to be able to carry kids, push strollers, hold hands and carry other family members’ luggage as well.

Here are some great backpacks to consider for hand luggage:

Carry On Duffle Bag

A duffle bag is a good carry-on option if you want to have everything in one bag and easily access it during the flight

Some duffle bags often come with lots of compartments and pockets which is great for keeping your long haul flight essentials organised. Although make sure the one you choose does, as some do not and it makes it really difficult to find things while aboard a plane.

You can also get some duffle bags with built-in wheels that fold into the bottom of the bag when not in use. They can be easier to carry through the airport too!

Here are some great duffle bags for hand luggage:

Don’t Forget These Items When You Fly

There are some obvious items that you will need to take with you when flying that you absolutely cannot forget to bring! These items are usually on your travel packing list and include:

  • Passport
  • Travel documents
  • Visas
  • Purse or wallet
  • Identification
  • Mobile phone & charger
  • Medications and prescriptions
  • Travel insurance documentation
  • Cash (Consider carrying a small amount of currency for each of your destinations)
  • Laptop/tablet and charging cables

Many airlines also allow you to bring a purse or handbag as an extra carry-on item if you choose to have both. Always check before you travel!

Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. We recommend World Nomads.

The Must-Have Carry-On Essentials For Long Flights

woman looking out airport window

Now that I’ve been travelling long-haul for years, I’ve got my packing down to a fine art. These long-haul flight essentials will make your economy flights more comfortable and help you arrive at your destination feeling much less frazzled!

Always make sure to check the dangerous goods information for the airlines you will be flying with before you leave so you do not have any issues at check-in or security. If in doubt, give them a call!

These are my carry-on essentials for long flights:

1. Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is really important when you’re travelling, especially on long flights. The air inside the cabin is really dry and can cause dehydration.

I always make sure to drink lots of water during my flight. Many airports offer water coolers once you pass security so you can refill reusable water bottles. An empty reusable water bottle will also help reduce plastic waste.

A collapsible water bottle is a great option if you want to save space in your hand luggage when not in use.

Alternatively, grab a bottle of water from the kiosk near your gate so you can ensure you are hydrated between in-flight services.

Tip: I find sipping water more effective than chewing gum/lollies during takeoff and landing, to avoid ears popping.

2. Warm Jacket

It can get really cold on flights! The air conditioning is usually turned up high to prevent the spread of germs, so make sure you have a warm jacket to put on during the flight.

I also recommend wearing layers so you can adjust your temperature more easily. While most long-haul airlines provide a blanket, they tend to be very thin so bringing your own jacket is a must!

3. Compression Socks

Compression socks are great for long flights to help improve circulation, prevent swelling and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

As someone who can be prone to swelling during long flights, these have become an essential carry-on item for every long flight.

If you don’t want to wear socks, you can also get compression leggings or tights.

Tip: Make sure you do bring warm socks to keep your feet from freezing during flights! You can slip these on over your compression socks for extra warmth.

4. Sleeping Mask

An eye mask is another carry-on essential for long-haul flights. It can help you block out the light from the screens and overhead lights around you to make it easier to sleep.

5. Ear Plugs

Ear plugs are another essential that will make it easier to sleep. Planes are noisy, especially if there are babies and young children who might become upset during flight.

Ear plugs will help block out the majority of the noise around you to get better rest on your flight.

6. Travel Pillow

A travel neck pillow is great for long flights, especially if you tend to lean your head to the side while sleeping. It can help prevent a crick in your neck and make it more comfortable to sleep on flights.

After all, there is nothing worse than if you fall asleep during the flight and wake up with your head on the shoulder of a stranger…

This travel pillow also comes with a sleeping mask and ear plugs.

7. Hand Sanitiser

With all the germs flying around, it’s important to keep your hands clean. Hand sanitiser is a great way to kill germs when soap and when water is not available.

I always make sure to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser in my carry-on so I can use it before meals or after using the washroom and for use around the airport when in high-touch areas.

person closing overhead compartment on plane

8. Wet Wipes

Baby wipes are great for long flights and travel in general. They can be used to wipe down your tray table, armrests and a TV screen on the plane.

They can also be used to freshen up before landing or after a long flight. I like to carry a small packet of wet wipes whenever we travel, even when we aren’t travelling with the kids. They have so many uses!

9. Lip Balm

I mentioned this one earlier and it really is a must-have for carry-on bags! The air on planes is really drying, so make sure to pack a lip balm to keep your lips hydrated. Arriving with cracked lips is not the way to start a vacation!

10. Handcream

I also like to carry a small tube of hand cream to keep my hands from drying out. A travel-sized hand cream is a perfect addition to your bag and doesn’t take up much room.

Not only is this great for keeping hands hydrated on planes, but just for general travel since using hand sanitiser more often will leave your hand feeling extremely dry too!

11. Snacks

While most long-haul flights do serve up meals and snacks throughout the flight, having a few snacks of your own can be a really good idea.

You never know what can happen. There may be an issue during the flight which impacts food service or you might not have time to grab a bite to eat before boarding or maybe you simply don’t like the food on offer. Having snacks you like will ensure you are not left starving while you’re in transit!

12. Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones can be a great alternative to earplugs. They will help block out the majority of noise around you so you can focus on sleeping or watching a movie/TV show without being distracted.

I find it so hard to focus when watching in-flight entertainment with the provided earphones because you can hear so much going on around you. This will help avoid that happening!

13. Eye Drops

The air on planes can be really drying for the eyes. To help combat this, make sure to pack some eye drops in your carry-on. This will help keep your eyes lubricated and feeling more comfortable during your flight

14. Portable Battery Charger

Many newer airplanes now have USB ports and charging stations, but it’s always a good idea to carry your own portable battery charger just in case.

This will come in handy if you need to charge your phone or other devices during the flight, but also during your time in the airport. Especially if you have connecting flights in between.

Spare batteries and portable chargers must be packed in carry-on luggage and not in checked luggage for safety reasons. Be sure to check the airline guidelines before you fly to make sure you are carrying items that are approved for flights.

15. Tissues

A small pack of travel tissues is always a good idea to carry. They can be used for runny noses, spills, or anything else that might happen while you are on your trip.

You never know when you might need them so it’s always best to be prepared!

16. Deodorant

While this one might seem obvious, you would be surprised how many people forget to pack deodorant when travelling. Don’t be one of those people!

Make sure to throw a travel-sized stick of deodorant in your carry-on so you can freshen up before landing. No one wants to be that person with bad body odour sitting beside them either.

My go-to for flights is a roll-on deodorant, although aerosols are approved for carry-on for most airlines.

17. Gum or Breath Mints

Chewing gum can help reduce the impact of ears popping during takeoff and landing. It can also help keep your breath feeling fresh in the place of brushing your teeth. Alternatively, mints can be a great option too!

18. Toothbrush & Toothpaste

I always carry a small travel toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry-on. This is great for freshening up before landing or if you need to brush your teeth during a long flight. It’s amazing what this simple habit can do for comfort during your long travel days!

19. A Change Of Clothing

Have you ever had your luggage go missing? Simon has and it took them 4 days to get it back to him! We learnt this the hard way after that experience and now always bring a spare set of clothing and underwear for every family member when we fly.

This is especially important when travelling with kids! I was very grateful for a spare t-shirt after being vomited on by our toddler on our way to Punta Cana.

20. Face Mask

These days, wearing face masks in airports and on planes is often a requirement. If you don’t have one, many airports will provide them for you. However, it’s always a good idea to carry your own just in case.

A face mask will also come in handy if you are feeling under the weather and don’t want to spread germs to those around you too.

21. Paracetamol or Aspirin

If you are prone to headaches or migraines, it’s a good idea to carry some pain relief in your carry-on. This will help you feel more comfortable during your flight and can be a lifesaver if you start to feel a headache coming on.

22. Mini First Aid Kit

A small first aid kit is always a good idea to carry when travelling. You never know when you might need it!

I like to include items such as band-aids and antiseptic cream. If you are prone to headaches or migraines, it’s a good idea to carry some pain relief such as aspirin or paracetamol in your carry-on.

This can be a lifesaver if you start to feel a headache coming on.

23. Notebook & Pen

Having somewhere to jot down notes, addresses, phone numbers and details while you travel can be extremely useful and you never know what situation you might need them in.

I like to carry a small notebook and pen with me so I am always prepared.

A lot of people nowadays rely on their phones for this but, in my opinion, there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned pen and paper!

24. Travel Journal

If you take a travel journal with you on your adventures, it’s always a great idea to pack this in your carry on baggage!

Documenting your experiences during your transit time or using the extra time you have during your flight to catch up on journal entries is a great way to pass the time.

Check out these travel journal prompts and our guide to choosing the right travel journal for you.

25. Entertainment

Make sure to pack some form of entertainment for the flight! This could be a good book, your favourite magazine, your laptop or tablet loaded with movies and TV shows, or a travel journal (if you like to doodle or write).

The in-flight entertainment is great, however, you might find you need a break from screen time so having alternative options is essential.

My favourite ways to pass the time in flight are by reading or listening to audiobooks or podcasts, in between catching an inflight movie or two.

If you are travelling with kids, it’s a good idea to pack some extra entertainment for them too (more on that below).

What To Pack In Your Hand Luggage When Flying With Kids

family at airport with carry on bags

Flying with kids can be daunting! There are so many things to think about and pack, that it’s easy to forget something important.

When it comes to flying with babies, toddlers and kids, the carry-on essentials you bring for yourself will also be useful for the whole family, however, there are a few extras you will want to bring too!

Here is a list of carry-on essentials for flying with kids:

26. Diapers/Nappies

If flying with a baby or toddler who is in nappies, you need to ensure you bring enough to get you through the flight, stopovers and potential delays.

Some airlines do carry a small supply of diapers if you run short, but this is no guarantee. Instead, pack enough to get you through 24+ hours. More if your travel will likely take longer.

If nothing else, having more than you need will give you peace of mind!

And don’t forget those baby wipes we mentioned above!

27. Baby Food & Snacks

It’s a good idea to bring food and snacks for your little one, especially if they are still young enough to be eating baby food or have a special diet.

Many airlines provide a post-weaning meal for older babies and toddlers, but these are not always great so bringing a couple of baby food pouches is a good idea. Make sure to bring a spoon as well!

Snacks for the airport and stopovers are essential too! Hungry kids are unhappy kids!

28. Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding Essentials

If your baby is still nursing, you will want to bring along a nursing cover, some breast pads (just in case) and any other items you need to breastfeed onboard.

If your baby takes formula, make sure to pack enough for the flight plus enough for a few extra bottles of formula just in case.

29. Change of Clothing

For babies and toddlers, consider bringing 2 extra sets of clothing just in case! And bring warm layers to prevent them from getting cold.

Tip: Make sure to dress your baby or toddler in clothing that makes it easy for diaper changes as there is very little space in the aeroplane changing stations.

31. Plane Entertainment For Kids

Keeping kids entertained during long flights is one of the biggest challenges! Packing some small toys, books, colouring and activity books and crayons is a good idea.

The best type of entertainment for flying are activities that can be done using the plane tray table. We always make our kids a homemade travel activity kit before we travel and add activities that are suitable for flights.

Don’t bring anything noisy or with lots of small parts that might go missing. Also avoid anything messy too!

If you have multiple children, it’s a good idea to bring along age-appropriate noise-cancelling headphones for each child can enjoy their own entertainment without disturbing other passengers or each other.

If your child is old enough, consider bringing a fully charged tablet loaded with games, movies and TV shows.

Tip: You can download movies and television shows from services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime to watch offline if you have a subscription.

For more travel activities check these ideas out:

Bonus Travel Tips For Long Haul Flights

  • Try to keep your hand luggage as light as possible! This will make it easier to carry everything through the airport, on and off the plane and also easier to place your bag in the overhead baggage area without injuring yourself!
  • Prepare before the flight, ensuring all the items you want in your seat pocket or on hand are at the top of your bag so it is quick and easy to retrieve these as you board. This will prevent you from holding up other people when boarding too.
  • Book an aisle seat if you need to get up often and especially if you are travelling solo and want to avoid disrupting others.

Long-haul flights are often one of the parts of travel that most people dread! You can easily make your flight experience more comfortable by ensuring you don’t forget any of these travel essentials in your carry-on bag for long flights!