Carry-on essentials for long haul flights

Ah, the joy of long haul flights. I actually enjoy long flights because I tend to sleep quite well on airplanes, and usually there’s an entertainment system to keep you busy during the hours you’re awake. But by taking the right carry-on essentials in your luggage, you will be able to make your flight more comfortable. So I have some essentials which I always take with me on long haul flights.

Note: Obvious items like passport, money, airline tickets etc. are not in this list.

1. Empty water bottle

I always get very thirsty on airplanes, but I don’t want to wait for the flight attendants to give me a refill all the time. The solution? Take your own reusable water bottle. Make sure it’s empty when going through customs, and fill it up in the wash room once you’re almost ready to board the plane. This way you have your own water supply, which you will definitely need when you have a 10hr flight ahead of you.

2. Sleeping mask

If you have an overnight flight, you probably want to catch some hours of sleep while flying. Sleeping on a plane can be difficult for a lot of people, but a sleeping mask makes it a bit easier. I tend to sleep well on planes, but I always use a sleeping mask to do so. Make sure to buy a decent one. Some cheaper versions will be tight around your head, which isn’t comfortable. Just pay a little bit more for a high quality one: it’ll give you so much comfort during your flight. Definitely one of my top carry-on essentials if you ask me!

3. Some toiletries

The reason you get thirsty on planes: the air is really dry. This means your skin will get “thirsty” too while you’re flying. That’s why I always take a small toiletries bag with some moisturizing products. And some other items, for personal hygiene. My carry on luggage toiletries bag consists of:

  • Moisturizer
  • Chap stick / lip cream
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Some facial wipes or cleanser

Of course all of these are in small packaging, to meet the airline carry-on regulations.

Carry on essentials travel long haul flights

4. Toilet paper

What? Bring your own toilet paper? Yes! Not a complete roll of course, but I always put some folded toilet paper in my toiletries bag. It can happen that they run out of toilet paper in the plane, or the flight attendants haven’t had the chance to do a refill. That’s why I always have some spare. It has saved me quite some times already.

5. (Noise cancelling) headphones

I always take my own headphones on an airplane. I have some decent AKG earphones with great sound quality, and they take up no room in your luggage whatsoever. However, every time I’m at the airport, I’m eyeballing at the Bose QuietComfort headphones, with excellent noise cancelling capabilities. I still can’t justify buying them, but if I ever buy them, I would definitely take those with me on the plane. They seem extremely comfortable! #wishlist

6. Earplugs

I use earplugs every single night (due to snoring boyfriend), but even if I didn’t, I would still recommend taking them with you in your carry-on luggage on long haul flights. The plane engine makes a lot of noise, so that would be a reason on itself to use ear plugs. But if you are unlucky, you sit close to loud children, crying babies or a group of friends on their way to a bachelor party vacation (check, check and check). So wearing earplugs can really maximize your sleep in these kind of situations.

Pro Tip: If you are flying a lot, or if you’re going on a long backpacking holiday with lots of hostel stays, I recommend going for custom made earplugs. Just go to your local hearing specialist and he will make custom made earplugs which perfectly fit your ear. Much more comfortable!

7. Spare travel outfit + socks

When flying, a really comfortable outfit is key. Of course you are not taking it with you in your carry-on luggage: just wear it! However, don’t forget to take a spare shirt and some comfy socks with you. The spare shirt can be nice for layovers or when you arrive at your destination, so you have something to change into after your (first) long flight. The socks are definitely carry-on essentials: it’s much more comfy to take off your shoes when flying, but it’s nice to wear some comfy and warm socks, since the plane can get quite cold at night.

8. Some entertainment

Usually long haul flights have an entertainment system per chair, but sometimes they’re broken (didn’t happen to me, thank god, but the woman in front of me). The flight was fully booked, so she had nothing to watch or do on a 9 hour flight. That sucks. Make sure to take at least something for entertainment, like an e-reader (a travel must have, if you ask me), a tablet with some downloaded (Netflix) movies or series, or install some games on your phone which can be played offline.

carry on essentials travel for long haul flights

9. Food

Okay, airline food is usually not the best there is, but on most of my flights I’ve had a pretty decent meal. Down side: it’s not enough. About 1,5 hour later, I’m hungry again. That’s why I usually take some snacks or food on the plane. This way you can stay fueled throughout the flight, and you can eat what you like.

10. Other carry-on essentials

Some other things you don’t want to forget:

  • A photocopy of your passport
  • A travel plug + some (universal) chargers for f.e. your phone, e-reader etc.
  • Pen & paper. The pen is much needed to fill out documents like visas or other entry documents.

If you bring the abovementioned carry-on essentials, you will most likely have a much more pleasant long haul flight. Do you have any essentials which should be added to this list?


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