Travel’s always a pleasure.  But faced with a lengthy flight, it’s wise to consider how to keep happy and out of mischief for the duration.  My most recent long-haul flights were on our October trip to Tennessee and Mississippi, where we clocked up some reasonable hours in the air to Newark and Nashville, then home from Memphis via Chicago and Frankfurt (I know.  It’s a long story.)

So let’s consult my epic list and consider what made my carry on bag.

Choosing Your Bag

Firstly the bag itself, or to be more precise bags.  I opted for a tried and tested combo: a large tote with a cross body strap, and a medium sized backpack as handbag (just large enough for an A4 document).  Having a dodgy wrist makes a backpack a brilliant option.   Totes work best when they’re not prone to sliding off your shoulder down to your wrist and making you say ouch, or words to that effect.  So test out its sliding potential before you go.

The tote contains the things I won’t need on the plane, and goes in the overhead, while the backpack goes under the seat in front.

Travel Documents

The first thing I pack, in a very bright travel folder, are my documents:

  • Passport
  • Tickets (including paper copies of barcodes, just in case)
  • Reservations information for accommodation and car hire

Destination information goes in an A4 plastic wallet.

Emergency Essentials

When I separate carry on from checked luggage, I try and work to a worst case scenario of my bag not making a connection.  Touch wood, that’s not happened in any drastic way yet.   Husband’s bag once had to make its own way home from Heathrow after being delayed, but that was fortunately at the end of a trip.  So that means a change of outfit suitable for the destination climate, which buys me time to wait for my delayed bag or hit the shops.

For this trip, that meant treggings, a striped top and a thin jacket, plus spare undies.  I also packed a pair of flat shoes that could be dressed up to a certain degree if needed.  This is a good example of what I call packing to my weaknesses; I have feet shaped like a frog’s, and buying shoes is a real hassle.  Not something I want to be doing urgently on holiday.

Don’t forget a big scarf.  And if you have valuables or irreplaceable things, they belong in your carry on too.


The next thing I pack is toiletries.  There’s the small clear bag of liquids.  In here I have toothpaste, a cooling eye gel, mini perfume, body spray, moisturiser, hand cream, anti bac and face wipes.  Another small bag has the non liquid toiletries: stick deodorant, mini hairbrush, toothbrush, solid lipbalm (EOS baffles Birmingham Airport.  Just sayin’).  The third small bag has prescription and non prescription meds, plus a copy prescription, a teeny pair of scissors, a couple of plasters, and a mini first aid kit.


The entertainment side of things is crucial.  Give me a window seat and a daytime flight, and I’m the irritating person with the blind up marveling at how you can see the ice formations across Greenland.  Or spotting a particularly interesting cloud.  Conversely, I can never sleep on a night flight, so that calls for some entertainment options.  First up is Mr Kindle, suitably well stuffed for the journey.  I like to bring magazines for the journey out and work my way through them first to lighten the load.  My travel journal goes too, with a small pencil case of pens, glue stick, and a few stationery items.  That can keep me busy for a while on the flight or while waiting for connections.


I add a bag for emergency rations.  There’s nothing like an eight hour flight when they forgot to load the special meals. I’m not naming the airline, but I won’t be flying them again any time soon.  I take nuts, Kind bars or Nakd bars, crackers, maybe chocolate.  I can snaffle fruit or salad on board.   If we’re flying out from home, I’ll pack the kind of sandwich that can survive a little while and doesn’t contain anything sloppy.  And mini lactose-free milks.  Airline coffee needs all the help it can get.

If you don’t have food allergies or intolerances, I’d venture that you could skip this.  But there’s nothing like the comfort of something when you really want it, rather than on the airline’s timescale.

And don’t forget the empty water bottle.


Then we’ve got the real essentials.   There are the everyday carry items that are still needed: wallet, house keys (unless there’s someone to let you in on your return), phone.  I keep my passport, tickets, travel documents and currency in a bright travel wallet, so I can spot it deep down in my bag.

I bring a small tech bag which has cables, chargers, and adaptors, plus a USB charger that takes two connectors.  Don’t forget at least one fully charged powerbank, and maybe two it it’s long haul.

Organising it all

I try and pack both my bags in a way that means not annoying people by being up and down to the overhead like a jack in a box.  So tote up, backpack under seat in front, and packed accordingly.


The Backpack

– Wallet, keys, phone

– Travel wallet with passport, tickets, insurance, currency

– Powerbanks

– Kindle

– liquids bag, toiletries bag, meds bag

– emergency rations


The tote

– Spare clothes and shoes, plus any jewellery

– A plastic folder with the paperwork for our destination

– Travel journal and pencil case

– Magazines (I’ll take them out and put them in the seat pocket when I put the tote in the overhead)

Author: Bernie

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