Although it’s been more than a minute since I flew somewhere, anywhere, whether for work or leisure, I always follow this little pre-flight routine. Packing my carry on luggage essentials.

There is an ever-changing, growing, evolving list of items that I must have with me at all times on my flight. Whether it’s a long haul flight or just a short domestic one. There are certain things that have come to be so vital and at hand at all times on board.

Yes, I enjoy carefully orchestrating these travel necessities in my carry on luggage, I really do!

So let’s get straight to it and begin with what I deem very necessary; these essentials to bring on board in your carry on luggage.

I have this down to something of a fine art now. And for short distance travels or short stays, this can be even further refined to sometimes fit into a single Ziploc bag. You could even apply most of this to a road trip.

And as we know, there’s usually not a great deal of room for your gear when road-tripping. So, in that case, travel-size items are perfect not only for a car-bound holiday but also comprising of your carry-on luggage essentials for flights.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information. Having said that, I only ever recommend products or services that I truly love and stand behind!

The following are what I can boil it down to absolute essentials for me. I wonder if you feel the same or if you disagree? Perhaps there’s something I have overlooked that you just utterly need with you at all times onboard?

  • earplugs
  • eyemask for sleeping
  • personal earbuds (or headphones if you prefer)
  • ipad/kindle/smartphone – personal entertainment
  • adaptor for jack for personal earbuds
  • ipod
  • Fess nasal spray
  • rose water facial spray
  • hand sanitizer
  • wet ones
  • hand lotion
  • mints
  • small toothpaste and toothbrush set
  • usb cables to charge phone/ipad/laptop
  • socks and undies
  • lip balm
  • flip flops or thongs for walking on board
  • compression socks for long haul travel
  • small satchel to fit all of this in seat back for easy access
  • pen/passport/travel paperwork
  • makeup for arrival
man sitting on gang chair with feet on carry on uggage looking at airplane
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM via Unsplash


So I know these go without saying. At home, I keep a big, bulk jar of the flesh-toned foam earplugs. They are perfect for those times when you don’t feel like listening to music or watching movies anymore. Perhaps you want to get some serious shut-eye. These really help block out all of that outside noise that can prevent even a short amount of solid sleep on a flight. Especially vital if it’s a business trip. And they take up next to no room in your carry on luggage as well.


Well, this goes hand in hand with the earplugs to ensure at least some sleep onboard your flight. For a long time, I was a massive naysayer when it came to eye masks. I was not too fond of the idea of putting it on my face (the ones that are in the little kits you are given when you sit up the pointy end), but then one day I tried it. And I actually got some sleep!

I’m a light sleeper at the best of times and find it incredibly difficult to get serious sleep on any flight. But by wearing an eye mask, you can shut out any visual changes, in-cabin lighting, people moving about the cabin, opening their window shutters, and the likes. If you do open your eyes, these eye masks really do prove their worth. And are indeed an important element of your carry on luggage essentials, without a doubt.

Personal Earbuds or Headphones

So I struggle to use the headphones provided on flights, even in business or first class when the airlines go to the ends of the earth to provide you with the latest whizz-bang headphones from Sennheiser, or whoever. I just can’t. I have to wear my own.

Albeit, I do prefer the far smaller in earbuds for flying. They allow me to turn my head to one side if I want to close my eyes and rest. And also to lie down for sleep if I’m in a single-digit row.

Bose has the most superior for sound quality for me. Check them out here. I also have at least one pair of Sennheiser Ear Buds that are fantastic. They are vital as part of my carry-on luggage items.

There’s just no question for me. Earbuds all the way.

Now, I know some of you swear by your headphones, and that’s fine. You can have them! But aside from the practicalities of wearing them in-flight, they also take up a whole lot more room in your carry-on luggage essentials. And that is precious room that I would rather use for a change of clothes or a pair of flip flops. But more on that later.

Adaptor for Headphone Jack

I know many airlines don’t utilize the dual 3.5mm jacks anymore, but some flights do. The last thing I want to deal with when I’m all set in my seat, and ready for a movie and a quiet snack is to discover that my headphones only allow me to listen out of one ear because the plug only has a single output jack. So I carry this with me anyway.

The two-prong adaptors are very inexpensive and you can pick up three of them on Amazon for less than five bucks!


In this day and age, with our attention spans virtually non-existent, who would think of traveling without their electronic entertainment companion?

While most of us traveling for business will have a laptop or iPad at the very least. It really doesn’t hurt to bring your kindle if you’re an avid reader or your smartphone with music, if nothing else.

Aside from the hundreds of movies, tv shows, and network programs on our seatback screens, most of us come prepared with our very own device/s. And no doubt, if time is on your side, you can pre-load said device with your favorite shows or films. And leave absolutely no excuse for boredom or lack of entertainment. Even on your long haul flights.

A hat and Boxed Water carton sit on a suitcase
Photo by Boxed Water is Better via Unsplash


Yes, I still travel with at least one of my three iPods!!! I know. So late 90’s, but they usually fulfill the role of all of the sleep albums that actually provide the perfect ambiance for sleeping for at least a good few hours on longer flights. I have been using them for going on 10 years now. They have helped me onboard flights. They have helped me sleep in unfamiliar cities or countries when I have had a hard time getting to sleep or getting over jetlag. I still love my iPods!

Nasal Spray

Many years ago, I invested in a nasal spray for flying on my family doctor’s advice. I have never looked back. I once flew almost 40 hours and experienced serious pain and discomfort in my sinuses not only during the flight but for at least a week afterward. And that’s not even mentioning the nose bleeds.

For some reason, my nasal passage really suffers more than anything from the atmosphere in airplanes. Always. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in quite a humid climate that being anywhere dry really does create havoc of the worst kind in my nasal cavity.

Flight Spray will relieve all of your dry nose issues before you fly, onboard during your flight, and afterward. Find it here. It will work wonders.

Facial Spray

It didn’t take too many long haul international flights before I realized that not only my sinuses were getting dehydrated, but my skin was as well.

So ever since, I have always carried a facial spray of some type. My favorite would have to be the Jurlique Rose Water Balancing Mist, but I have invested in many different types and brands. Mario Badescu Rosewater and Aloe Spray is lovely. I also like the Thayer Alcohol Free Witch Hazel with Rose Water. Plenty to choose from.

Something is calming about the rosewater that I like to have with me and smell it on a flight: and perhaps it’s now that I associate that fragrance with flying as well? Who knows? But my skin always thanks me on the other side.

Hand Sanitizer

As we all know, hand sanitizer is the new black. And no more vital is it than at the airport, on board the flight, and also throughout your travels. An absolute necessity on board. Even if you’re seated where they give you little hot towels on entry and pre and post meals, you can’t go wrong when you have your pocket size hand sanitizers.

I’m loving the Touchland Hand Sanitizers for flights. The packaging is just so slim and compact. It’s a light product that dries instantly and so is perfect for in-flight use. None of those gels that take forever to dry. Check out Touchland Hand Sanitizers for convenience and compact size. And yummy fragrances too. I prefer the Touchland Forest Berry. Touchland Lavender is also very pleasant.

Wet Ones Soft Packs

Okay, so I know I have mentioned hand sanitizers already. But I also always travel with a soft pack of Wet Ones as well. Regardless of where I’m seated. They are just handy to have to wipe your hands down.

Wipe your seat back table-tray down, whatever you need wiped. I prefer the anti-bacterial option. In this day and age, this is a must have and absolutely essential for your carry on luggage.

person wearing brown coat inside airport with carry on luggage
Photo by La Victorie via Unsplash

Hand Lotion

All that sanitizing, Wet Ones wipes and hand-washing coupled with a long dry, air-conditioned flight can wreak havoc on your hands as well.

So don’t neglect them!

For some reason, my hands always get beat up carrying luggage and my kit, if I have to travel with that. And oftentimes, the skin around my fingernails gets easily broken.

If you keep your hands moisturized, you can hopefully avoid any skin breaks or cuts that your hands are more susceptible to when they are dry. I like a little travel size, Grown Alchemy hand Lotion. Check it out here in a perfect travel size set of Hand Cream, Face Cream, and Lip Balm. Can’t go wrong!

My absolute favorite must-have hand lotion would have to be Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm. L’Occitane also makes a gorgeous hand lotion that will heal any dry and dehydrated hands.


I always like to have a few of these handy in my carry-on. They never go astray, and if your neighbor needs them, you can always politely offer when you pop one for yourself! They don’t need to know any more than that!

Toothbrush and Toothpaste Set

I know airlines love to indulge their First and Business Class Set with extras that tend to include these, but I try to travel with my own. You never know when you need it, and if, heaven forbid, your checked baggage is lost or AWOL on arrival, won’t you be glad you brought these with you?


There is no worse way to begin a trip to a new city or a foreign country without a healthy, charged battery in your phone. be prepared! Bring all your chargers with you on the flight. I like this all-in-one charging cable that I can carry for all my electricals.

These days, I also travel with a high-power portable charger. I love it. Again, you want to be prepared during the flight and for arrival, so yes, I call this an essential part of your carry on luggage, for sure.

Socks and Undies

A spare pair of socks and an extra set of underwear always comes in handy and don’t really take up a lot of room. Pop them in a small pocket somewhere. Always a plus if, again, your checked baggage ends up elsewhere! Useful as those garments that you hope you’ll never need, but be glad to have if you do!

Lip Balm

Following suit with the hand lotion, facial spray, and nasal spray, lip balm is also a must for me.

I’m lip balm obsessed at the best of times. And flying is no exception. Especially when you may be traveling to an entirely different climate to where you came from, let alone the air on the flight in its own right.

Never go anywhere without your lip balm!

And for guys, Kiehl’s Facial Fuel is my lip balm must-have.

Flip Flops or Thongs

I have lost count of the amount of horror stories I have read about people going barefoot on board flights. To the bathroom, eewwwww!!!

Walking up the aisles. Nope! Don’t even think about it! Not even in your socks!

This pair of flip flops for women or these flip flops for men are perfect to pop on your feet when you need to stretch your legs and use the restroom on board.

They also lie pretty flat in that tiny area under the seat. In taking up so little room and providing protection and hygiene to your feet, they are truly vital to your carry on luggage essentials.

Compression Socks

Particularly beneficial for long haul travel. I actually have these socks for work. I find myself standing for the best part of anywhere between 10 and 18 hours on a single working day. So I can speak highly of compression socks.

Well, they can have the same benefits for long haul travel when your legs are pretty much in the same position for many hours at a time. They are tough to get on, so be prepared!

Satchel for Seat Back

Holds all your goodies in one convenient place for easy access from your seat, and eradicating the need to keep getting up and opening the overhead bins to access your roller case.


If you’re traveling internationally and still are required to fill in arrival documents mid-flight, it never goes to waste to have a pen or two at arms distance. They always come in handy. Or perhaps you want to fill in the crossword at the end of the in-flight magazine before someone else does!! Well, now you can!

Passport/Travel Documents

Again, mainly applicable for overseas travel, but it never hurts to keep your precious documents close by at all times. Don’t forget to keep a copy of all pages of your passport in a separate place within your carry on, should your passport go missing or is stolen. You could be traveling from Europe to New Zealand, and if that’s the case, you’ll have plenty of documents to take care of.

It is integral and so important that these items are with you and part of your carry on luggage essentials at all times!


Without sounding like I’m stating the bleeding obvious, it’s always inevitable that when you have just traveled a long flight, you’ll need a little help putting your face back together for arriving.

And this is where the facial spray really makes its presence felt. After a quick refreshing spritz, I usually give myself a once over with some foundation, a swipe of mascara, and then if I need extra life in my face, some lipstick as well. And hello, new city or country!


And last but not least – I ALWAYS travel with my sunglasses.

Even if it’s dark when I depart, it will undoubtedly be sunny at some point on the flight or arrival. My eyes are incredibly sensitive regardless, but there’s nothing worse than that harsh sunlight piercing through the window seated patron’s unlowered window shade that irks me to no end. At least my sunnies can deflect some of the blinding rays from my eyes!

Tell me what you can’t travel without? Are there any carry on luggage essentials I have neglected? Are you traveling soon? I sure hope so!

Featured Image by Tim Gouw via Unsplash

You might also enjoy: