Carry-on Essentials: Stay Comfortable on Long Flights
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Carry-on Essentials: What To Pack To Stay Comfortable on Long Flights

Long flights may signify the beginning of a well-deserved vacation, a short business trip or a big move. No matter where your plane is taking you, the flight itself is seldom a highlight of your trip. However, just because you are stuck on an airplane for hours doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. We have flown around the world from Los Angeles to Bangkok and back to D.C., and a little preparation helps make our flights not only tolerable, but smooth and comfy!

With a few carry-on essentials packed in your bag you will be the subject of envy of your fellow flyers while they are cramped and tired and you are good to go. There are a few things you should consider when thinking about what to pack: your comfort, health, and entertainment.

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  • Compressions Socks

Some people experience noticeable swelling after long flights. Avoid discomfort in the air and prevent blood clots after you land by wearing compression socks during your flight. Socks also provide extra warmth in freezing cabins.

  • Eye Mask

If you have any hope of sleeping on a plane, especially if you are crossing time zones, you’ll need an eye mask. Not all the other passengers are going to be on the same sleep schedule as you and may be using the lights. For the most comfort, look for a mask that is molded so it won’t put pressure on your eyes.

  • Travel Pillow

Another essential for sleep. We like inflatable options since they are so easy to pack, but if you have any neck issues, a more substantial pillow might be necessary. I like the plush cover on my Samsonite one.

  • Ear Plugs

Have you ever been on a flight with a crying baby? Enough said.

  • Snacks

If you’re on a long flight you will probably get a meal, but it might not be served when you’re hungry. Bringing your own snacks from home saves money and lets you eat on your own schedule. Granola bars are our favorite option, but make sure they don’t have too much chocolate so they won’t melt.

  • Sweater/Scarf

A sweater and a scarf can both double as a blanket or a pillow during your flight. Remember even if you are coming from or going to the tropics, the plane might be really cold on the way.

carry-on essentials pic


I like to pack all my health essentials in a small bag to keep them organized and easy to find. I leave the little bag in my carry-on even when I’m not traveling, and check it before flights to make sure I don’t need to refill anything.

  • Gum
  • Chapstick
  • Lotion (A tiny hotel-sized bottle will do)
  • Face Wipes
  • Toothbrush (We like to pack Wisps)
  • Contact case and solution (Put a travel-sized bottle with your liquids)
  • Medication (Benedryl, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Extra hair ties

Your skin dries out in the air so some lotion for you face and hands will keep you comfortable. If you’re traveling for a full day, bring some face wipes with you to freshen up. Hand sanitizer is great on a plane because you don’t have to get up to wash your hands before meals. Drinking plenty of water will help you beat jet lag and stay healthy while you travel, so make sure you grab a big bottle before you board.


These days most of our in-flight entertainment is electronic. Even books are now on screens, so make sure all your gadgets are fully charged before you leave and turn them off until you are ready to use them.

  • Comfy Headphones

Make sure you have headphones that you are comfortable wearing for long periods of time. If you like listening to music while you sleep, give SleepPhones a try.

  • Books

If you have physical books, limit your selection to 2-3 to keep your weight down and try to get paperback instead of hardback books. If you’re reading on a Kindle or iPad, make sure your titles are downloaded and ready to go.

  • iPad/Computer

Download some games that are available offline, or opt for an educational activity like Duolingo to practice a new language.

  • Battery pack/chargers

Make sure all your chargers are in your carry-on bag. Your laptop is useless if it dies and you accidentally packed the charger in your checked luggage! Consider a portable charger for you phone and tablet. We love the Jackery Giant because it’s small and packs a ton of power. Outlets in airports can be insanely hard to find sometimes!

Stay Organized

We all know there isn’t much room to go rummaging through a crowded bag on your flight, so keep all your travel essentials organized. Wrap all your cords and chargers, or try a grid organizer (we’ve used this one) for easy access. Put your bag of health items, all entertainment material and comfort accessories in the bag you place under the seat in front of you.

What other items do you consider essential for long flights? 

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Evanne and Eric left jobs in Washington, D.C., headed for Chiang Mai, and look forward to exploring everywhere in between.

  • I have literally never brought a pillow on a flight and I kick myself every time. Must get on that!

    March 13, 2015 at 1:16 am
    • We never travel without one! In fact, we have three with us right now. Get an inflatable one and just leave it in your carry-on bag so you never forget it!

      March 13, 2015 at 6:18 pm

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