Wondering what to pack for a long haul flight? Keep reading for my list of carry-on essentials for a long flight. Whether you're flying cross-country or abroad or even looking for overnight flight essentials, this ultimate packing list will serve you well with items that you may not see on other lists.
I love traveling and exploring new places. For a few glorious years pre-2020, I was traveling monthly or more often for work flying across the country (and usually adding a few days for fun to the trip!). So you might be surprised to hear that I do deal with anxiety when flying. One way I've dealt with that though is having certain carry-on essentials packed in my personal bag for the trip. When I feel prepared I am so much more comfortable. So let's get to it!
21+ Carry-on essentials for a comfortable long flight
Your Non-Negotiable Essentials
Make sure you have all of your important travel documents handy along with credit cards, cash, and a pen or two. Keep these in a secure pocket that is zipped up or inside of your bag so there's no chance of them falling out, getting crushed in the bottom of your bag, or someone snatching them.
In addition to this, I believe the other carry-on non-negotiables should include any prescribed medications, OTC meds, and a phone charger. Prescriptions should never go in a checked bag due to the chance that your checked bag could get lost or delayed - for the same reason it's best to keep one spare phone charger in your bag along with any OTC meds you may need on the flight like Tylenol, Pepto, etc.
Now that we have the crucial items listed, let's move on to the more fun ones...
Travel Essentials: Collapsible Water Bottle
Long flights are dehydrating which can exacerbate jet lag and just make you feel plain crummy. Instead of relying on the small cups passed out during the flight, bring a collapsible water bottle in your carry-on that you can then fill up before boarding.
My favorites are from STOJO and Nomader:
- STOJO's water bottle options include an original 20 oz version as well as versions that are made with straws to replace coffee cups. I've found mine to be very sturdy when full, just like a regular water bottle or cup. They are leak-proof (a must!), made of platinum food-grade silicone and recyclable materials and dishwasher safe. Plus, they are the more aesthetic brand I've seen.
- The Nomader water bottle holds 22 oz, and has a more sporty vibe with a flip top lid and a semi-opaque bottle. Also leak-proof, BPA-free, dishwasher safe and made with food-grade silicone, this bottle rolls up when empty with a strap to keep it secure.
- Both of these options are thicker material so the bottle doesn't collapse when you're drinking out of it, which is my concern with some of the cheaper collapsible
If you prefer a non-collapsible option, try the flat water bottle from memobottle as it lays flat and is easier to pack in your bag.
STOJO Water Bottle
Nomader Wrap-up Bottle
memobottle Flat Bottle
Hydration Powder Sticks
Again, to avoid dehydration, add your favorite hydration powder packet to your bag. I really love the LMNT brand as it doesn't use any added sugars, but still hydrates and prevents headaches.
Carry-On Essentials: Clorox Cleaning Wipes
When I started to travel often, I began keeping a pack of Clorox wipes in my bag. This ensures your space is clean and sanitized and by disinfecting from bacteria and viruses, you'll be less likely to pick up a cold or flu. I usually store my pack inside of a Stasher bag or Ziploc to ensure the wipes aren't drying out in between use. In addition to the wipes, add in your favorite hand sanitizer.
Pack Your Own Snacks
Did you know you can bring your own food onto a flight? As long as it's not a liquid you're permitted to carry on your owns snacks and meals to avoid the high prices at the airport. I usually pack a Stasher bag, small lunchbox, or collapsible lunch box with a few of my favorite travel snacks including protein bars, pretzels and trail mix, and the sweet I always get before a flight, Starburst, haha. For a longer flight that does not offer meal service, you should also consider packing something a bit heartier like a sandwich or wrap - just be mindful of how the food might smell on the flight.
Reusable Stasher bag
Small Bento Box
Plant-Based protein bars
Travel Tips for Nausea: Try Ginger Candy or Chews
Ginger has long been used to help with nausea, indigestion and other tummy troubles for thousands of years. And GIN GINS are my favorite candied ginger to help me settle my stomach when traveling during flights, but also long car and train rides. I add a few to keep with my snacks during the flight and extras in my day bag for other travel. GIN GINS are probably the most popular option and for a good reason - they're delicious and actually help!
Long Haul Flight Essentials: Compression Socks and Slippers
For a long flight, compression socks are a game changer. They reduce soreness and swelling and help to prevent blood clots which can be a risk during long flights. The pair you wear should cover your calf muscles (so skip the ankle version ones) for the best benefits. I really enjoy the compression socks from Comrad and Bombas, they are comfortable, not itchy and not too tight, which is something that scared me off of compression socks in the past.
Comrad - These are very comfortable and they offer a wide variety of colors, including some simple, plain versions that actually appear like regular dress socks while providing lots of support and a medium amount of compression.
Bombas - I recommend the everyday compression socks for travel with a medium level of compression that is snug, but not too tight.
If you're on an overnight flight, and like me, cannot fall asleep with your shoes on, then I recommend a pair of fuzzy socks to wear on top of the compression socks. I'm still not wearing them around the plane, but find they really help me feel more comfortable and cozy at my seat for sleeping.
Comrad Compression Socks
Bombas Compression Socks
Cozy Barefoot Dreams Socks
Carry-on Essentials for Long Flights: Items to help you Sleep!
For looong flights, I am bringing my travel pillow so I can at least attempt to sleep. And in addition, I'll add in a set of basic, but comfortable ear plugs for a bit of noise cancellation.
One of the Best Travel Pillows for Long Flights: Trtl Travel Pillow
The Trtl travel pillow is my favorite for traveling as I'm usually in the aisle seat and love how it keeps my head from rolling forward. It's an investment, but one of the best and a unique design that really helps if you're someone who also doesn't fall asleep that easily on flights.
Hydration or Serum Facial Stick
I'm not dealing with a face mask on a flight, but I will add some moisture to my face with a travel-size moisturizer or my favorite hack, a hydration facial stick! Burt's Bees offers this aloe water based hydrating stick that provides great moisture to your skin with just a roll-on application! This has been my favorite option, but it's getting harder to find online, so I'm going to try the version from Olay or Hero Cosmetics next.
I really appreciate the roll-on application for convenience so I don't have to use my hands to rub in or deal with a messy face mask.
Burt's Bees Hydrating Stick
Hero cosmetics serum stick
Olay Pressed Serum Stick
Carry-On Essentials For A Long Flight: Chewable Mouthwash Tablets & Other Personal Care Items
These tablets are such a great hack. Instead of using more of your precious liquid limits, you can add these chewable mouthwash tablets to your bag to freshen up your breath after eating and when landing.
In addition to these, consider any other personal care items you'd like to have handy. For an overnight flight, I like to freshen up with a few more items:
- Facial wipes (You can use these on your face and body for a quick refresh until you're able to check-in at your hotel)
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste (I'll usually use this after exiting the plane)
- Dry shampoo and small hairbrush
- Travel deodorant
- Sunscreen stick
Gentle Cleansing Cloths
I'm not wearing the sunglasses on the flight, but I am very likely to be wearing sunglasses just after landing. And I'd rather not open my giant suitcase to find the pair I packed. I've made the mistake of taking an evening flight and then landing in the morning somewhere sunny and not having my sunglasses ready made for a painful Uber ride to my hotel. So, pack your favorite pair in a protective case for easy, immediate access upon landing.
Apple Headphones and/or Bluetooth Wireless Transmitter
I have a few suggestions here for your headphones. The free ones provided by the airline are simply not good - they're uncomfortable and the sound is usually pretty rotten.
- Instead, I always pack my classic wired headphones from Apple. I find them so comfortable and I don't have to worry about losing a charge on a long flight.
- My second option would be to use a bluetooth wireless transmitter on the airplane's TV so I can wear my Apple AirPods.
- Third, and most pricey, would be investing in a pair of over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones. I *personally* find most of these uncomfortable so I haven't had the desire to purchase a pair. However, I know many people are obsessed with them and consider them a necessity for long flights. AirPods Max will be the best high-end version, and you can find some great options from Sony and Bose.
Classic Wired Headphones
Kindle & Other Entertainment
I love my kindle for reading and the thing holds a charge forever. Download your books before the flight so you don't have to worry about weak wifi. The Kindle Fire is another option that is more of a traditional screen allowing you to watch movies and play games.
To Wear: A comfortable Bra or Bralette
You won't catch me in an underwire bra on a long flight - I am going for comfort! In my opinion, True & Co makes the most comfortable bras I've ever worn. They are perfect for WFH, under looser or casual tops and dresses and perfect for travel. There's no underwire, hooks or snaps to deal with or have digging into your skin. I also find these bras to be flattering, though I don't expect as much as a lift or definition as a regular wired bra. And while this is an item you'll be wearing vs. carrying onto the flight, I felt it was still crucial to include in the list!
The Best Carry-On Bags
I'm a huge fan of Lo & Sons. I love their cross-body purse and their totes and backpack for travel.
- Catalina Deluxe Tote: This bag qualifies as a "personal item" for flights and fits under the seat in front of you. Please note that this is the "deluxe tote" and looks similar to other bags they have, but this is the only one that is sized to be a personal item.
- The bottom pocket is perfect for storing a spare pair of shoes and backup outfit in case your checked luggage doesn't arrive. And the top section has plenty of space and pockets to store your other items.
- The messenger strap features a removable shoulder pad for extra comfort and it doesn't slip off easily like some other popular personal item bags.
- Hanover 2: This was my go-to work travel backpack as it perfectly fit my laptop and had all sorts of pockets and storage for my other necessities. It's going to fit less than the deluxe tote, but if you prefer a personal item that is a backpack vs. a shoulder strap, this one will serve you well. I also like the simple design, it doesn't feel too young.
Catalina Deluxe Tote
Hanover 2 Laptop Backpack
Waverly 2 Convertible Bag
To Keep it all Organized
This system is basically bags inside of other bags. I like to use my Stasher bags as well as these lightweight mesh bags to keep items organized by their use inside of my personal item bag. So, I'll place my personal care items together, I'll keep my Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer together in their own bag, etc. If you have lots of cables and electronics, consider an electronic organizer case for storing it all in one easy-to-use carrying case.
Silicone Brush or Accessories Case
This post was all about carry-on essentials for a long flight! I hope you feel prepared for future travels and found some new ideas for items to add to your personal bag for your next trip. And let me know, what are your packing essentials for a long trip?
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Casey is the founder of Casey La Vie & has been running this travel and lifestyle blog since 2016. She’s on a mission to balance her career as a social media manager with exploring her home of New York City and seeing more of the world.