For some of us, flying is our favorite part of traveling: our ambition rises, we get a little anxious, maybe eat too many snacks (guilty), and dream about our destination. As for the rest of us, flying can be a bit dreadful, especially if you’re booking on a budget airline: no leg room, restless legs, exhaustion, and a tasteless meal to top it all off. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. Whether you enjoy the messiness of flying or not, there are some carry-on essentials that will make your journey one-thousand times more enjoyable, and most of all, comfortable.
For the longest time, I used to rough it out with only my entertainment options (tragic, I know), but boy have I welcomed the luxuries of these small, but essential items with wide-open arms! After going without for so long, I made small notes of missing items after saying, “damn, I wish I had _____” WAY too many times to myself while in the air!
If you’re preparing to fly for the first time, or if you’re looking for items to spruce up your flying experience, these are thirty downright awesome carry-on essentials that will help you maximize that economy seat you might be dreading to sit in for hours on end!
This post may contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.
Planning a trip? Check out these other blogs after these carry-on essentials!
Carry-On Bags I Love
Fjall Raven Kanken
For the casual traveler.
I adore this bag and I love how its design can be a bit more rustic or stylish depending on what outfit you’re wearing. They come in so many different colors that you’re bound to find one that fits your aesthetic, and they even have a line that is made from plastic water bottles. The bag is able to open to see all the contents inside, which makes it really nice when you’re on a plane and don’t want to go digging for your things.
WANDRD PRVKE Camera Bag
For the photographer.
With traveling with a ton of camera gear comes that huge gleaming target on your back from wearing incredibly obvious camera bags, but this WANDRD pack conceals everything seamlessly in its design. The bag itself is weather and waterproof so your items stay protected and its minimalistic design will match any style. It’s also incredibly forgiving on your back and shoulders since the weight is distributed evenly, so I have eliminated shoulder pain with this pack. It’s a must for all adventure photographers!
MATT + NAT Mumbaism Backpack
For the stylish traveler.
If you don’t travel with a ton of items, this small pack is stylish and minimalistic. The interior of the bag is made from recycled plastic bottles, so it’s eco-friendly (which we all know I’m all about that), and there is a pocket on the back of the bag that you can put important items in. This bag comes in a variety of some muted tones, so they’re a great addition to any wardrobe.
Absolute Essentials You (REALLY) Cannot Forget
Always pack this along since this is the best form of identification that you can have and it ensures your entry into other countries. Before you depart, and when you’re booking your trip, make sure it’s valid for over 6 months before you depart. Some countries are extremely strict on this rule so make sure you keep it updated once those ten years wind down.
Copies Of Important Documents
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to keep copies of where you’re staying, flights, itineraries, bookings, and small passport photos on for all trips. If you don’t want to carry around a bunch of papers, then you can easily scan or upload images of all of these to a Google Drive or Dropbox account so that you’ll always have them with or without internet access.
Never ever pack your valuables in your checked baggage because you never know if it’ll be lost, stolen, or damaged. I keep all of my electronics and expensive jewelry on my person because this is one of those things where I will not risk it to get the biscuit.
To avoid waste and save a ton of money, please just buy some already travel-friendly items and GoToobs+. There is no reason to purchase a bunch of over-priced travel sized items when you can pack along your favorites in reusable tubes. Here is a little guide from TSA that you can read to make sure you’re following all the rules (and so they don’t take your stuff).
Phone + Charger
My phone is unlocked so that means I can use any carrier with it. This comes in handy when I want to use SIM cards from other countries so I can stay in contact with friends and family while I am traveling. I use AT&T, so I just called them up and asked them to unlock it when I was traveling to Indonesia, and it was done within 24 hours. I am not sure if all cell providers do this, but that’s how mine was done.
I have this awful habit of having my money sprawled out all across my bags and rooms and I am finally getting my life together and buying a wallet. After years and years of traveling without one (shocking, I know) I am finally purchasing this adorable vegan leather wallet from MATT + NAT that holds all my currency and keeps everything in its own curated spot which I love.
Fear of your flight getting delayed, canceled, or your luggage getting lost? Travel insurance covers all of these and more! It’s so so SO important to have travel insurance in case shit hits the fan (and sometimes it will), so make sure you are covered. I purchase World Nomads Travel Insurance for their low price and incredible coverage, but if you need more information about what is covered in travel insurance and if World Nomads is right for you, I explain everything you need to know about travel insurance here.
Items To Keep You Fresh
Toothbrush + Toothpaste
There is nothing worse than enduring a long flight with no toothbrush. My dad refers to this phenomenon as ‘having socks on your teeth’ and trust me, no one wants that, especially the people sitting around you. I like using a bamboo toothbrush since it’s plastic-free, and David’s Natural Toothpaste since it is also plastic free, fully recyclable, and it makes your mouth feel clean and fresh.
Face Mask(s) and/or Face Wash + Moisturizer
For longer flights, I tend to break out more since my travel day is long and I am exposing myself to all kinds of bacteria in between trains, flights, and airports, so having a face mask on hand helps my skin feel less dry and crusty and more plump and clean. Pacifica Face Mask Singles are perfect for my flying needs and I love Disobey Time since it’s extremely hydrating.
I use GoToobs+ to put all my favorite travel beauty items in. I use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap in the Rose scent for my face and then I’ll moisturize it with vitamin e oil, but if I want something lighter, then I’ll use the OSEA Ocean Lotion.
There was this one series of long-haul flights that I forgot deodorant in my bag and I truly felt so bad for the people sitting around me because the slightest movement of my body was this strong wisp of putrid odor that even I couldn’t even bear; and you know it’s bad when you can’t even handle your own stench. The odor you produce while flying is hybrid and 35x worse than if you were to go workout at the gym for an hour, so please, don’t forget this in your bag. I have used this NOW deodorant for three years now and it keeps me stench free on all my flights, but I am about to switch over to this zero waste deodorant alternative that I’ve heard awesome things about.
Since planes are so dehydrating, your lips are going to turn into a desert in no time. If your travel day is over 24 hours, then this is going to be absolutely essential for all that time in transit.
If you have ever flown on Singapore Airlines and experienced a rebirth after one of those warm facial towelettes before and after one of their flights, a facial mist is like having that Singapore Airlines experience in a refreshing mist. Crusty airplane skin is something I experience every time I fly, so I love packing along my favorite mist from Pacifica or OSEA that I can whip out whenever I need a refresher.
A Clean Change Of Clothes
My luggage hasn’t ever been lost for a few days, and I’ll admit, I have been one to take risks and not pack extra clothes in the event that my luggage does get lost, but times are changing folks, and you all can bet that I’ll be bringing fresh undies and an outfit in my carry-on from now on. I couldn’t imagine having to wear a gross airport outfit for days and days after I landed.
Hairbrush (sorta optional)
So my hair turns into a tangled mess minutes after I brush it, and I can’t even tell you how bad it has looked in-between long series of flights. Once mine gets tangled, it tends to sit on my neck and make me incredibly uncomfortable. Using a hairbrush along with my face wash, moisturizer, and face mask makes me feel like I mildly have it all together, so I highly recommend bringing this along if your hair tangles easy like mine. My holy grail of a brush is my Wet Brush and trust me, you will never use another brush after this one.
Items To Keep You Entertained
If you don’t travel with headphones I have so many questions… Depending on what headphones you can have a couple of different experiences. Airpods let you have free roaming and no hassle of having to unplug you your stuff and let people out of the aisle. If you do bring Airpods, make sure you bring your old pair of headphones with cords because you won’t be able to bluetooth your Airpods to watch movies (I learned this the hard way). Noise canceling headphones let you have a peaceful experience even if there is a crying baby on board. They are a bit bulkier and kind of less convenient, but they’re worth it if you like quiet flights and a full focus. Last but not least, we have regular ole’ corded headphones. They’re cheap, they work, and if you have no reason to upgrade to something higher quality, these are great. I carry around a pair I got on one of my flights around the Philippines and they come in handy when I want to watch movies on board.
iPad / Computer / Tablet
I always bring along my computer for work and other things, but if you have no need for one, then an iPad or tablet will work just fine. I like to use mine to download movies and shows on Netflix. Also, pro tip, if you’re traveling internationally, keep your iPad on airplane mode and once you can connect to the airport wifi, it will also connect you to that countries Netflix streams, so you can download shows from other countries to watch on the plane! Once you land, they will be unavailable, but it’s great for those long flights coming back from Asia or Europe.
A Good Book
I know not everyone is a reader, but even if you join audible and listen to a book, there is something so special about absorbing the words of others and learning about new things. I always use Thriftbooks to order all of my books because I love their wide selection and I can buy used books rather than always wasting and spending a ton of money on new ones. Right now, I am reading ‘Into The Wild’ by Jon Krakauer and before I head out to Iceland I plan on reading ‘Independent People‘ and ‘The Fish Can Sing’ by Halldór Kiljan Laxness. To buy a used book means recycling old literature and saving a ton of money since most used books in a decent condition are only a few dollars vs. upwards of $20 for a new book.
Interested in giving some love to some used books? Enjoy 15% off your first purchase with Thriftbooks when you use this link.
Items To Keep You Healthy
Quality snacks are a staple on any flight and boy have they changed my flying experience for the better. If you’re flying on a long-haul, these are great since the meals can be a huge flop and so you can snack throughout the flight rather than starve in between airline meals. I try and keep mine healthy since my main meals while in the air are unhealthy, so some of my favorites are Go Macro Bars, raw almonds, Hippeas White Cheddar Puffs, Buddha Bowl Popcorn, Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups, and literally any other type of crunchy vegan snack.
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Reusable Water Bottle
Flight dehydration is real and if you only rely on those small cups on the plane, you’re going to have a bad time. The best thing that I have added to my carry-on essentials is a Hydro Flask because I am able to refill it when I need and I can control the amount of water that I have on hand at any time. This makes staying hydrated incredibly easy and honestly, I never go anywhere without my Hydro Flask.
Sitting for long periods of time mixed with dehydration doesn’t exactly help your trip run smoothly, if you know what I mean. I tend to bloat up on planes due to literally every part of flying: lack of water, little to no movement, unhealthy options, etc., so a probiotic helps a lot to keep the gears oiled up to reduce the uncomfortable puffiness. I recommend taking these (every day really), but especially the days and week leading up to your flight. It’s important that you buy quality probiotics otherwise they’re not really going to do much for you.
We all know that airports are prime time breeding grounds for illnesses, so vitamin c is going to help fight off those potential bugs, especially if you’re one to get sick easily, and with this vitamin c mix, you’re going to get a great dose of electrolytes. Plus it’s really tasty.
Items For A Maximized Flying Experience
Some Great Tunes
This is not an item, but of course an essential. Sometimes when I travel I run through the same albums over and over again, but I have been reaching out to listen to more music and I have found some goodies. I do have a full travel playlist that I have downloaded through Spotify for the plane and then Youtube has actually been catching my eye recently with some sort of off the radar artists (at least they were off my radar). Plus, if you have Youtube Red, you can download any of these songs and playlists onto your phone and you won’t have any ads. If you want some new tunes for the road, I have been really enjoying these lately:
Notebook + Pen
I am 100% one of those people that write, reflect, and make lists on planes. Traveling or not, I always have (too many) notebooks with me and my favorite pen (yes, I have a favorite pen). I generally use a brown, upcycled notebook like this one, but to keep my travel information organized and aesthetically pleasing, I use the WANDRD Travel Journal since I can have my things in one spot.
Portable Wifi Hotspot
If you have tons of work to get done, or if you just want to browse the internet with great wifi speeds, ditch the plane wifi and go for your own pocket wifi device. Skyroam is an awesome little device that lets you connect in over one-hundred countries on a 4G LTE signal. I will be trying out this little guy on my up and coming trip to Iceland, so I am very excited to see what all the hype is about. Staying connected is one of my main priorities since I run an online business, so I plan on purchasing the Skyroam Solis in full, but they also have renting options if you don’t travel often.
Items To Keep You Comfortable
A Comfy Outfit + Socks
You won’t catch me in an airport in anything fancy, but you will catch me in my most prized pair of black leggings that I never fly without, my favorite red flannel, a comfy top, and my red baseball cap. I like having an outfit that I can layer since I tend to be hotter in airports and colder on planes, so it’s nice having a flannel I can take off need be, or use it as a blanket.
I like to bring a pair of plus socks that keep my feet nice and warm, but if you struggle with swollen feet or legs on planes, then I recommend taking compression socks.
Sarong / Travel Towel
Not everyone is going to have one of these, but chances are if you’ve traveled to Southeast Asia, you never travel without this. A sarong is a lightweight ‘little smaller than a regular towel’ size fabric that is colorful and full of native designs. They can work as a towel, blanket, beach cover-up, and more and bring along my beautiful orange one even if I am going to Scotland or other parts of the world. If you don’t have one of these, you can always bring along an XL lightweight travel towel and it would do a similar job.
I have put my neck through some abuse for not bringing one along with me (I never wanted to carry the extra weight). It’s barbaric, I know, but hear me out. I have finally decided to put some money into a quality, lightweight travel pillow, the trtl pillow. This pillow is different from others because it’s not necessarily a pillow, but a wrap that supports your head when you sleep. This way you have great neck support, but you don’t have to carry around a huge pillow from place to place while you travel. It was this article here that actually convinced me to purchase it, so if you would like more information about it, that’s a great review.
Generally, falling asleep isn’t an issue on planes for me since I tend to nap on and off throughout the entire flight, but if I need a little something to help me hit the snooze button, then melatonin is the go-to for most, if not all, travelers. I have also been eying this dream elixir that looks interesting.
If there was only one item that you could take on your flight, what would you choose? Share with me in the comments below!