Carry-On Essentials: How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight (+ Downloadable Packing List)

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Article written by: Rebecca
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Looking for a list of essentials for an upcoming long-haul flight? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything I pack – with a handy checklist you can download.

As someone who has travelled to more than 40 countries and who currently lives far, far away from everywhere in Australia, I’ve been on more than my fair share of long-haul flights. They’re often uncomfortable, boring and seemingly never-ending.

And there’s nothing worse than getting an hour into a 15-hour flight and realising that you left something important behind or packed it into your checked-in luggage. Which is why I’ve created my own long haul flight essentials checklist so that I never leave anything I need behind.

If you’re planning a trip that involves a long-haul flight, make sure to pack these carry on essentials to make the trip more comfortable.

This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

Download this packing list!

If you’d prefer to have this long-haul flight essentials packing list in a PDF document you can download and print for your travels, enter your details below!

A good bag

The foundation of any carry on packing list is a good bag that can hold all your stuff. Depending on where I’m travelling to and what I’m doing when I get there, I alternate between a tote/duffel bag, a wheelie suitcase and a backpack for my carry-on bag.

I’m a huge fan of the enormous tote bag that Experience Scottsdale gifted me when I visited Scottsdale recently. It’s roomy and has tonnes of different pockets and dividers that help this A-type personality stay organised.

If I didn’t use that tote to pack all my travel essentials, I’d get my hands on one of these quilted weekender bags. It’s spacious with solid zippers.

BOSTANTEN Weekender Bags for Women Carry On Bag Travel Duffel Overnight Duffle Bag with Shoe Compartment 2Pcs Set
  • Large Capcity Travel Bag — The demension is 21.65”(L)*11.02”(W)*12.99”(H). The length range of adjustable and removable shoulder strap is 28.35”~54.72”.Here’s the inner structure:1 main compartment, 2 inner open pockets and 1 zipper pocket.Also it has the back zipper pocket&side slide pockets outside.It’s only 1.87 lb with high quality material, making it extremely lightweight.The 50L capcity could easily store fitness clothing, shoes, water bottles, towels and other travel essentials.

Whichever bag I take with me, if you peek inside you’ll likely find several smaller bags and pouches where I store other essential travel items like lip balm, hand sanitiser, tissues and so on.

These are usually bags I’ve picked up from airlines (I’ve now started saying no to the amenity bags they hand out because I have too many!) but there are so many cute ones you can find online as well.

These ones have so many fun prints and come in two different sizes.

Large Makeup Bag Zipper Pouch Travel Cosmetic Organizer for Women (Large, Beige Bird)
  • ✅ LARGE VERSION – Size 9″x6.7″x3.9”/23x17x10 cm, weigh only 4 ounce, decent size without any bulkiness.
  • ✅ ROOMY MAIN COMPARTMENT – One main compartment with 5 small pockets neatly organizes your makeup. One large compartment easily holds travel-size toiletries or large skin-care products. Side pockets holds your concealer, lipsticks or other small items.
  • ✅ WATER-RESISTENT – Water-resistent and durable fabric protects your gear from spills, easy to wipe down.

As well as my larger carry-on bag, I also often carry a smaller purse/handbag with me for my passport and important documents, phone and wallet. This is easier than fishing around in a bigger bag.

Travel organiser

I’m not a fan of passport covers because you often have to take the passport out of the holder and that gets annoying. But what I do love is a travel organiser that keeps all my important documents together in one place.

I have this fairly boring but very practical grey travel organiser, and inside you’ll find these international travel essentials:

  • My passport
  • Any relevant travel documents like flight itineraries or a copy of my own trip itinerary
  • Visa (if needed)
  • Health documents if they’re required (for example, I needed to show that I had the yellow fever vaccination for my trip to East Africa)
  • Boarding pass
  • Spare passport photos
  • Pens
  • Usually some U.S. dollars (tip: get a travel organiser that has a zip-up pocket for coins)
NeatPack Rfid Travel Wallet Document Organizer and Passport Holder Black
  • Keeps All Travel Essentials in One Place: Offers spacious storage for multiple passports, credit cards, travel itinerary & even your phone. Pocket design keeps everything organized & easy to access.
  • Protects You From ID Thieves: Rfid-blocking pocket safeguards your credit cards, passport & ID from identity thieves. No need to purchase a separate anti-theft passport holder or wallet.

Entertainment

It used to be a given that you’d get some sort of entertainment on a plane, especially on a long-haul flight. But you can never guarantee that your seat-back television will be working, so you need to prepare ahead.

Make sure you’ve downloaded movies and television programs to your phone or tablet – and check that they have actually downloaded properly.

I always bring along a book or two, as well, just in case I get sick of watching movies (trust me, on a 16-hour flight, it happens). I often bring a physical book, but most of the time I have several books downloaded to my Kindle so I can pick and choose without the extra weight.

No products found.

Whatever you do, don’t buy books at the airport – they’re usually far more expensive.

I’ll usually also have a copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook for the country I’m travelling to, either in hard copy or on my Kindle or iPhone.

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Lonely Planet Italy (Travel Guide)
  • Garwood, Duncan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 800 Pages – 05/16/2023 (Publication Date) – Lonely Planet (Publisher)

Cables and charging equipment

Ever boarded a plane only to realise that your phone is at 9%? Disaster.

Make sure you bring chargers and cables with you on the plane – don’t pack them in your check-in luggage.

Not all planes are equipped with in-seat power, so I also pack a portable charger (make sure it’s fully charged before you board!) like this Anker portable charger.

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Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger, 10,000mAh Power Bank, Ultra-Compact Battery Pack, Phone Charger for iPhone 15/15 Plus/15 Pro/15 Pro Max, Samsung and More
  • The Anker Advantage: Join the 50 million+ powered by our leading technology.
  • Remarkably Compact: One of the smallest and lightest 10,000mAh portable chargers. Provides almost three-and-a-half iPhone 8 charges or two-and-a-half Galaxy S8 charges.
  • High-Speed Charging: Anker’s exclusive PowerIQ and VoltageBoost combine to deliver the fastest possible charge for any device. Qualcomm Quick Charge not supported.

I also always pack my travel adapter in my carry on, just in case my checked bag gets lost. I have this universal adapter which also has an in-built surge protector and two USB outlets. It’s very lightweight.

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Travel Adapter, JOOMFEEN Worldwide All in One Universal Power Wall Charger AC Power Plug Adapter with Dual USB Charging Ports for USA EU UK AUS Cell Phone Laptop (Black)
  • WORLDWIDE CHARGING – This Travel Adapter Cover more than 150 Countries with US/EU/UK/AU plugs. It works in Canada, Russia, Asia, Central America, South America and the Middle East to name a few.
  • DUAL USB PORTS – World Adapter Plug compatible with almost all USB Devices like Apple iPhone 14,13,12,11,XR,8,7,6 6s 5s 4s, Samsung galaxy s22 s21 s7 s7 edge s6 s6 edge s5 s4, Sony,Nokia, HTC, LG, and so on.
  • CHARGE 3 DEVICES – The World Adapter Plug allows SIMULTANEOUS use of the AC Power Socket and Dual USB Ports.You can charge three devices at the same.Universal travel adapter.

I also usually bring my own headphones. Nothing fancy, just my iPhone headphones with a splitter so that I can plug it into the entertainment system. The over-ear ones that planes provide usually hurt my ears after a while so I prefer to use my own.

If you’re really into headphones, pack some fancy noise cancelling headphones like these Bose headphones.

Bose QuietComfort Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones, Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones with Up To 24 Hours of Battery Life, Black
  • LEGENDARY NOISE CANCELLATION: Effortlessly combines noise cancelling headphones technology with passive features so you can shut off the outside world, quiet distractions, and take music beyond the beat
  • PREMIUM COMFORT: Plush earcup cushions softly hug your ears, while a secure and comfortable padded band gently keeps your over ear headphones in place for those extra-long listening sessions
  • 2 LISTENING MODES: These wireless Bluetooth headphones feature Quiet and Aware Modes that let you toggle between full noise cancelling or full awareness of your surroundings for seamless sound control

Electronics case

Organisation is my goal when I’m flying. I hate having to dig through my bag trying to find things.

One of the best things I’ve ever purchased is this electronics case which has so much room for cables, my Kindle (or an iPad or tablet), memory cards for my camera, portable charger, laptop charger and whatever other electronics I’m carting around with me.

BAGSMART Universal Travel Cable Organizer Electronics Accessories Carry Bag for 9.7 inch iPad, Kindle, Power Adapter
  • Dimensions: 10.2’’ L x 7.9’’ W x 2.4’’H; Weight: 0.26kg/ 0.57 pounds
  • Durable and water-repellent nylon material, strong carry handle, double zipper opening keeping your items safe and ready to use.
  • Comfortably big enough for holding most of your electronics with ease, like 9.7’’ iPad, chargers, hard drives, batteries, USB cords, power bank, SD cards, power adapters and other electronic accessories.
  • Three front pockets with Velcro closure convenient to keep your accessories organized and easily access to the port of the portable charger charging your iPhone.

If you’re travelling light with electronics, then a few of these cord “tacos” should be enough to keep your cords from tangling up.

Leather-Cord-Organizer,Puiuisoul Cord Taco Trio Charger Earphone Wire Fastening Ties for Earbud Wrap Headphones USB Cable Gift
  • 🎁[EASY TO USE]:Cord taco trio metallic snap for easy opening and closing, easily winds all kinds of cables and cords within seconds.
  • 🎁[PERFECT DESIGN]:Cord organizer have features a sturdy, snap closureCompact size to fit easily in pockets, purses or bags, a great option for an organized home or workplace
  • 🎁[CLUTTER DISAPPEARS]: Opened fastening cable ties straps snaps are 4″ In diameter,It is possible to bundle seven network cable sizes together.

Laptop

I rarely use my laptop on a plane but it’s something I’d never check in.

Camera

Same as my laptop, my camera is far too valuable (both monetarily and personally) to put in my check-in luggage.

Travel pillow

The thin, lumpy pillows they hand out on a plane rarely do the job. They usually slip down your back or you still wake up with a crick in your neck because your head has fallen forward and you’re drooling everywhere.

I have this awesome TRTL pillow which wraps around your neck and keeps your head up, so no more sore neck (drooling still happens…)! This is the best travel pillow for long haul flights. You can move it around depending on how you like to sleep. Unless you’re up the pointy end, you’re not going to get the best sleep of your life on a plane, but it will make it much more comfortable.

trtl Travel and Airplane Pillow – Real Sleeping Experience on Long Flights – Neck and Shoulder Support – Super-Soft, Lightweight, Easy-to-Carry, and Machine-Washable Flight Pillow – Grey
  • Scientifically Proven Neck Pillows For Travel: Thanks to our unique, patented design, you can easily adjust your Trtl travel neck pillow to achieve top-level comfort and experience ultimate neck support. The internal support system keeps your head and neck in an upright position while you nap, keeping you from waking up with aches, strains, or pains. The perfect airplane or car travel essential.
  • Enjoy a Real Sleeping Experience on Long Flights: Add our neck pillow to your long flight essentials’ list to experience a deep sleep during lengthy flights. The super soft fleece, plush cushioning, and cozy shoulder support will lull you into a long, refreshing nap while on the plane.
  • Lightweight and Compact Design: Weighing in at only 4.5oz, The Trtl Travel Pillow’s lightweight design allows you to attach it to the outside of your backpack or luggage easily without feeling weighed down. No more dragging around a bulky neck pillow for traveling!

Comfy clothes

I remember the first few times I travelled on a plane, I dressed up. I may have even worn heels.

Well, those days are long gone and today it’s all about comfort. I usually wear leggings or my favourite Athleta joggers or a long skirt with a loose top. I pair them with a pair of sneakers that are easy to slip on and off (I love these white leather sneakers).

No jeans, no uncomfortable tops that don’t move or breathe well. And no heels.

If you’ve got a long flight, consider bringing a spare change of clothes that you can change into halfway through your trip (or as back up in case your luggage goes missing).

The interior of an airplane looking towards the front of the cabin. The overhead compartments are closed, and the cabin has rows of blue seats occupied by passengers. The focus of the image is on the airplane ceiling, with overhead lighting and air conditioning nozzles. A flight attendant is standing in the aisle, appearing to be interacting with a passenger or conducting a task.

Spare undies

I still remember the first time I flew to the U.S. on a business trip. I landed in Washington D.C., but my bag didn’t. I spent the next two days wearing the same clothes and washing my knickers in the hotel bathroom sink every night.

I learned my lesson that trip and it’s something I’ll never forget: always pack a spare pair of undies. It’s one of my best travel tips. This must be top of your travel essentials list.

Scarf or cardigan

In addition to comfy clothes, a scarf or a cardigan is also one of my long haul flight essentials. Planes can get incredibly cold.

A scarf is also a great addition to your travel wardrobe, whether it’s using it as an actual scarf to accessorise your outfit or to cover your shoulders when you visit a religious site.

Socks

Like I said, planes can get cold. Sometimes I don’t want to slip on my shoes, so I like to have a pair of socks to keep my tootsies warm.

They’re also handy for when you go to the bathroom. NEVER go to a plane toilet in bare feet!! I sometimes also pack a pair of flip flops that I can slip on when I go to the bathroom.

Consider compression socks to prevent deep vein thrombosis when flying long haul.

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  • MULTICOLOR COMBO – You get a color combination of your choice. Perfect for a whole week without daily wash. You are getting an amazing offer to keep your feet stay with optimal compression all the time (See the 7th image for the Size Chart)! High quality stitched & Easy to get on even though they are compression socks!
  • COMPRESSION IS PROVEN to allow you to move faster, react quicker and use less energy. Targeted compression zones provide varying levels of support from moderate to extra firm. Unique color design, add a touch of color to your ordinary life.

Toiletries

Air travel can dry out your skin, so I always pack these long haul flight essentials to keep me hydrated and fresh.

What you’ll always find in my toiletries bag are:

  • Face moisturiser
  • Lip balm (I love Burt’s Bees)
  • Deodorant
  • Make-up remover wipes (which also double as body wipes)
  • A small amount of make-up that I apply before I disembark (eyebrow powder, mascara)
  • Tissues
  • Eye drops
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Antibacterial wipes to wipe down my tray table and arm rests
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Vitamin C tablets
  • Nose spray
  • Plus anything I absolutely couldn’t lose – medications, contact lenses and solution (before I had Lasik surgery)

And, you guessed it, all of this goes into a separate small bag that I pop into the seat back for easy access.

Clear case for liquids

I used to use a basic Ziploc bag to transport my liquids, but now I travel with one of these clear, TSA-approved cases. It’s big enough for all my liquids and it has structure so that I can really pack everything in.

Lermende 2pcs TSA Approved Toiletry Bag Clear Toiletry Bag for Traveling,Airport Airline Travel Toiletry Bag.Carry On TSA Bag,Clear Bag for Travel,Quart Sized Travel Toiletry bag for Women Men (Black)
  • ✈TSA Approved Toiletry Bag for Women/Men- TSA approved clear toiletry bag strictly follow 3-1-1 regulations. Easy and quick to pass through airport security. An ideal travel toiletry bag, quart size toiletry bags for women and men in all ages.
  • ✈Clear Strong Thickness Design Travel Toiletry Bag – Made of transparent PVC material, eco-friendly to see and get items quickly. Strong thickness helps the clear toiletry bag more durable and easy to clean, it is reusable tsa bag for travel, clear makeup bags for women.

I have all my liquids in this case for security, and then when I get on the plane I transfer everything into another pouch with my other non-liquid toiletries.

Eye mask and ear plugs

On long-haul flights, most airlines hand out an amenity kit with an eye mask and ear plugs, but I like to bring my own as well. I have an eye mask that I got from business class and it’s contoured for your face so it actually blocks out light.

I’m still waiting for someone to buy me this cashmere set which includes a soft eye mask (hint, hint, husband!).

Jet&Bo 100% Pure Cashmere Poncho & Eye Mask Travel Set Gray in Gift Box
  • Made from 100% pure cashmere, this luxury cashmere poncho and eye mask travel set is a must for any journey; it oozes sophistication, is light, soft, and warm
  • The poncho can be worn while traveling and due to its cozy blanket feel is perfect for keeping warm on planes and cruises; it’s a blanket that won’t fall off while your sleeping
  • Cashmere offers lightweight warmth without the bulk, it travels well as it doesn’t wrinkle, and it becomes softer with wear
  • This cashmere poncho is 12 gauge which is a denser cashmere knit and is suitable for all seasons and climates
  • Pullover style poncho that fits most sizes

Reusable water bottle

I rarely travel without my Nomader reusable water bottle, and it’s also one of my must haves for long haul flights.

It’s great because it can be rolled up when it’s empty, saving space in my bag. Then, before I get on the plane I fill it up, and ask the flight attendants to top it up during the flight so I’ve always got water.

Nomader BPA-Free Collapsible Sports Water Bottle – Foldable with Reusable Leak Proof Twist Cap for Travel Hiking Camping Outdoor and Gym – 22 oz (Vibrant Blue)
  • PORTABLE – sturdy and comfortable to drink from while on-the-go; rolls up for compact travel when empty; convenient to carry with hand strap
  • LEAKPROOF – patented twist cap and lid prevents water leaks; hinged cover shields drink spout in between sips
  • HEALTHY – made of 100% food-grade materials; BPA-free, BPS-free, phthalates-free, lead-free, and latex-free
  • VERSATILE – freezable; dishwasher safe (top rack); wide mouth makes it easy to refill, add ice, and clean with bottle brush

Chewing gum

I normally never chew gum, but on a plane it can be really helpful. Both for keeping your breath fresh, and for relieving ear pressure.

Notebook and pen

I’ve always got a notebook with me so I can jot down the random ideas that pop into my head during my long-haul flights.

Similarly, I’ll usually have two or three pens on me. I always see so many people on planes asking the flight attendants for a pen so that they can fill out their immigration cards.

Snacks

Controversial opinion: I actually don’t mind plane food. I’ve always been surprised by how passionately some people hate plane food. It’s not gourmet but it’s not that terrible.

But, it never hurts to pack some snacks for a long-haul flight. Pack stuff that will actually keep you full but that’s light and healthy. Some good plane snacks are:

  • Nuts – but avoid salted nuts because you’ll get dehydrated
  • Trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Fruit – remember to eat it before you land at your destination

Travel insurance

Boring, yes, I know, but if I’m travelling overseas I always have travel insurance. Check Travel Insurance Master to compare policies from across multiple providers. Another provider is SafetyWing, which is great for long-term travellers and digital nomads. Finally, World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

If you’d prefer to have this long-haul flight essentials packing list in a PDF document you can download and print for your travels, click here!

Did you find this article helpful? Consider buying me a coffee as a way to say thanks!

That’s everything I travel with. What about you? What are the long haul flight essentials you can’t travel without? Let me know in the comments below.


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About REBECCA

I'm a travel junkie who started dreaming about seeing the world from a very young age. I've visited more than 40 countries and have a Master of International Sustainable Tourism Management. A former expat, I've lived in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Argentina and the United States. I share travel resources, tips and stories based on my personal experiences, and my goal is to make travel planning just that bit easier.

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