I love arriving at new destinations, especially far away places that are foreign to me – it’s a thrilling experience to land somewhere completely new with all new sights, sounds, and smells! What’s not very exciting are the long-haul flights that are typically a prerequisite to arriving at such places.
Airplanes are notoriously uncomfortable for most travelers especially for those in economy and even more so if you’re taller than 5’3″. It is very common to arrive in a new time zone feeling jet-lagged, dehydrated, generally gross from hours of recycled air. After many red-eyes, transatlantic, and transcontinental flights under my belt, I know those feelings all too well.
After some research and personal experience, I’ve found there a few things you can do to prepare for long-haul flights that will make traveling much easier. Whether you’re flying to Denver for a weekend or all the way to Southern Argentina, if properly prepared, you will have better chances of arriving at your destination with more energy to hit the ground running!
12 Must-Have Carry-On Items for Long Flights
1. Toiletry Kit
Don’t underestimate power of simply brushing your teeth, using a face wipe, and some moisturizer during or after a long flight. This can instantly make you feel refreshed. Also, following the same bedtime or morning routine while traveling will help you adapt to the time zone changes.
2. Ear Plugs And Noise Cancelling Headphones
Airplanes are noisy, especially the older planes and even more so if you are towards the back of the plane. Having ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones will do wonders for your ability to sleep and enjoy the movies or series you downloaded in preparation of your flight. These also come handy when the crew has to make announcements and you’re fast asleep – no abrupt wake-up calls!
I bought a cheap pair of noise cancelling headphones from amazon that have lasted me years and would recommend if you don’t want to splurge on the name brand pair.
3. Backup Entertainment
I never trust that a plane will have working TVs, working headphone ports, wifi or even outlets. I’ve been burned too many times with unlucky seat assignments that had broken amenities. Now, I always travel with my kindle, a few shows or movies downloaded, and a magazine or two! Long haul flights with nothing to do can be painful, make sure to be prepared with ways to keep your mind occupied (unless you’re a master at meditating).
4. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate
It’s estimated that you lose 8 ounces of water for every hour of flying – add that up over a long haul flight to Egypt and you will be quite dehydrated by the time you reach your destination. I’ve come to learn that most of my bodily aches and discomfort after traveling can be eased if I’m adequately hydrated, which means lots of water leading up to the flight, at least two large water bottles during the flight, and excessive amounts of water after the flight. This helps with headaches, stomach aches, lethargy, and the extra trips to the bathroom helps with blood flow which is very important in preventing blood cots.
5. Inflatable Pillow & Eye Mask
Planning to sleep on your flight? An eye mask and a pillow can go a long way in keeping you comfortable and asleep even in economy and next to your neighbor’s bright TV screen (much like my flight to Santiago, Chile). This inflatable pillow from Amazon works well with a window seat!
I love my eye mask for flights, but also for hotels with pesky curtains that won’t stay shut and while camping in places with long summer daylight (like Denali National Park in July). This eye mask from Amazon is my favorite for black-out effect without direct pressure to the eyes.
6. A Change of Clothes
Having a change of clothes handy will help you feel refreshed after flying but also act as a backup in the unfortunate case of losing any luggage. I always fly with a carry-on suitcase so after my overnight flight I can change out my loose, comfy clothes and put on a new outfit for the day.
Another benefit to bringing a change of clothes with you on your flight? If you happen to spill coffee on your lap and don’t want to sit with wet pants for the remainder of your flight, you’ll be thankful for those clean, dry pants in your bag!
7. Med Kit
You may think this is a little much but I always keep a small kit of medicine to help with any ailments that may pop up while traveling. Most commonly used items? Eye drops, cough drops, ibuprofen, dramamine and Tums. I also love to bring Emergen-C immune boost and B12 vitamins for a boost of energy when struggling with jet-lag – I swear by both! B12 vitamins (and ibuprofen) are great for physically demanding trips like backpacking in Patagonia and hiking in Banff, Canada. These kind of trips mean your flight home may be more uncomfortable than the flight there. Have seasonal allergies? Make sure to pack some allergy medicine as you never know how a new destination will affect you. Going to Egypt, I underestimated the amount of dust in the air and was glad to have some decongestants with me.
8. Extra Snacks and Water
Having to count on airplane food and being awake for the snack carts isn’t always your best bet. I always travel with extra snacks especially after having long travel days with lots of unplanned delays and minimal food options. You never want to get stuck in a terminal for hours after every food option has closed for the night.
9. Compression Socks
Economy seats are not conducive for a good leg stretch. Sitting for long periods of time can cause swelling in your legs and feet and is generally not good for circulation and blood flow. A great way to combat the swelling and aid in circulation is wearing compression socks. I used them when I was flying red-eyes weekly from California to Pennsylvania and noticed a difference immediately.
10. Portable Chargers
Ever land in a new location with a dead cellphone and no way to get directions, call an uber/lyft, or use Google Translate? Charging blocks can be real life savers if your seat doesn’t have any charging outlets but you still want to use your phone or computer for entertainment. They’re also convenient to have while traveling so you’re not tied to an outlet and can keep exploring while your phone or tablet is charging.
11. Hand Sanitizer
This may be a given now in a post-COVID world, but hand sanitizer has always been a necessity while traveling. There are way too many germs floating around an airplane and especially the bathrooms. Having hand sanitizer in your bag will help mitigate germ exposure while flying and traveling.
12. Chewing Gum
Don’t be that seat neighbor with horrid onion-breath trying to strike up conversation with your seat mates. Minty chewing gum is great for a little refresh after all those airplane snacks and fellow passengers will appreciate it! Also, chewing gum during take-off and landing is supposed to help with motion sickness and ear-popping.
And there you have it! The 12 Must-Have carry-on items for your next long-haul flight. Where are you headed to next?