It’s been quite a while since I’ve shared on this blog and during a recent international trip I took to India, I found myself thinking about all the planning and prepping that go into traveling so I thought I would jump back in and share my travel essentials carry-on packing list… particularly for international long-haul flights. Throughout the years, I’ve found so many helpful tips from other travel bloggers that have really enhanced my trips with recommendations on must have travel essentials, prepping ideas, places to go and see, hot spot restaurants to dine at, etiquette tips and so much more. As you get closer to your trip, if you’re new to flying on long airplane flights or traveling abroad, you might ask yourself “What do I need in my carry-on luggage?” or “What travel essentials should I take with me on an international trip?”
Even as a seasoned international traveler, I still have to gut check each time and make sure my packing list includes all the must have travel essentials I like to have on hand. As I unpacked my carry-on essentials during the first 8-hour leg of my flight home from India, I jotted down this packing list and tips that will hopefully make it easier for taking those long international flights for you.
My carry-on packing list recommendations are broken into three lists below:
I highly recommend packing everything in the second list of ‘Airline Amenities’ on your own if you are flying basic/economy class which tend to not provide you with much of anything from this list. All the airlines are different so just check with them directly before your flight to find out what’s typically included for your trip.
It’s nice to keep it clean in a pretty passport holder, but plan to take it out of the case when going through immigration… it will save time rather than the customs agent having to do so as it gets in their way.
I highly recommend getting an electronic visa if that’s an option for the country you are going to. When entering India, there were separate lines for traditional vs e-visas. I noticed that of the folks in line for the traditional visa, less than 1/5 of that size were in line for the electronic visa customs line. Our visa for India was for business, so there are limitations on getting electronic tourist visas for tourists… but take advantage if it’s available for your trip. We breezed through very very quickly!
3. Printed Boarding Pass
Printing is old school yes, but just in case your phone dies or you haven’t downloaded all connecting airline apps to get your digital copy for connecting flights in other countries, it’s safe to have a printed copy as backup.
4. Filtered Water Bottle
I take my Strawlife filtered bottle on international trips so I have a little extra precaution with the water I’m drinking. Be prepared if you refill the bottle before takeoff, the pressure builds up and will push through the top of the mouthpiece – so just be careful for extra water to be present when you open the cap to a pressure sealed container.
5. Compression Socks
Sitting for long flights isn’t great for our body’s circulation so wearing compression socks to apply a little pressure to your feet, ankles and legs help increase blood flow to your heart and decrease swelling. I don’t love to wear compression socks so I typically wait until I’m in my seat to slip these on. Sometimes I’ll add an extra cozy pair of socks on top to keep my extra warm while I’m in seat, and slip the cozy pair off when I need to slide my shoes on for a restroom break or a quick walk around the aisle of the plane.
6. Hand Lotion
Along with staying hydrated (see #4 water bottle in this list), your skin will typically get pretty dry on airplanes because of the pressurized cabin air that lakes humidity. Folks with dry skin or eczema can have it even worse. Regardless a good moisturizer that’s easy to access is key.
Travel Tip: Apply moisturizer to your skin ahead of any long flights and then reapply moisturizer every time you wash your hands.
Even consider carrying a travel sized spray bottle of water to spritz your face and hands periodically and then apply lotion to lock in the moisture.
7. Chewing Gum
Gum is great to have on hand for several reasons. I like mint-flavored gum particularly to help with some tummy relief, get fresher breath when brushing your teeth isn’t an option or you just need something to wake you up from sleeping on the plane, and when your ears are popping on take-off and landing.
8. Phone charger
I’ve never been on a plane that didn’t have an outlet available at your seat and some even have USB outlets. Personally, I prefer to bring a small charging block to use instead of relying on those USB outlets because I’ve heard horror stories of hackers using them to get in your phones – particularly at the terminal while you are waiting and may want to charge up before a flight. I take a small charging block with folding prongs when traveling to help decrease size and for a little extra safety.
9. Noise Canceling Headphones
Noise canceling headphones with a sound jack cord and fully charged are crucial for a great trip. Some older model planes still only have two prong jacks for their in-seat audio connections, so I would also recommend bringing a two prong jack adapter. You can still use the single jack audio cord that comes with most headphones (like I had to do) but the sound will only come out one ear if you plug a single into a double. Noise cancelling headphones help with drowning out crying babies, sleeping without all the background noise, better audio experiences than airpods or other regular headphones, etc on the plane. Bonus are having them on hand when you’re trying to wind down at the hotel… these ended up being very useful when we heard wedding beats thumping through our hotel room walls until midnight three nights in a row and I needed some quiet time!
10. Critical Medicine / Medical Device
It’s important to bring any prescription medicine with you in your carry-on so you don’t risk it being lost with checked luggage. Just make sure you have the medicine in their original bottle with the prescription details. You never know when your bag may be checked at security and you’ll want to show exactly what medicine or medical devices you have prescribed with YOUR NAME listed on it.
I carry prescription migraine medicine with me anywhere I go to avoid the severe side effects I get. I can’t imagine how much more awful I would feel dealing with my migraine symptoms like nausea & vomiting, intense light & noise sensitivity, head pressure & pain, chills, numbness, etc. on a trip… especially on an airplane!
11. Eye Drops
Remember that tip I mentioned above about staying hydrated in dry pressurized airline cabins? Eye drops are a great addition to your carry-on, especially if you’re prone to getting dry eyes.
12. Basic Medicine: Advil, Tylenol, GasX
I don’t think I’ve ever taken a trip that I haven’t needed or wished I had some basic medicine like Advil or Tylenol with me after standing in long lines at the airport, dealing with any aches or pains from a long flight, or even just a headache so I like to make sure I keep this on hand as well. I also include GasX or some sort of tummy medicine in my carry-on packing list because I just don’t want to be that person with stomach issues in a small enclosed airplane environment!
13. Warm Thick Socks
I know my two lists above of carry-on essentials and airline amenities include compression socks and thin socks respectively, but I will do whatever I can to avoid cold toes! I also pack a pair of thick fuzzy socks to layer on top of my compression socks and put on just before I know I’ll be curling up for a long sleep. I tend to wait until I know I won’t need to get up out of my seat for a while during a long flight so I don’t have to fuss with putting layers on and off to throw on my shoes or disposable slippers to use the restroom.
14. Cozy Wrap / Scarf
Some airlines keep their cabins on the cooler side and I appreciate that over it being too hot or stuffy, but I always travel with a large scarf or cozy wrap to layer up and keep me warm. One of my must-haves is that I carry a wide scarf in my handbag almost everywhere I go at home or abroad when traveling. I change the thickness or print depending on the season but gravitate towards something neutral that will complement most of the outfits I pack for a trip.
15. iPad / Laptop with Charger
Pretty self-explanatory… You never know when your flight may be delayed and if that happens when you’re already on the plane, it’s so much better to have your iPad or Laptop with a charging cord and block on hand to help pass the time. Even if you don’t plan on using it during the flight, I like to put these and any expensive electronics like my cameras in my carry-on bag to avoid risking it getting lost or delayed in checked luggage on a trip.
16. Travel Adapter
You might not need this as much ON the flight itself, but a travel adapter is awesome to keep in your carry-on to use when you’re at the airport waiting for your flight or during long layovers. This is my go-to travel adapter that gives me plenty of options when I’m trying to charge multiple electronics. Layovers or overnight delays in other countries may not have a matching outlet for your plugs so having a travel adapter on hand makes sure you stay charged up.
17. Magazine / Book
Whatever you like to read, it’s great to have something non-electronic to peruse and relax with instead of having your face stuck in a screen the whole time.
18. Hydrating Face Mask
Including a hydrating face mask for your carry-on packing list is not essential, but this is nice to have on hand to combat the dry air in flight. I typically put a single face cleansing wipe in a ziplock bag to take any makeup off and clean my face while in my seat just before I want to wear the mask. A lot of masks I’ve seen have you leave it on for around 20 minutes (then it starts to dry) and when you peel it off you are left with super moisturized skin. You will look strange and it’s hard to eat with a mask on so I recommend not doing this until after you have your in-flight meal or any snacks on the front end. There are plenty of types to choose from but a good aloe or rice-based mask is great for that extra moisturizing component!
19. Jet Lag Homeopathic Pills
I’m still up in the air on whether these actually helped, but I’ve included these homeopathic jet lag pills because I thought they were a cool find and always prefer homeopathic options to healthcare when I can find something that works. I’ve only used it on one long flight so far and I did have a good experience landing and getting acclimated, but I don’t know that I can pinpoint this as the reason just yet.
I always pack snacks that I know I will love so I can avoid purchasing overpriced airport snacks and know I have something to fall back on just in case I don’t love the inflight food options.
21. Disposable Heating Pad
Packing disposable heating pads is a great option if you’re naturally cold since airlines do tend to keep it cooler in flight, but it’s also fantastic if you’re on your cycle or have achy body parts anywhere. If you’re heading someplace extra cold and you don’t use these on the flight, it’s great to wear them under your gear as you adventure out into the cold on your travels too.
22. Extra Outfit with Undies
This one is always great to include if you have space. You never know if your checked luggage will get lost or arrive on time so having a clean backup outfit packed in your carry-on is awesome. If you’re a parent, it’s nice because you never know what you might get on your clothes from your kids (spit up, vomit, food, etc.), and having a clean backup helps you feel better too. I always pack undergarments with whatever is the lowest profile yet cute and comfortable outfit I have. For the ladies, a dress is a great option since it cuts down on keeping up with multiple clothing.
Everything above is a packing list of carry-on essentials that you’ll need when traveling abroad, but there are a few other things that do make the cut, and depending on what type of ticket you purchased for your flight, the airline may provide them to you. If you’re in first/business/premium classes you may get a little ‘goodie-bag’ of other travel essentials… it depends on the airline and your seat class so do a little extra research on the upfront to see what’s provided.
Just reiterating, not all airlines are the same and that goes for their amenities provided too!
Example of Airline Amenities:
Recycled Carry Bag
Sleep mask (all have had atleast this)
Toothpaste/toothbrush (most have had)
Earplugs (most have these, but you will also want some for your hotel so it’s not a bad idea to ensure you have extras)
Lip moisturizer / lip balm
Pen (for filling customs forms on plane)
Small Thin Throw Blanket
If you’re rocking a ticket on one of the “premium” luxury airlines or flying private, this post probably isn’t for you. But if you’re flying Delta or other “normal” airlines, I would make sure to pack both of the essentials listed above.
In addition to making sure your carry-on is packed with all your travel essentials, you’ll want to make sure you have a cute travel outfit. I found a super comfy matching long-sleeve and pants outfit that looked a bit more put together than just wearing sweats but was just as comfy in my opinion!
The carry-on travel essentials packing list above includes everything that I think you need to pack if you’re being a minimalist but still want to be comfy while taking long airplane flights. I’ll be sharing my list of the extra nice-to-haves for you to pack in a separate list soon but hopefully, this list will make sure you’re covered with the basics!