October 6, 2021

21 Long Haul Flight Essentials to Make You Fall in Love with Flying (Again)

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Get travel savvy with this in-depth guide to long haul flight essentials. And feel comfortable in the sky...See also our ultimate packing list.

Free carry on essentials checklist complete with hot and cold weather tips and lists for men and women

Download your printable checklist here and gather all your long haul flight essentials in one place.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

The Long Haul Flight Essentials You Need to Pack in Your Hand Luggage

What should I bring on a long haul flight?

Here's my tried and tested list of long haul flight essentials for business travel, baby travel, solo travel and beyond. Based on decades of travel as a professional travel writer and blogger. Believe me, I've made every mistake there is.

Start by choosing the best carry on luggage. Then move on to our checklist. I've rounded up the key links at the top for you. If you book or buy through them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So. You know. Cheers for that!

Also, it's not all about what you pack in your carry on. Read 23 long haul flight tips most passengers don't know.

Long Haul Flight Essentials at a Glance

With links to our Amazon flight essentials list where appropriate. We may earn a small commission if you book or buy through these links at no extra cost to you. Cheers!

Watch the Long Haul Flight Essentials Video

What to Bring in Your Carry On Bag

Three main thoughts should guide your packing:

1) What you NEED during the flight and at the airport

2) What the airline MAKES you pack in your carry on vs checked.

3) What would spoil your trip if the airline lost your checked luggage.

The Absolute Essentials

Essentials do not include a toothbrush and a clean pair of pants. These are easy to replace, should the worst happen.

Essentials are anything specific to you that would make you feel ill or supremely uncomfortable without it and which are difficult to replace.

Health & Wellness Essentials

Some examples:

  • Prescription medication including antimalarials, travel sickness tablets and anti-histamines.
  • Contact lenses & glasses
  • Snacks if you have dietary restrictions
  • Prescriptions or letters that explain why you have to have these things with you!
  • Tampons and other sanitary products. A 20 hour flight can feel very long without them. 
  • Compression socks to protect against DVTs (blood clots) on long haul flights.
  • Hand sanitizer and mask to follow Covid regulations.
  • Travel insurance details. Sure, you won't need those in flight but they are handy to have if the airline loses your luggage.

Tech Essentials for Long Haul Flights

These days, who doesn't travel with tech? Whether it's iPads for the little ones, full video gear for the vloggers or "just" a smartphone for maps and the grandkids, we all have batteries with us. Which means...

Chargers & Adapters

Security rules change all the time but one of the latest updates is that you have to be able to turn any device ON when asked. So, remember your charger!

I have two tips for this: a worldwide multi-adapter if you travel frequently and a multi-plug piece of kit or plug to multi-USB kit. This helps charge many devices at once while travelling.  Portable chargers and power banks also become essential for long flights with connections. 


Firstly, if you plan to watch something on your phone or tablet, make sure you have headphones that fit it. 

Second, many swear by noise cancelling headphones on a flight. This is something that has never really bothered me but Mr Travel Lab loves them. You can also get headphones for children that come with a noise limit (for the programme, not the child, alas ;-) )

Protective Laptop and Tablet Cases

DO NOT put your laptop in the hold. Have it with you in your carry on, with an easy to access case as you'll have to remove the case at airport security. 

Entertainment and Work: Laptops and Kindles

As a travel writer, a lot of my work takes place on a plane. And you don't need to be in travel for that to be the case. MacBook Air has built a name for itself as being the lightest computer on the market. I've now upgraded to the MacBook Pro to keep weight down but it's still pretty light. 

As for reading, I've found that nothing beats a Kindle. The Kindle Paperwhite is lightweight and the screen is easy on the eye. Although you can read books on your phone, the eye strain is too much for me. Grab a waterproof Kindle and you can even try your luck at the pool once you land. 

Food & Drink & Dietary Restrictions 

Airlines should be able to cater for you and so should your hotel. But let's face it. Things go wrong. 

Handy carry on snacks don't make a mess nor grow fungus mid flight. 

Flapjacks, energy bars, apples, rice cakes = GOOD. 

Chocolate, bananas, mousse = ER, NOT SO GOOD. 

Inside tip: pack some packets of dehydrated couscous meals that just require boiling water. A real carry on essential for those with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, vegetarian or vegan diets. Try rice cakes for a gluten-free option. 

Hot and Cold Weather Conditions

If you’re heading to somewhere similar to where you came from, you can muddle on through in the same clothes you’re wearing for a day or two while you sort yourself out. You may feel icky beyond the threshold of ick but you can do it.

However, if you’re heading somewhere much hotter or colder then life can quickly become miserable and you can even cause some permanent damage.

Hot Weather Essentials

So, for hot weather, in your carry-on make sure you have:

  • A mini tube of sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat. Either fashionable and wicker or crushable and practical, depending on what you need to do when you reach your final destination. You can buy the folding travel hat with strap shown in the video here.
  • Flip flops or other lightweight shoes that can help you cool down. I love these Fit Flops for women because they can work as day or night wear and they are VERY comfortable.
  • Bug spray if there’s any hint of insect-borne disease. Buy an insect repellent with DEET if mosquito-borne illnesses are a concern. Here is a travel size DEET laden bottle.

Cold Weather Essentials

For cold weather:

  • Carry your ski jacket onto the plane, with the pockets filled with the following
  • Gloves, hat, scarf/snood, thermals
  • Wear your heavy snow shoes
  • Squeeze any salopettes into your cabin luggage
  • Still remember the sunscreen and sunglasses

Carry On Essentials For Children

Travelling with children really raises the stakes! I have entire sections of this site dedicated to family travel.

Abigail King in sunglasses on the beach

Pack your swimsuit in your hand luggage. If the suitcase is lost, you can still swim!

Long Haul Flight Essentials That Feel Good

OK, so you won't end up ill without these essentials in your carry on. But they do help make everything much, much easier.

Blister protection

 Blisters abound in different climates when you're often walking more often than usual and wearing different shoes.

Compeed changed my life (alright, it's a slight exaggeration but it's not too far from the truth!)

These second skin stickers cover the blister and cushion the surrounding skin from further damage. Best of all, you can easily fit three into your passport holder or travel wallet so that you always have them ready on the road.

This is even more important if you’ve lost your luggage and have to tackle new or poorly-fitting shoes in a new climate. Sorted.

A Scarf or Pashmina

A scarf not only keeps you warm on a breezy plane, but it covers hair on streets, shoulders in temples, and can double as a skirt for the day if your luggage disappears en route to somewhere bright and breezy.

You may need this more than you think: even in Rome, you need to cover up in order to enter the Vatican and Swiss Guards are on standby to check you have the right attire.

Something that Smells Nice

This might just be me. But, well, sometimes other people smell! A few drops of scented oil or a little spritz of something onto my scarf or tissue can make the whole thing a lot less unpleasant.


Just because. Handy if you ever get stuck and they've run out of paper. Useful to mop up any spills as someone passes a drink across you to another passenger. Handy to have something that smells nice, as above!

Chewing Gum

Freshens the breath, helps with a dry mouth, can stop your ears from going pop on take off and landing. Just don't be obnoxious with it, on behalf of your fellow passengers. Please?!

A Fold-Flat Bag or Roomy Tote Bag

These are useful for so many reasons. They’re handy to carry about town, once you’re on the aircraft you can use them to separate the things you actually want on the flight from all the other equipment you needed in your carry on.

And if you lose your luggage and have to shop for more things, at least you already have a bag to put these things in to.

It takes up next to no space but leaves you with plenty of options.



In case the airline loses your luggage. You can still go for a swim!

Carry On Toiletries

Remember that travel size bottles aren't just about keeping weight down. Most airlines have a limit as to the volume of fluids (liquids, gels and pastes) you can take through security at the airport. Less is more when it comes to this.

Lip Salve

Planes get dry and lips get sore. Either pack a dedicated lip balm, otherwise plain vaseline tubs can also treat blisters, sore noses, sunburn and all sorts.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

For long international flights, it's nice to be able to brush your teeth after all those hours. Just remember to keep toiletry sizes SMALL because of the airport security checks.

Other Lotions and Potions

Some people need a raft of toiletries to keep their skin in good condition. If that's you, you're probably better off buying a DIY travel toiletry set like this which allows you to decant your own toiletries into travel-sized bottles. 

Long Haul Flight Essentials for Sleep

Also, don't forget to check out these 23 long haul flight tips that most passengers don't know.

Sleep Mask

For some reason, I fought against eye masks for years. Why?! They're brilliant! Lightweight, useful, only mess up your hair a little bit ;-)

Ear Plugs

Foam ones work fine. So do using headphones and a background sleep app. Anything you can to help combat jet lag.

Warm Clothes

Planes can get cold and if you're sitting still, so will you. Some airlines provide blankets but not all do. So, either enlist your scarf from earlier or make sure you have a jumper with you.

Inflatable pillow

Yes, you feel a little ridiculous but who really cares? Alternatively, you can buy pre-filled travel pillows that can clip onto your luggage but they're quite bulky. Only use if you have the luggage space. 

In Flight Sleeping Tips: use the horseshoe travel pillow the "wrong" way around to stop your head from tipping forward and waking you up. Try to sleep when they tell you to! Don't wait until when the lights come back on!

Foot rest

Use a toiletries bag and fill it with a blanket or jumper once you're on the plane. Use it as a foot rest to help take the weight off your back and wedge yourself into position for sleep. 

Warm Socks

It gets cold up in the sky. Add an extra pair of socks to your list of long haul flight essentials. Extra points if they're warm and snuggly.

Read more about how to sleep on a plane here.

Reusable Water Bottle

You can just about get away without a water bottle but life is easier if you have one. Many airports and airport lounges offer refills and it's easy to ask the cabin crew to refill your own bottle than to keep asking for separate glasses of water.

Free carry on essentials checklist complete with hot and cold weather tips and lists for men and women

Download your printable checklist here and gather all your long haul flight essentials in one place.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

What items are not allowed on a plane in hand luggage?

You are not allowed to bring anything into the cabin that could easily and feasibly be used as a weapon. That includes knives and guns, obviously, but knitting needles, antlers and Viking hats could also be confiscated. 

For the same reason, liquids are limited at the security point (although you can usually buy fluids once airside.) Some bright spark tried to make an explosive out of various liquids during the flight and so now we are all restricted to 100mls or less of any soup, baby food, water or anything else that could qualify as a gel, paste or cream.

What should I wear on a long haul flight in economy?

Think comfort first and foremost. 

DO wear loose clothes in breathable fabrics. 

DON'T wear jeans, tight leggings, short skirts or shorts or restrictive bodices. 

A huge slouchy cardigan or sweater helps to balance the temperature changes mid flight. A scarf is helpful too. 

Long Haul Flight Essentials Packing List for Carry On

Bookmark now for your next long haul flight

Beyond the carry on essentials...

Enjoy our packing lists and other travel essentials below:


About the author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • Compeed changed my life too hahah! And a sleep mask is essential for me even on a two hour flight – completely zone out when I have one on!

    • Three cheers for compeed! I wonder if they know how many lives they’ve changed :-) Where is your next trip?

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