Things to pack in your carry-on for a long distance flight

Since I’m originally from Germany and my whole family still lives there I do quite a lot of travel to visit them. Over the years I’ve figured out what does and doesn’t work for me when traveling for 16+ hours and I thought I would share my experience with you.

First of all, you want to be comfortable so leave your high heels, fancy clothes, and expensive purse in your checked luggage. No need to impress anyone. At the same time I always think it’s weird when people show up in PJ pants and sweatshirt. I don’t wanna look like I just rolled out of bed. If you have any layovers you also want to wear clothes and shoes that you could run in because you may need to sprint to the other end of the airport in order to catch your connecting flight. You should be able to take off your shoes off easily for going through security and try to avoid belts and lots of jewelry that you’ll have to take off (I once lost a necklace when it went through the scanner with all my other items but never came out at the other end). You’ll probably also want to wear socks because, again, you’ll need to take off your shoes when going through security and I find walking barefoot in that area just gross. Your flip-flops are more appropriate for the beach.

I also found that using a backpack is the best way to go. If you’re like me and pack everything that you could even remotely need during your trip you’ll have one heavy carry-on. Carrying all of that crap those very important things in a purse will probably just result in you needing a chiropractor after your flight – not a good start to your vacation. And while a suitcase may fit everything and you won’t need to carry it if it has wheels I personally find them very impractical when I need to run to catch my connecting flight. Also, they take up a lot of space in the overhead bin and we all hate those people who don’t even leave room for your itty bitty backpack.

But now to onto the interesting part: what the heck to pack?

A light sweater and a fuzzy pair of socks

In my experience airplanes can get very, very cold, especially when you sit by the window. For a transatlantic flight you will be provided with a blanket but those are pretty thin and too small to cover your whole body. For these reasons I will not wear shorts or skirts on long flights no matter how hot it is outside. If you have a lot of space in your carry-in you may decide to bring your own blanket. I saw this awesome Cat Nap Travel Blanket by Eagle Creek at REI before going on my last trip and almost bought it. It has a pocket for you feet; how awesome is that!

A small empty bottle

Since you’re not allowed to bring large amounts of liquids through security I usually just bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain after going through security. Beats paying $5 for a bottle of water. Especially on long flights its important to stay hydrated and while the stewardesses try to provide beverages fairly regularly you may just want to have a bottle of water as a backup. As an added bonus, it’s harder to spill water all over yourself when he plane hits a turbulence (or the person in front of you suddenly decides to recline their seat).

Things for entertainment

Pack whatever will keep you occupied for many hours. I usually bring my tablet preloaded with my music and a book as well as some cool games. Don’t forget the headphones.  In additional I like to bring a newspaper and a magazine. Most planes on transatlantic flights these days come with a personal entertainment center but depending on the airline and the plane model they may be hit or miss. Better to have some backups.

Don’t forget to charge all of your electronic devices before leaving, upload all your music to the device of your choice and buy/download a good selection of apps/games/books onto your tablet. I always forget that I won’t be able to connect to the internet while I’m on the road unless I want to pay for 3G/WiFi so I try to remember to download all the content I might want before leaving. During my last trip they actually had WiFi on the plane and prices weren’t too ridiculous so that is an option as well.

Some snacks

The quality of the food served on your flights can vary immensely so it’s good to have something to snack on. Also comes in handy during 4 hour layovers.

Gum or hard candy

Chewing gum during takeoff and landing always helps me to relieve the pressure in your ear during takeoff and landing. They are also nice when you get a sugar craving.

A quart size bag with some toiletries

Since you’re only allowed to bring an quart-sized bag with liquids through security I recommend to fill it with some travel sized toiletries to freshen up after your long-distance flight. Here is what I like to pack in my toiletry bag:

Things to pack in your carry-on for a long distance flight

  • Moisturizer, hand lotion, and lip balm: the air on planes is very dry so bring some moisturizer to make you skin feel better. I like Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst ReliefAHAVA Deadsea Water Mineral Hand Cream, and NIVEA A Kiss Of Smoothness.
  • Eye cream against dark circles: you may not get a lot of sleep and it’ll show. Use an eye cream like GinZing by Origins to make you look more refreshed.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: I own a couple one-use packets of toothpaste that are really handy and take up virtually no space in your zip-lock bag. I also like to just bring my normal toothbrush and use a cover like the steripod to separate the toothbrush head from all the other beauty products.
  • Makeup, mascara and anything else that will make you look less like a zombie.
  • Deodorant, baby wipes, and a fresh pair of underwear to at least make you feel somewhat clean.
  • Headache pills: I get frequent tension headaches and I never know when the next one will hit so I like to pack a few headache pills just in case.

What do you like to bring on a long flight?

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