Carry on Essentials for long or short flights

All items you should add to your carry on for your upcoming trip abroad

Carry on Essentials

What are the carry-on essentials you need to pack? Travelling, whilst an incredibly fun thing to do (particularly once you arrive at your destination), comes with a set of perils and stresses that every one of us experiences. The overall process of packing and acting like a functioning organised human being at an airport is one of those things that we all occasionally wish we could just skip and somehow miraculously teleport at the final holiday destination with everything we could possibly need.

One thing you can do to truly make your travelling experience just that little bit easier is to be organised and meticulous with your carry on luggage, especially if you've got a long flight ahead. Packing, in general, is a skill that is worth spending a good amount of time perfecting, and packing for your carry on is definitely one of those things that you want to hone as much as possible. The main reason for this is quite literally that future you will thank you, vigorously, whilst current-stressed-in-the-midst-of-a-packing-flurry you will feel just that little bit calmer once you've confirmed that you're ready to go and have everything you're going to need.

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First things first, make a list and write it down. Yes, with a writing utensil of your choice on a piece of paper — studies have been published which suggest that writing things down actually really does help retain information and it helps you think in a more organised way. Don't worry about making the perfect list, you can edit it as you go along and as you remember things, but write it down. It'll help you keep track of everything.

When creating your list, do so with a few things in mind, such as where are you travelling to? Will it be warm or cold? How long are you going for? How many hours is your flight? A long-haul flight usually means that you will be in the air for 6-12 hours, that is a lot of time that you're going to need to keep yourself entertained for. Even if you're one of those who can just sleep throughout the entire flight, you should probably have things with you to make that sleep more comfortable so that you avoid waking up with a stiff neck and a pained back that will then haunt you for the next couple of days of your trip.

Have you checked your airline carry on allowance? Some flights allow only a single piece of carry-on luggage, whilst others allow two (one that you can put in the overhead locker, and one that you can put under the seat in front of you). Knowing your luggage allowance will also dictate how you will have to pack your items, so this is an important thing to look into before commencing your packing adventure.

Another thing to pay attention to is where you will be sitting, as seats in the emergency exit aisles don't allow any personal items to be left under the seat in front of you during take-off and landing for safety reasons. If you are sitting in one of these seats (yay for extra leg room), you will have to keep your carry on in the overhead compartment, so be sure to pack everything you will need for takeoff and landing at the top of your bag so that you can take it out easily before stowing your possessions away.

Before getting into a more comprehensive list of what some carry on essentials are, it is also important to consider whether you're travelling alone or not. If it's just you, it makes organising your package pretty simple, but if you have to also consider the needs of your children, for example, then the items in your carry on may differ quite significantly. This is another prime example of where your list will come in handy, and if you are travelling with children and they're old enough to help, get them involved in the packing. Such activities could become a fun way by which to teach your children some basic life skills, whilst also using all the help you can get.

Documents & Passports

Your wallet, passport and documents are the most important items in your carry on, as without them you're quite literally not going anywhere. If you are travelling to a place that has a different currency to yours it is always a good idea to have some cash in that currency. Although we are living in an age where increasingly people are using less cash and more cards, when travelling to a new place it is better to be safe than sorry. Maybe you will end up strolling alongside a colourful market that doesn't accept card transactions, or you've just had the most delicious meal of your life and your waiter was an absolute star and you want to leave a tip. No matter the reason, cash is a necessity when travelling.

Importantly you don't want to forget to tell your bank that you will be travelling. Using your cards abroad, whilst extraordinarily helpful, might cause the bank to block the card if they are not expecting such a transaction - you then have to sit on the phone for ages trying to sort it out and that is definitely not the kind of hassle you need when you are away from home.

Passport, ID, tickets are all pretty obvious items to not forget, so we're not going to dwell too much on these. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least six months to a year after your date of travel, as some countries can be very strict about this. In fact, always make sure to check if the country you are flying to has any specific regulations on passports, IDs and visas, as you most certainly do not want to be denied entry to a country after having travelled for goodness knows how many hours to get there.

The best place for you to pack these is in an easily accessible outer pocket of your bag of choice, as you will need them several times throughout your trip.

Travel Gear

A very broad category "tech”, but in 2019 an incredibly important one. Firstly your phone, you will definitely need this, so make sure it is fully charged before you go. Also, it may be an idea to check what your data, calls and texts allowances are when travelling abroad so that you do not return to any shocking surprises when back home.

Your phone will get used a lot, so make sure to pack a portable charger and the necessary cables to keep your tech functioning. You can put your big bulky chargers in your luggage, but as a general rule of thumb, we advise that you have them in your carry on as you never know whether or not you will be unlucky and your checked luggage takes a detour.

Laptop, iPad/tablet, Kindle, headphones (preferably noise cancelling, because flights have the tendency of being quite noisy), these are all things that should most likely be in your carry on. Ensure you have pre-downloaded all the films you may want to watch or books you may want to read, as in-flight internet, whilst becoming a thing, is still quite the rarity.

It is entirely up to you how you decide to pack these into your carry on, but our experience dictates that these are some of the things you will want to be easily accessible. Laptops and iPads usually have to come out of your carry on to go through security separately, so ensuring that these items are accessible and easy to take out and put back into your bag is essential.

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Carry on Essentials for long or short flights

Carry on Essentials for long or short flights

Snacks & drinks

A particularly important category, especially if you are travelling with children and for many hours. Some of our favourite vegan snacks include things like trail mix, rice cakes, nuts (beware of allergies), dried fruit, popcorn, granola bars, veggie crisps, and of course Oreos (yes, they are vegan).

Always check your airline's regulations on what sort of snacks and food items you can bring on board, as they do tend to differ. Countries also have different regulations on what sort of food items they allow through their borders, so make sure you check this too.

If you want to bring water or other drinks on the flight with you always buy them after you have gone through security in the airport, as otherwise they will be taken off you due to the fact that they most certainly will be in containers fitting more than 100ml of liquid.

Alternatively, get one of these handy reusable water bottles, which can be rolled up when empty and take very little space.

Comfort Essentials

Who doesn't want to be comfortable when travelling long distances and for many hours?

Excellent items to include in your carry on that will ensure your maximum comfort.

  • Travel pillow
  • Sleeping mask
  • Earplugs
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • A cosy jumper (because flights can get cold!)
  • Compression socks and/or tights (definitely a good idea if your feet have the tendency of swelling up during a long flight)
  • Scarf (they are truly excellent items in that they can double up as a blanket)
  • Comfortable shoes and socks you can change into throughout the journey

Usually, you do not need these until you get onto your flight, so these can often go to a slightly more hard-to-get-to area of your carry on bag.

Toiletries & Miscellaneous

This one can be quite a lengthy category so pick and choose depending on how you prefer to travel.

In terms of toiletries, it really is about just having the essentials to keep you feeling fresh throughout your journey. In the toiletries list, we also included medicines and vitamins.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume or cologne
  • Face and/or hand cream
  • Sun cream
  • Lip balm
  • Paper nail file (for when that one nail decides to break)
  • Paracetamol / Ibuprofen (you never know when you might get a headache)
  • Any prescribed medicines that you might be on and need to take regularly (make sure you have a copy of your prescription with these, as countries have varying regulations on different medicines, eg. tramadol, a heavy duty painkiller, is completely banned in Egypt)
  • Plasters
  • Hairbrush
  • Hair ties or scrunchie
  • Vitamin C
  • Contact lenses and glasses (you may also want to include a little microfibre cloth with this in order to keep your glasses clean and easy to see through)

Having something that will help you keep moisturised when travelling is a good idea, as air conditioning has the tendency to dehydrate the skin. Especially if you are trying to maintain your hard-worked-for tan, moisturising is a brilliant way of making your chocolatey hue last just that little bit longer.

Carry-on Extras

  • Sunglasses
  • Spare underwear
  • A change of clothes - these can come in handy on a long haul flight

As far as packing your toiletries is concerned, airport security is rather scrutinous with how these are all packed. Remember to always keep any liquids in containers of up to 100ml and in a clear plastic bag. If you have a lighter in your bag, it also has to live in the clear bag of toiletries, as lighter fluid is indeed a liquid. Spare clothes can happily go toward the bottom of the bag as hopefully, you won't actually need them with any haste during your journey.


Maybe your eyes get tired when you look at screens too long, or you don't feel like watching a film. Well, this is the entertainment list for you. A good book is a staple of any relaxing holiday, and more so a necessity when you have many hours of sitting to do. So pick whatever you've had on "to read” list for the past few years and take it with you.

Other interesting travelling companions that can provide entertainment during travel are a journal (especially if you are exploring new places and for extended periods of time. A journal is a fantastic way to keep track of all your exciting experiences and a lovely, albeit occasionally embarrassing relic to look back on in your older years), a sketchbook and a comprehensive pencil case including all the things you might want to use to create. If you don't want to write, a sketchbook is also a great way to document your travels.

Finally, a camera. Yes, you will be unlikely to make any use of it whilst on your flight but it is a valuable item and it is fragile so it will be much safer with you in your carry on. Why bother bringing a camera when you have a smartphone, you may ask? Well, because it will take better photos than your phone and there is a different kind of magic to taking snaps of your adventures with an instrument specifically designed just for documenting through your eyes.

Whilst the above list may seem extensive and you may be questioning how on earth you could get all of that into your carry on, you must remember that packing is an extremely personal activity. At the end of the day only you know what you may or may not need when travelling.

Perhaps the most important take-home messages from this comprehensive list is that if you take some of these suggestions and make them part of your travelling ritual, then great! The golden rule is to pack a carry on that you can actually carry comfortably and that you can keep organised throughout your journey.