When you’re getting ready to pack for your next trip, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything left on your to do list. So let us take away the pain from your packing with this guide to those 21 travel items that are essentials for your long haul flight. From your choice of bag to those vital travel items that you can’t do without, we’ve got your back. Travel necessities, comfort items, just-in-case extras and entertainment while you fly long haul are all part of today’s guide. Seat backs upright, please, and let’s get moving. Here’s how to pack your carry on essentials.
Choosing your Carry On Bag
I can’t claim to be short on choices of bag for any kind of trip. For me, the best bags fulfill the following criteria:
- they’ve passed the comfort test – no shoulder slipping, straps that dig in, or uncomfortable hardware
- they’re secure without requiring advanced origami skills to extract your stuff
- they’re climate appropriate – no soggy cotton for rainy trips
So my recommendations are a choice of:
- a backpack – usually with a couple of pockets and a padded spot for your laptop
- a messenger bag – comfortable cross body and again suitable for laptops
- a tote – depending on your destination, this can be a great bag for the road, with very flexbile uses
I have a favourite from each of these categories that I’ll choose depending on destination. I love backpacks for trips when I’ll be mostly on the road, exploring, walking or picnicking. Messenger bags are my go to for city trips and business travel: smart, compact, and the easiest way to wrangle my laptop on the go. Totes are my choice for relaxing, chilled breaks, when you want to go with the flow – beach one day, wandering local markets the next.
Your Carry On Essentials
First up, take care of the necessities, On my list are always:
- Tickets and reservations
- Destination information
- Travel insurance details
- Small notebook and pen
- Prescription medications and copy prescription
- Basic mini first aid and over the counter medication
- Spare glasses or contact lenses
Most of these fit into a travel wallet. My tip is to buy a bright one, so you can always spot it easily in your big bag. It’s also less easy to forget when you’re packing up on the road.
Your Carry On Creature Comforts
Even when the anticipation is at full buzz, a bit of comfort goes a long way in the air. Here’s where to remember:
- an empty water bottle to get topped up after security
- snacks of your choice – solid, without smells that will offend others, and as healthy as you can get
- mints or gum
- a neck pillow
- a soft, comfortable outfit suitable for your destination & spare undies
- a warmer layer
- a big scarf
- warm socks if needed
Your destination outfit serves two purposes: insurance in case of lost or delayed baggage and giving you an option to freshen up before arrival if you wish.
The next list of creature comforts could also be considered travel essentials:
- toothbrush and paste, mouthwash
- moisturiser – I swear I turn flaky in the air
- lip balm
- hand sanitiser and wipes
- hairbrush and hair ties for the longer haired amongst us
Most of these go in my liquids bag.
Entertainment options for your carry on
Even if you have plans to make the most on the onboard entertainment, it’s always good to have back up options. For me, that includes:
- my laptop, which in any case is best kept in your carry on
- a tablet or e-reader well stocked with your favourite books, music or magazines
- a book or magazine
- a journal or travel journal and a couple of pens
I like to give myself options during a flight, as I’m one of those pesky never-sleepers. An actual book or magazine gives me extra choice and is useful for those swaps that often happen on the move. Journaling helps me build the anticipation before a trip, and keeps my memories safe on the way home. Selecting choices of entertainment before you go is a great opportunity to balance yourself. Familiar favourites are brilliant to settle you when you have those trip wibbles, while books set in your destination can flame those travel fires in your soul.
Packing your gadgets for travel
We’ve already mentioned laptops and e-readers. In addition, you’ll need your:
- chargers and cables
- travel adaptors
- a powerbank or two
- SD and memory cards
I keep my cable spaghetti together with hair ties and corral it in its own bag.
Other travel items that need to go with you
There are a few other things you’ll need in your carry on:
- any valuables that don’t belong in the hold luggage, like jewelery
- anything sentimental and irreplaceable that you don’t want to run the risk of losing like original family photos you are taking to an event
Ready to Go? Here’s Some Helpful Resources
If you’re looking for more travel hacks, then check out what I’ve discovered during 50 years on the road. If you’re packing carry on for your main bag, there are winter and summer editions of our best hacks here, and a separate guide for business travel.
And if you’re like me, and packing is all part of the anticipation of a great time, then a number of forums and other sites can help you tease out what suits you best. Here are some of my favourites:
- The ever reliable Fodors
- Lonely Planet’s list (Europe here, although there are plenty more)
- Rick Steves’ packing list
- Cruise Critic’s Forums (although I seem to pack way less than most!)
However you pack, make it a great trip!
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