I have a list of carry on essentials that I always pack in my carry on bag. When I check luggage (which I rarely do), these are the items that go in my carry on bag rather than my checked bag. Even when traveling with carry on luggage only, these in flight essentials are usually in my small personal item that is under the seat rather than my larger checked bag in the overhead.
My carry on bag essentials list includes all items I would need to be comfortable on a long international or overnight flight. (For shorter flights, I skip some of these items as I do not need them.) Also included on my list of what to pack in my carry on bag, are valuable and hard to replace belongings as well as those items which I can’t live without in the event my checked luggage is lost or delayed.
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Carry On Essentials List
Not sure what to pack in your carry on bag? Here is a comprehensive packing list of carry on essentials:
These are essential documents for boarding your next flight and should always be in your carry on luggage.
Face Mask or Covering
Many airlines (including all major U.S. airlines) are now requiring passengers to wear masks when boarding and on the plane. The airlines might have masks for passengers but better to bring your own mask to be on the safe side.
Cash, credit cards, ATM cards
Cash, credit cards or ATM cards should never be put in checked luggage in the event your checked luggage is delayed, lost or stolen.
Printed itinerary/ hotel and flight confirmations
I like to print my hotel and flight e-mail confirmations. I don’t want to rely on having wi-fi or my data plan working.
These items are hard to replace while traveling and should always be in your carry on bags. I also like to pack my sunglasses with me.
Essential medication and prescriptions
You don’t want to worry about not having any medication you need if your checked luggage is delayed. I get pain when traveling, especially headaches in the pain, and this helps a lot.
Electronics (cell phone, camera, computer, adaptors), jewelry and other valuables
Don’t put anything in your checked luggage that you cannot afford to lose. This includes electronics, jewelry and other expensive or sentimental belongings. If you plan to use your electronics in flight, you might want to bring an external battery so you can charge your electronics.
Change of clothing (including underwear)
It is a good idea to have a spare change of clothes and underwear in case your luggage is delayed. You do not want to have to live in the clothes you traveled with. Yes, you can buy new clothes but stores are not open 24-7. I also bring a pair of flip flops that double as my shower shoes.
Long flights (especially in economy) can be awful unless you have something to entertain you like a book, movie etc. Make sure to pick a good movie or book that you can get absorbed in so that time flies. While long flights have movies as in flight entertainment, sometimes the movie selection is not a movie that I would enjoy. Personally I find books more relaxing than movies. If you would rather not bring actual books, consider bringing a Kindle.
Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
On a long flight you might want to brush your teeth. I find it easier to sleep after I brush.
Lip balm, lotion and other toiletries
The air in the flight is very dry. Lip balm and lotion are at the top of my in flight essentials list. Also bring any toiletries you would need on a flight including face wipes, contact lens solution and makeup.
Antibacterial wipes or sanitizing lotion
Airplane surfaces can be very dirty. I use antibacterial wipes to wipe down my tray table, arm rests etc. These wipes are my favorite because they are individually wrapped.
Eye mask, ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones, sleeping pill or melatonin
If you have trouble sleeping with lights on bring an eye mask. Ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones are also useful to block out noise and help you sleep. Melatonin, combined with natural remedies for sleep, has been proven to help with sleep.
I’ve heard that the blankets are not washed between flights. You might want to bring your own blanket.
You might find it more comfortable to travel with a neck travel pillow or your own pillow.
If you are traveling on a long economy flight, you might want to wear compression socks to prevent DVT. While everyone is at risk for blood clots on long cramped flights, compression socks are a must if you are pregnant, older or have a history of blog clots. This pair is really cute.
Scarf and extra sweater or fleece
Planes can be chilly. A scarf can be handy for keeping you warm. In the event you do not have an eye mask, you can also use your scarf to cover your face. Even if traveling in the summer, you might want to bring an extra layer (like a sweater or fleece) in your carry on.
In case you don’t like airplane food or would like healthier choices, snacks are a good idea. Nuts and granola bars are good options.
Bottle of water
Because the air is so dry on flight, dehydration happens quicker when flying than it would at home. I bring a bottle of water with me on the flight. While the flight attendants do bring water it is good to bring extra water for times when they are seated such as takeoff and landing.
Bring at least one pen for filling out customs forms when traveling internationally, taking notes, doing crossword puzzles etc.
Click to download a pdf of my Carry On Bag Essentials List.
Here are some tips to survive a long flight in economy.