Last year I went on more than 70 flights, ranging from 20 minutes to 40 hours. No matter the distance though, I’m almost certain to have the same staple items in my carry-on. Now, I’m not talking about my rollie carry-on. Unless I’m actually going somewhere cold for more than a month (read: lots of bulky clothes for an extended period of time), I don’t travel with check-in bags, so everything goes into my rollie carry-on.
I’m talking about what the airline agent refers to as your “handbag or small backpack.” And typically, mine is either a large purse or a small backpack, depending on the occasion.
Since you can usually stuff this bag under the seat in front of you, I fill it with all sorts of good essentials that can sometimes mean the difference between an enjoyable flight and an intolerable one! Here’s my go-to carry-on pack list, in no particular order.
Origins’ Peace of Mind On-The-Spot Relief: This may sound like a “nice-to-have,” not a “need-to-have” item, but I promise you, once you drop a couple dabs of this minty, uplifting lotion on your temples and behind your neck, you will never fly without it again.
Hydroflask: The Hydroflask solves two problems in one. No longer do you need to fork over $4 for a small bottle of water at the airport, nor do you need to rely on spotty water service in-flight. Most airports nowadays have water bottle stations where you can fill up, or I usually just ask a bartender to load it up with ice and some water and drop a dollar for the service.
Omiyage for the Flight Crew: This might not be as obvious, but I recommend bringing food as a nice gesture for your flight crew on long flights. It doesn’t need to be a bucket of fried chicken (although I’ve done that before), but do bring something if you can. I like to bring manapua (a local favorite) and macaroons. The crew works long, hard hours. They appreciate the gesture, and have been known to reciprocate where they can, like sliding you some free drinks, an extra blanket, or free movies.
Eye Drops: Flying dries out your eyeballs like nobody’s business! I pack a mini bottle of Refresh Liquigel, which keeps them hydrated for most of the duration of the flight. I really like this gel because you can feel the moisture. I should also note here that I keep all the toiletry items in this post in a small Sephora bag that I typically keep in the seat pouch in front of me, for easy access.
Headphones – Large & Small: I spend a lot of time on the plane watching movies & shows or listening to music. Even if I’m reading, I typically listen to music simultaneously. For that reason, and because I am big on quality sound, I pack two pairs of headphones. The first are Skull Candy’s Aviators in Brown. I love how comfortable the cushions are on these bad boys, and I always get a lot of compliments on them. The sound is very quality, and the cord detaches as well.
The second set of headphones I travel with are the House of Marley Zion earbuds. These are a lot more discreet, but pack a pretty powerful punch for their miniscule size. I typically use these while waiting at the airport, or if I want to lean my head on something without the big buds getting in the way. They come with a carrying case and multiple earpiece attachments.
Portable USB Charger: The last thing you want to do is run out of juice on your smart phone or tablet mid-flight, or worse, have to fight for an outlet on your layover. Carry a portable charger. They’re cheap and there are so many different ones available. I actually carry two sometimes: A small, single charge one that’s really lightweight, and a more durable one that can charge two devices at once and holds up to 10 iPhone charges.
Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream: You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t have a lip balm on the list. That’s because I swear by Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream. This thing is so legit, you apply it once before you fly and it will keep your lips sealed and moisturized the entire flight. If I’m traveling to cold weather places, it doubles as a balm for when your face and hands get chapped. Do yourself a favor and pick up a tube. You won’t regret it.
Moisturizing Socks: I hate being cold on flights, and I run cold normally, so it happens a lot. I never go anywhere without a soft, fuzzy, comfy pair of aloe socks. Not only do they keep your feet nice and toasty, but they moisturize while you wear. I mean, does it get any better than that?
Mini Liquor Bottles: I’ve missed a couple flights in my lifetime, so now I like to get to the airport a little early, which means I often have some time to kill. Rather than pay $15 for a drink at the incredibly overpriced airport bar, however, I BYO. These little guys are under 3 ounces, which means you can pack as many as you want in your carry-on! If you’re not on an international flight, or not sitting in first class, pack a few extra for the plane ride too! Just be sure to drop them in a Ziploc bag so they don’t spill.
Airline Blanket: Since I get so cold on flights, I pack my own blanket. My airline blanket is actually an airline blanket, I believe from Delta. I like it because it’s really warm, but it’s thin and lightweight, so it hardly takes up any room. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re like me, it’s not a bad idea.
Clinique Moisture Surge: A facial moisturizer is a must to combat the super dry environment in an aircraft. I use Clinique’s Moisture Surge, and I love it. It’s more of a gel than a lotion, and you can instantly feel the benefits. I also love it because Clinque sells it in a mini size, so you don’t even need to transfer it to a travel container!
Earplugs: You may have noticed I don’t travel with noise-canceling headphones. That’s because I don’t believe in them. If I really want to block out the noise on an airplane, I put in earplugs. I bought a large bottle of quality earplugs when I was studying for the bar, and they do great to block out screaming babies, snoring neighbors, and the Chatty Cathys!
Sleeping Pills: I’m a horrible sleeper in general, and it’s a million times worse on a plane. If I’m on a long flight, I’ll pop one (or a half) a pill and cross my fingers for a good night’s rest. I also make sure that if I’m traveling to a time zone significantly different from mine, that I fight the jet lag until the evening, pop an Ambien, then wake up fresh for Day One. Disclaimer: Pills aren’t for everyone. There are numerous tales of people sleepwalking on flights after taking a sleeping pill. Know your limits and don’t be that guy.
Global Entry Card: If you travel frequently, this is the single best travel investment you can make for yourself. The TSA’s Global Entry program costs $100 and is good for 5 years. It gives you expedited entry when clearing customs into the United States, but more importantly, you get a “Known Travel ID Number,” which is gold, because it all but guarantees you entry into the TSA Precheck line. I can’t speak highly enough about this program.
iPad: Or Samsung. Or Nook. Kindle. Whatever eReader or Tablet you’re into, bring it! I fill my iPad with movies and TV shows, and make all of my latest Spotify playlists offline. While traveling, I back my photos up onto the iPad and make room for them by deleting the shows I’ve already watched. This one’s kind of a no-brainer.
Face Mask: Okay I will admit this one is definitely a luxury item (perceived, not actual). And you will very likely get some strange looks on the plane. But mannnnn, the feeling of taking one of these off just before you land after an 8 hour flight is Ahhh-mazing! And unlike traditional liquid masks, this is just one piece that fits nicely over your face and comes off as easily as it went on. Trust me when I say, people will look at you, but only out of sheer jealousy.
Travel Toothbrush & Toothpaste: This one’s kind of another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think to pack a toothbrush in their carry-on. For me, it’s essential. Not only are you snacking over the course of several hours, but you’re also in pretty tight quarters. If not for your own personal hygiene, do your seatmate a favor!
A Pen: How many times have you had to fill out an agriculture form or a customs declarations page and not have a pen handy? I hate being that girl who needs to look around pleadingly for one to borrow, so I always stash my own. It def comes in handy on the ground too, for taking notes while on the ground.
Business Cards: Lastly, I pack business cards, because I never know who I’m going to be seated next to. I’m not in sales, but I love networking, and I find that the plane is as great of a place as any to meet new people. I’m not saying you need to chit chat for the entire 8 hours, but why not make a new connection if possible? My mom once sat next to then-LA Lakers Coach Jerry West. She talked him into staying at the hotel she was the sales manager for, and he enjoyed the property so much he set her up with courtside Lakers tickets.
Well, that about sums up my carry-on list! If you have any additions or want to share what’s in your carry-on, please feel free to drop me a comment!