What to Bring in Your Airplane Carry On Bag | Long-Haul Essentials

by ComfyGirlWithCurls

For someone who isn’t very organized, I love making lists. Especially travel lists. I love writing down what to pack in my carry on bag, I like planning my airplane and layover activities, I love all of it.

Whether I actually use my lists… well that’s a whole other story.

But I thought hey.. if I’m writing all these things down. I might as well share them, because you never know who it’ll help out.

This list I put together is specific to my recent (at the time of writing this) long-haul flight from Vancouver to Accra–with a 7 hour layover in Amsterdam…. where we couldn’t leave the airport thanks to Covid.

So while this carry-on item packing list is pretty universal, you could probably scrap some things if you are simply flying across your own country.

But first…

To Carry-on ALL or to carry-on ESSENTIALS?

For most of our trips, my husband and I have ONLY taken carry on bags/backpacks. This enables us to get off the plane and go, no waiting for baggage to drop, nothing.

Even on our three-week honeymoon around the world, we each only brought one backpack and a personal item.

But if I was writing a list for that kind of trip… it would just say “everything you need (that’s allowed)”. And we’d be done.

Taking only a carry on is definitely worth considering, especially when luggage gets lost or delayed WAY too often.

But of course, if you’re someone who likes to travel with an outfit for every occasion, and needs full size skin and hair products… a checked bag PLUS a carry on is non-negotiable.

*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, if you click on them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission.*

Best Carry-on tote for long-haul travel: Lo & Sons Catalina Deluxe.

The bag I brought on this most-recent trip was honestly the perfect carry on tote to take on an airplane: The Catalina Deluxe from Lo & Sons. They gifted it to me a little while back, and it fit ALL my carry-on items with tons of room to spare. If it had been a carry-on ALL sort of trip, I genuinely think it would have been up to the task.

Now.. on to the list!

The BARE minimum

Even for the lightest of travellers, there are a couple things you don’t want to board an airplane without…

Travel Documents

It seems obvious, but make sure you’ve packed your essential travel documents in an easy-access pocket of your carry-on bag, or in your personal item (i.e. purse).

Passport, ID, health declarations (now that we are in Covid-times), health insurance card, and a paper with your destination address for those customs forms.

A lot of these things can be saved digitally on your phone–but I prefer to keep backup paper copies JUST IN CASE. (Do you know how many times I’ve dropped and smashed my phone?!)

Best convertible bag for Travel: Lo & Sons Waverley 2 in black pictured with a Canadian passport.
Pictured: (gifted) Lo & Sons Waverely 2

Pen and Pencil

Having a writing tool is essential for any type of travel, but especially for international flights. Do you really don’t want to be the one without a pen when those customs forms circle around?

No. Didn’t think so.

Especially in COVID times.. people will probably be hesitant to share with you.

Valuables or fragile items

PLEASE do not check anything that can’t be smashed around. Whether that’s a fragile gift you’re bringing with you, or your valuable camera gear.

Pack anything that you want to keep especially safe in your carry-on bag.

Related Post: Where to Find Cute Camera Bags for Women

Clothing Essentials

Be very conscious of the clothing you not only pack in your carry-on, but what you choose to wear! I like to plan both out well in advance.

Comfortable Versatile Shoes

Having the RIGHT travel footwear is so important.

You want something comfortable for sitting, but also for running to your next gate. Something relatively easy to slip on and off, and that you can leave the airport and start adventuring in right away.

In advance of my trip, Vessi gifted me two pairs of their 100% waterproof shoes — a pair of their Everyday Sneakers and Weekend Sneakers… and I don’t think I’ll be able to travel with any other shoes, ever again. I wore one for the trip, and packed the other pair in my bag!

Carry-on bag essentials - Waterproof Vessi shoes are perfect to bring when travelling. Weekend sneakers and Everyday Sneakers.

If you want to snag a pair of your own, use the code COMFYGIRLCURLS to save $15.

Their shoes are honestly so breathable and lightweight, and depending on your style and needs, they have four different styles to choose from!

Full Change of Clothes

Do NOT make the mistake of forgetting to pack an extra set of clothing when you travel.

Whether the destination climate is completely different from the departure, or you want to make sure you’re covered in the event of lost/ delayed luggage, you can’t go wrong with an outfit change.

Or maybe you’re like me, and you ‘re likely to spill wine on yourself on the first round of the drink cart (true story).

Blanket Scarf

Airplanes get chilly.

If you’re lucky, your airline will give you a blanket…but with budget cuts, that seems to be an increasingly rare luxury.

So having a blanket scarf readily available to wrap around yourself is never a bad idea. And if you don’t need it to keep warm, it can be bunched up to create a pretty nice pillow.

Health & Beauty Items

Or in other words.. your toiletries! Just make sure any liquids are travel-size, and can fit in your allowable clear plastic bag.

Medication

If you have any prescribed medication, make sure you pack that in your carry-on bag, not your checked luggage.

I also like to pack myself a little first aid rescue kit, filled with ibuprofen (Advil), acetamataphine (Tylenol), Pepto-Bismol and some Benadryl. Especially good to have if you are travelling with others; you never know who may need something.

Tooth Brush & Travel Tooth Paste

Whether you’re brushing your teeth in the air, at your layover, or at your final destination, it is SO nice to be able to freshen up without having to dig through your luggage.

At the very least, pack a travel-size mouthwash!

Deodorant

Yes, airplanes are chilly and you may not be sweating while you’re in the air…

But don’t forget there’s a lot of journeying and running around that goes into a trip. It never hurts to bring a deodorant in your cary on bag, to freshen up a teeny bit.

Hand Cream

Airplanes are DRY. I hate the papery feeling my hands get after several hours in the air. ESPECIALLY now that we are hand-sanitizing more than ever.

So a nice hand cream is a must!

Skincare Products

Some people may think this is a little extra, but especially if I’ll be sitting on a long-haul flight, or waiting on an extended layover, I make sure to pack my skincare items in my carry on bag, NOT my luggage.

At minimum, I’m packing face wipes (probably the only time I ever use them), travel-size cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and a handful of serums. (Don’t you love that most serums come travel-sized as is?)

Lipbalm

Again.

Planes. Are. Dry.

I don’t want my lips cracking and bleeding mid-flight, so I try to keep a lip balm in my purse or carry-on bag. With COVID, I try to opt for the stick form too, so that I’m not dipping my fingers in anything and then putting them to my lips.

Carry-On (and Layover) Entertainment

For me, planning entertainment activities is crucial to any trip.

…Even if all I end up doing is playing Tetris for 6 hours on the airplane screen (true story).

Electronics

I probably don’t need to remind you to pack these…but bring your phone, tablet, laptop, hand-held gaming devices (if you own them) in your carry on… as well as your headphones!

I highly recommend you download and cue up your favourite songs, movies, audiobooks, podcasts, and games, so you can enjoy them sans-wifi as you coast through the sky.

Charger cords + Power Banks

Now a days, airplanes come pretty standard with USB charging ports, but you never know how easy it’ll be to find one at a layover.

So I strongly recommend packing a charged power-bank, and topping up the charge on your flight if needed!

Activity Books

Need a calming but distracting activity, and don’t want your eyes strained staring at a screen for hours on end?

Pack some adult (or child, for that matter) activity books. Sudokus, crosswords, word searches, even colouring books! They’ll all help you peacefully pass the time.

Books

Personally, I prefer to have a physical book in my hands over an e-book. So I always make sure to pack a couple for the journey!

I love to read, and my excuse for not doing so more often is a lack of time… and that excuse simply doesn’t fly (pun intended) when you’re on an airplane.

Notebooks

I like to pack several notebooks on my travels for various purposes. As a writer, I like to keep one more as a journal for ideas that arise on my journey. Story prompts, bits of poetry, anything that really comes to mind as I let my thoughts wander.

I also keep a notebook for more practical things like planning and to-do lists, whether that’s related to the trip in question, or for my blog/business.

COVID-19 Carry-on Must haves

We are definitely in a new-era of travel, so here are some items you’ll want to ensure you pack when travelling.

Extra Masks

Make sure your only mask isn’t the one on your face! Pack extras in your carry-on just in case.

This is especially true if you’re someone like me who struggles with acne. Switch to a clean mask half-way through a long-haul flight or on your layover and your skin will thank you.

Hand Sanitizer

Honestly, a new staple.

One we probably should have been using more of pre-covid anyways.

Disinfectant Wipes

Having disinfectant wipes available while I travelled was so handy! Whether I wanted to wipe down my tray before eating, or wipe down my phone after a long journey, they helped me take extra precautions.

Miscellaneous carry on items you should bring

Some extra-but-still-important things to add to your bag!

Snacks

I ALWAYS forget to bring snacks, or even to buy some at the airport…

And I am ALWAYS upset about it. The airplane food and snacks just never cut it for me on those long haul flights. Don’t be like me and pack yourself some of your favourite munchies.

Travel adapters

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone an out-of-country trip with my family, and there weren’t enough travel adapters to go around.

Suddenly everyone’s asking you what your percent your phone is at, and trying to fight you for some juice.

These don’t necessarily need to be brought in your carry on bag–but again, if you have a long layover somewhere where the outlets are different… you want to be prepared.

Final thoughts on what to bring in your carry on bag

At the end of the day, you are the expert on what you need to bring on your trips, but we could all use a little guidance and reminding.

My best trip-advice (that I will eternally fail to follow), is to get yourself sorted as early as possible. Try to refrain from packing your carry-on the night before.

Consult this list or your own in advance, start buying anything you need in the lead-up to your trip instead of scrambling last minute.

I hope this post has been helpful to you! Safe travels, and drop a comment below letting me know where you’re off to next!

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