Packing your carry on for long haul flights doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are my top tips to pack the perfect carry on for your long haul flight.
This post was created by SOCKSHOP. Because you can’t fly long distances without comfortable socks!
I like to keep my carry-on very simple and move through airports light without stress or worry.
Moving long distances can be stressful enough. The last thing you want is an oversized handbag weighing you down and slowing you down!
I think it’s especially important to keep things simple if you have connectivity while traveling. Delays can mean driving through unfamiliar airports, and you don’t want to do that with huge, heavy luggage!
Here are 10 absolute must-haves to pack in your carry-on for long-haul flights. I didn’t include passports, mobile phones, travel documents, wallets, etc as I think they’re obvious!
1. A document pocket
This isn’t something you actually need to pack, it’s more about having a dedicated space in your hand luggage for your phone, passport, and printed travel documents. A small pocket on the back of the bag is convenient!
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to the security desk and not being able to find your passport or boarding pass. Be sure to have a small pocket to store important documents and put them back in the same pocket so they don’t get lost.
2. Cosy slipper socks
I always take off my shoes on long flights because my feet swell from the comfort and pressure. Pack some comfortable slipper socks to keep your feet warm, especially since it can be chilly on some flights. It’s a good idea to fly in shoes that are easy to take on and off to make it easier when you need to go to the bathroom or stand up to stretch your legs.
3. A giant water bottle
Hydration is important on long-haul flights, and a large bottle of water is especially important if you’re flying on economy or low-cost airlines, as they may not always provide you with bottled water. I’ve been on a lot of flights where they give out little bottles every few hours, but it’s just not enough. Not only that, it’s single-use plastic and it’s very easy to avoid it.
Most airports have tap water fountains, and if you can’t find one, you can always get water from a cafe or restaurant before boarding your flight.
If you’re traveling to a destination where you don’t feel comfortable drinking tap water, you can always refill from a filtered water bottle at an airport restaurant. To be honest, I drink tap water everywhere I go and I’m always fine!
Travel Hack Tip: You have to make sure your bottle is empty when going through security, which I think is a good thing. You should drink all the water you can to stay as hydrated as possible before boarding the plane.
4. A tablet
remember long-distance flights before tablets were invented? You had to carry a lot of luggage: magazines, games, books, puzzles, notepads, etc. Now I have everything on my iPad and more. Tablets are a great way to save space in your carry-on and offer so many entertainment options.
Travel Hack Tip: Before you leave home, download as much as you can store on your tablet. You can’t rely on his Wi-Fi at the airport or on the plane, and you’ll be very disappointed when you realize you can only watch half of the Netflix series!
Also, a lot of content, especially on Netflix, is only available for download in your home country, so download as much as possible if you want to watch it when you return home.
I always download:
- 1 x book
- 2 x Podcasts
- 1 x Movie
- 3-4 episodes of the show you’re watching
- 1-2 magazines
- I have an apple pen to write in my diary
- A photo editing app that allows you to edit your travel photos upon arrival
i don’t usually recommend buying expensive gadgets, but I truly think the iPad is a great gadget for traveling. I know you can do all of these things on your phone, but it’s much more comfortable with a larger screen.
5. Noise cancelling headphones
Noise-canceling headphones are a dream for long-haul flights. It’s also great for watching movies because it blocks out airplane noise and passenger noise, but allows you to immerse yourself in the movie.
I really like these JBL earphones. I switched from over-ear headphones a few years ago and find these earbuds much easier to travel with. It doesn’t take up much space in your bag and you don’t have to worry about it bending or breaking. They also make it easier to fall asleep while wearing them, and they can also be used like earplugs to block out sound.
6. A travel pillow
now, this is personal, but I think everyone prefers different types of travel pillows. Some people like to carry a full-sized pillow, and most long-haul airlines are perfectly fine with this. A smaller version of the regular pillow might be better. You can also get things like inflatable pillows to make it easier to carry, or trtl pillows that take up very little space.
Personally, I like the good old U-shaped travel pillows you can find at every airport and train station. It’s super comfortable and I love that it has a popper that attaches to your bag, making it much easier to carry.
7. Contoured eye mask
The eye mask made me feel claustrophobic so it took me a while to get used to it. That was until I discovered contoured eye masks. It’s slightly raised over the eye (like an egg carton!) so the material doesn’t lie flat on the eye and it doesn’t feel like your eyelids are glued together. If you’re wearing eye makeup, these are a better option because they don’t smudge everything!
8. Super moisturising face cream + lip balm
long-haul flights can dry out your skin, so it’s a good idea to bring a mini face cream and lip balm. Please note that you cannot bring more than 100ml onto a plane, as it will be confiscated at security.
To save space and weight in my bag, I always transfer my face cream to a portable travel tub.
My current favorite face cream is Beauty Pie’s Japan Fusion Moisture Elixir. I keep it simple with a lip balm and use Carmex.
When passing liquids through security, remember to put them in a plastic bag.
9. A long, cosy cardigan or jumper
Even if you’re flying to a warm place, bring a cozy jumper or cardigan to cover you like a blanket.
Blankets are provided on many long-haul flights, but it’s a good idea to have a spare one on hand!
10. External portable battery
Many long-haul planes now have USB plugs in their seats for charging devices, but not all do. I have also had several unsuccessful experiences.
Don’t risk your phone or tablet running out of battery, especially if you rely on it for important documents upon arrival. A power bank is a lifesaver on long flights, and you may also need it to charge your tablet or headphones.
Cables and Chargers Don’t forget the cables you need to charge!
When choosing a power bank, look for the largest one that is easy to carry. Make sure it has at least two USB ports so you can charge at least two devices at the same time.
Portable batteries are also useful if your hotel room doesn’t have many electrical outlets. Charge your external battery while you’re out during the day and use it to charge your phone at night. This way, you and your travel companions won’t have to fight over electrical outlets!
I use a mobile battery pack that comes with a heating jacket.
11. A pen
If you’re traveling long distances, don’t forget your pen, as you’ll often need to fill out forms!
it’s always best to keep important medications in your hand luggage in case your checked baggage is delayed. If this includes more than 100 ml of liquid, you may be delayed at security, so be sure to take this into account when arriving at the airport.
FAQs about packing a carry on for long haul flights
Should you pack something to change into when you arrive?
We recommend packing your clothing and toiletries at the top of your checked baggage for easy access upon arrival.
Unless you are traveling in First Class, you must remove your suitcase from the baggage carousel upon arrival. You can save yourself the hassle of bringing clean clothes on board and just change your clothes when you arrive.
Is it OK to have a wash and brush my teeth in the airport?
When you arrive, be sure to brush your teeth, wash your face, and touch up your makeup.
You may look at it strangely, but if you look closely, you’ll see that there are a lot of people who actually do it.
It makes me feel so refreshed and awake after a long, groggy flight!
Therefore, place your toiletries at the top of your checked baggage so that they are easily accessible upon arrival.
What can you NOT pack in your carry on bag?
There are all kinds of dangerous things like knives, guns, and lighters, but I think you can use common sense!
There are some less obvious items you can’t put in your carry-on.
- liquids in bottles, tubs or tubes larger than 100ml – except for medical or infant use
- Note that liquids are not just drinks, but also include creams, pastes, gels, and even semi-solid foods such as jelly and peanut butter. Basically all your toiletries, most of your cosmetics, and a lot of food.
- Aerosols such as hairspray and deodorant
- Put all dangerous items such as scissors, razors and tweezers in your checked baggage
How should you organise your carry on bag?
Again, this is a personal preference, but what you really need to keep in mind when packing your luggage is that you may need to take many items out through security, so it’s easy to Pack it so you can take it out.
You may need/need to remove the following:
- Liquids should be placed in small clear plastic bags
- large camera
- battery pack
- Hair irons and curling irons
Each airport is different. Some airports don’t require you to take anything out, while others force you to take almost everything out of your bag.
I regularly fly from Liverpool and Manchester airports. Liverpool is a nice, friendly airport where you just need to take out your liquids and laptop.
Manchester Airport is a horrible place where staff are frantic and aggressive, queues are long, everyone is harassed and you have to take almost everything out of your bag!
This can be very stressful if you’re running a little late, so it’s a good idea to have your carry-on baggage easily organized.
You can also rearrange your in-flight bag once you go through security to ensure you have access to everything you need on the plane.
What’s the best carry on luggage?
There are three main options for carry-on baggage:
- shoulder carry bag
- carry-on backpack
- very small carry-on suitcase
Personally, I like to bring a shoulder bag when traveling with kids. You can easily access everything you need at any time, and you can put your passport, cell phone, wallet, etc in the bag.
Rucksacks are very convenient when traveling with children, as they free up both hands. I also often use a backpack when arriving at a destination, so it makes sense to use the same bag.
If your carry-on bag becomes a bit heavy, bring a very small suitcase. Traveling with a laptop and camera equipment adds weight and makes it difficult to carry heavy bags.
Of course, I also have one of The Travel Hack’s luggage collections, so be sure to check them out!
Should you worry about lost luggage?
Many people carry essential items in their carry-on luggage, such as toiletries and a few clean changes of clothes, in case their checked baggage gets lost during their trip.
Personally, I’m not worried about this possibility.
I know a lot of people have lost their luggage on long-haul flights, especially during layovers, but the chances of that happening are very low and I’ve been on hundreds of flights, I have never lost my luggage.
I know it’s a risk, but I’d rather travel light than pack a carry-on with the possibility of my luggage getting lost. Traveling with multiple sets of clean clothes can add bulk to your bag and make your stay at the airport more stressful than it needs to be!
The only time you need to worry about losing your luggage is if you have prescription medications. In that case, we recommend putting it in your carry-on.
Should you pack snacks in your carry on luggage?
For long-haul flights, there’s usually pretty good food available, so there’s no need to pack snacks. However, if you are picky about food or like to eat sweets, crisps, and chocolate during your flight, stock up!
I’m sure some people like to pack sweets during takeoff and landing to relieve pressure on their ears. If that’s you, pack some hard-boiled treats.
I pick up my plane snacks at the airport rather than buying them in advance. I know it’s a little pricey, but it’s part of my pre-flight routine and saves me a lot of hassle when going through security. It also reminded me of when I was a kid and was able to choose my favorite sweets on a plane, and I was so excited!
Solid alternatives to liquid toiletries
If you want to bring your toiletries on the plane, but also want to avoid liquid toiletries and the hassle of removing them for safety, consider solid alternatives.
At Lush, we stock a wide selection of eco-friendly solid toiletries such as toothpaste, bar deodorant and bar perfume, as well as all the solid shower toiletries you need.
These are my tips on what to pack in your carry-on for a long-haul flight. Anything else to add to the list?