As someone who moved to the other side of the world, I have had lots of practice at packing for long-haul flights. Over the years, I have tested out many of the trinkets seen on social media and have put together an “essentials for a long flight” packing list to make it easy for you.
Preparing for a long flight can significantly affect your comfort and overall experience.
Lucky for you….I will share a downloadable checklist and give you general tips to hopefully make your next flight a little less stressful!
Here’s a list of in-flight essentials to consider packing in your carry-on bag:
We typically don’t consider the type of carry-on as an essential item for long flights but let me explain. The carry-on type depends on a few factors, so there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to carry-on luggage.
The most crucial factor is that you may have to walk a long distance to the airport to catch flights. This may be an issue if you have a shoulder or a bag with wheels. Depending on your physical condition depends on the type of carry-on luggage that is best for you.
Another factor to consider is how frequently you feel you will want to access your carry-on luggage once you are on the plane. Luggage with wheels makes it difficult to open on the plane. A backpack is the easiest to maneuver due to fitting on your lap or in the aisle. I like to keep my backpack under my seat if possible.
Depending on your final destination and how often you will be moving about while on vacation, you may consider a shoulder/duffle bag. When I traveled in Portugal, luggage with wheels didn’t work well due to the number of stairs and cobblestone streets.
A backpack is an excellent option because it can be helpful for the duration of your trip. Although I have seen some cute backpacks, I found one that is spacious, insulated, and offers a USB cable system.
Most importantly, it is essential to always have your travel documents with you. This includes passport/ID, boarding pass (always have a printed copy), visa (if needed), and other documents/itinerary.
It is easy to get stressed at the airport, so having all these items together in an organized holder makes it easy to access. I like to keep these items in a Passport Organizer.
Photograph all these essential documents and place them on a cloud. Also, gather all your reservation numbers, tour bookings, and contact information and save it on one document, then store it on the cloud. This will make your life easier when you travel!
Most major cities will accept credit cards, but checking is always good. Research what type of credit cards are accepted, the current exchange rate, and if they have international fees. Let the credit card company know you are traveling; otherwise, they might block your transactions. Credit cards will be handy if you need to make a purchase on the plane or at the airport when you first arrive in the city.
Cash is King! Always carry cash and currency from the country you plan to visit. Notify your bank of your travel plans so that your account is flagged for any unusual transactions. Cash will come in handy when paying for a taxi to get to your hotel.
Being a frequent traveler, I am always shocked at what I see people wear to the airport, especially on long flights. I understand comfort is your goal, but showing up in your pj’s or wearing flip-flops is inappropriate in my book. You can dress comfortably but look stylish.
When selecting an outfit for travel, I suggest wearing loose-fitting clothes. Soft fabric pants (not linen) with a stretchy waist are a great option. A cotton top that can be dressed up with a scarf or jewelry. Stay away from clothes that have collars, buttons, and snaps. Always include a light jacket that is soft and cozy, just in case you get cold on the plane.
The airline will often give you a toiletry bag with various items, including socks. These socks are great to slip on over your bare feet or socks so that you can take off your shoes and walk about the plane. PLEASE do not walk around the plane or to the washroom without shoes. You will REGRET IT!
Compression socks are the best option for long flights. The compression socks improve blood flow and prevent the formation of blood clots. My feet want to swell, so this helps in this situation.
Neck Pillow/ Travel Pillow
Most often, the airline will have a small blanket in your seat. I don’t find bringing a blanket from home necessary because you can always ask for additional blankets from the stewardess. You might want to include a neck pillow or travel pillow. Although I have tried many and haven’t found one that works for me, I will try the Neck-Wrap Pillow for the next long flight.
Eye-Mask and Earplugs
Earplugs and eye masks are typically included in your toiletry bag from the airline. They are not of high quality but do the job. If you need a more comfortable eye mask and noise cancelling earbuds, make sure to include them while packing.
You can make the flight time go by faster by entertaining yourself with mindless activities.
Most long flights offer earbuds to watch movies and TV shows or listen to music at your fingertips. Visit the airline website to see what is being offered on your flight. If you don’t find a movie or show of your liking, I suggest you download at least four movie/TV options to your iPad or movie app to watch in flight. Make sure to include the charger for whatever device you will be watching it on.
If reading a book is more your style, I encourage you to bring a hard copy or an e-reader with a collection of books or audiobooks to enjoy.
Music may be more your style of relaxation. Create a playlist of your favorite songs. Podcasts are another great option.
I find staying occupied and playing games seems to pass the time quickly. Download your favorite games, such as sudoku, okey, and solitaire, to challenge your mind. I like to practice language skills (depending on your destination) on the Duolingo app. I have seen families bring UNO and other card games to play on the flight.
Journaling is a great way to pass the time. I like to write down my travel experiences. Sometimes, I like to spend my time drawing. Don’t forget to pack writing materials, sketch pad, and colors to get creative.
Electronics are worthless unless they are charged and have the correct plugs. Pack all the chargers and backup power banks for your devices in your carry-on luggage.
Before leaving for the airport, ensure all your electronics are fully charged.
One of my most recent discoveries is using an AirFly, which functions as a Bluetooth transmitter to earbuds or headphones to listen to the entertainment offered on the plane. Although earbuds are offered on the plane (not Bluetooth type), they are not the best and can be uncomfortable.
If you use your cell phone to watch movies, read, or play games, include charging cords. Most of us use our phones for maps, translations, etc., so they need to stay fully charged for later.
Like your document organizer, an electronic organizer is a great way to keep everything in one place.
Hydration and Snacks
I feel the airlines have become greedy as they are starting to charge for snacks and other items on flights. Sometimes, I would not eat the snacks offered, so it is best to pack a few options for your flight.
Snacks to consider are granola bars, dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. I also like to include hard candies, mints, or gummies for something sweeter.
Chewing gum helps with ear pressure changes and bad breath. I struggle when the passenger beside me wants to visit, and their breath is hideous! Offer a piece of gum or a mint.
A reusable water bottle is also helpful. Even though you are given a small plastic cup to sip your drink, having a reusable bottle can make it easier to keep cold/hot longer if you plan to sip on it for an extended period. Due to limited table space, storing the drinks in a reusable container (with a lid) makes it easy to move around in your seat.
If you want to wash your hands and brush your teeth after you eat, it is nice to have a few small toiletries with you. Typically, the airline toiletry bag includes a small toothbrush and toothpaste. I also like to pack a travel-size mouthwash as well. It makes my mouth feel clean and refreshed.
I find it essential to have wet wipes to clean your hands throughout the flight and wipe down things that need sanitizing. With COVID and other airborne illnesses floating around, it doesn’t hurt to sanitize your hands and surroundings.
The air on the plane tends to dry out the skin. Pack moisturizer for your hands, face, and lips. Another great option is to include a small spritzer bottle with water to spray on your face. If you have oily skin or like the feeling of a clean face, I suggest you pack face wipes.
You may experience dry eyes, so include a small bottle of eye drops.
Another suggestion to include in your toiletries is deodorant, face powder, and makeup to do some touch-ups before you land.
For hair, bring dry shampoo and a brush. I do my best not to have bedhead when I step off the plane!
Medications and Personal Care
Although I have never experienced motion sickness on a plane, it might be wise to consider medication for it on the plane. If you take prescription medications, make sure to pack in your carry-on.
Sometimes (female) personal hygiene items are available on the plane, but I suggest bringing your own.
If you struggle falling asleep, take melatonin before your flight. Bring melatonin with you to use during your trip and for the flight home.
When changing time zones, you may struggle with jetlag. To combat this issue, work on staying hydrated before and during your flight. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Although I have never tried them, I have read that jetlag tablets help.
If you plan to watch movies or read from your phone, you may want to include a phone mount holder. This allows you to be hands-free from the device.
When traveling with your partner, you may want to purchase a headphone splitter so that you both enjoy the entertainment on your laptop or iPad.
Some people like to change clothes before landing. In theory, this sounds like a good idea, but changing clothes on the airplane is not as easy as imagined! Usually, by the end of your flight, the bathroom floor is usually nasty, and the countertop is wet and messy!
- Pack valuable items, such as jewelry, in your carry-on rather than checked luggage.
- Check the specific guidelines and regulations of the airline you’re flying with for carry-on bag size & weight and what is allowed to carry on the plane.
Remember, the specific items you pack might vary based on your personal preferences and needs. Packing these items in a well-organized manner in your carry-on bag is a good idea to ensure easy access throughout the flight.