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Long Haul Flight Essentials: 2020 Carry On Essentials For Long Flights

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woman looking at flight board
MiniStocker / Shutterstock

In this day and age, only three things are certain: death, taxes, and getting on planes if you’re a digital nomad.

We all have our degrees of tolerance. For some of us, flying is simply an opportunity to spend some welcome time in the Land of Nod. For others of us, however, even the thought of hard, upright chairs, restless ‘knee-to-plastic’ fidgeting, or Arctic depths of air conditioning makes us shudder to the bone.

Fortunately, we live in an age where even the most uncomfortable of scenarios can be partially, if not entirely, resolved, with a little know-how and a few smart purchases.

Here’s our list of essential carry on items, to get you through the challenges of flying long haul safely and comfortably.

Long Haul Flight Essentials

Foldable Water Bottle

Many people in their sleep derived states will go for coffee, sugar, or anything to push through the tiredness. But when the crash comes, you’re only going to make yourself feel worse. Staying hydrated is the best thing you can do on a long flight.

We all know the prices on that aisle cart can be eyebrow-raising, so a water bottle, that you can fill before boarding at the free water fountains in most airports, will keep you hydrated and the agitation at bay.

Shop Water Bottles

Related: 12 Best Water Filters and Water Purifiers for Travel

Hand Sanitizer

It’s well known that airplanes are one of the worst places for hygiene and harboring germs. That clammy, sticky feeling between your palms, unfortunately, only gets more irritable with time. Hand sanitizer not only protects you from bacteria; it’ll keep your hands feeling smooth and clean.

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Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The sound of the engine is a loud drone that can keep even the deepest of sleepers awake. Despite coming with a price tag, they’re an incredible investment for flights. You’d be amazed at how well most products can reduce loud noise to mere background noise. Accompanied by a chilled playlist, headphones can help remove you from a state of irritation and into a place where your mind can focus on relaxing.

Shop Bose Headphones

Kindle Paperwhite

Distracting yourself from the present on long haul is key to keeping the agitation at bay. Even if you’re not a prolific reader, with millions of ebooks to choose from in the Kindle Store, you’d be amazed how much time losing yourself in a good story can pass.

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Portable Battery Charger

Despite many newer model Boeings having built-in USB chargers in the seats, there are still many older model planes that do not. Keeping your devices alive is critical not only for in-flight entertainment but even more so for when you arrive.

Even the strongest of phone batteries will struggle beyond 4-5 hours. Portable chargers are a lifesaver in these situations, and unlike several years ago, now are very lightweight and compact. Be sure to remember to charge them before you fly.

Portable Battery Chargers

Multi-Charging Cable

It’s not uncommon for us, when flying, to have a laptop, phone, and tablet, all running at the same time. Multi-charging cables are a smart, inexpensive purchase, and can keep everything running simultaneously, without any issues.

Multi-Charging Cables

Sleeping Kit (Sleeping Mask and Ear Plugs)

Isolate the senses, and you’d be shocked at how well you can relax your mind for sleep. On a fully lit flight, sleeping masks can keep you in complete darkness. Earplugs, although not as effective as noise-canceling headphones, can still considerably reduce noise, if you invest wisely in the right product.

Even if you struggle to sleep with such items on your face, it’s worth giving them a try.

Sleeping Kits
carry on essentials woman in chair
GaudiLab / Shutterstock

A Pair of Socks

Taking your shoes off and putting on a good pair of socks will both help circulation, and keep your body warm in the cold air. In addition to this, be sure to wiggle and shift your legs, and get up for breaks, to keep your circulation healthy.

Shop Airplane Socks

Mini First Aid Kit – Band-aids, antibacterial ointment, any essentials medicines for you personally

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have a medical condition, making sure your medicine is with you on a flight should be a top priority. If the plane is delayed, or there are complications with luggage, you may not be able to get to your medicine in time.

Liquids under 100ml can be brought on in carry-ons. Be sure to purchase some bottles, and prepare a kit for yourself the night before you fly. Even the peace of mind will help you relax.

Travel Pillow

Plane seats are often not the most comfortable. In addition to the complimentary pillow, many long haul airlines give you two pillows used together can make for a comfortable, makeshift bed. Try one at the base of your back, and one around your neck and head.

Many travelers will attach the pillow to their carry-on so that it doesn’t take up valuable space in their bags.

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Toiletries Essentials: Toothbrush & Toothpaste & Deodorant

When you’re feeling tired, sweaty, and clammy, it’s amazing how much better cleaning your teeth and spraying yourself, particularly if you’re a heavy sweater, can make you feel. Dirtiness only exacerbates irritation, and clean teeth, brows, palms, and armpits will go a long to keep you relaxed.

carry on essentials
Olena Hromova / Shutterstock

Toiletry Bag

The last thing you want is several bottles of 100ml liquids jingling and bouncing around inside your carry-on. A small, clear bag will not only make your life easier when going through security; it will also help when you need access to those liquids mid-flight.

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Travel Documents Organizer

As with the toiletries bag, make your life as easy as possible by putting things you need quick, easy access to in the same place. As you’re dealing with finer-thin A4 sheets, a simple holder around everything will remove the stress of having folded up papers in different pockets and parts of your bags.

Shop Travel Organizer

Travel Adapter

A must-have for any worldly traveler. Fully charged devices at departing and arriving airports will allow your travel plans to run smoothly. All-in-one chargers, even if a little bulkier, are a sound investment.

Shop Travel Adapters


As mentioned before, your body will overwhelmingly crave the sugary chocolate bar when the aisle cart comes past. But the science shows that foods rich in protein, such as nuts, will stabilize your mood far better during those times of hunger and tiredness.

Almonds are a personal favorite of ours, and there are several protein bars worth the money on the market.

For more healthy snack ideas, read our article on eating healthy while traveling.

Lip Balm & Moisturizer

With the air so cold and dry, cracked skin and chapped lips are common. Both lip balm and moisturizer will help keep your skin hydrated, smooth and itch-free.

Travel Lip Balms Travel Moisturizers

A Pen

It’s always handy to have a pen on you, particularly when the aircraft staff come around with declaration forms. Filling them out before you arrive at the airport will allow you to get through customs ahead of the queue.

Whether you’re facing a six or seven-hour hop over the Atlantic or gearing up to face the gauntlet of Newark to Singapore, the world’s longest flight at 18 hours 45 minutes, never attempt long haul unprepared. With the right fail-safes and purchases in place, even the most grueling of flights can be smooth, seamless, sleep-filled journeys through the skies.

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