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15+ Carry-on Essentials for a Better Flight

Let’s face it.

Flying isn’t really a lot of fun these days – unless you’re in first- or business-class!

Seats aren’t the most comfortable.

The air is dry.

Food? (Sometimes you’re best bringing your own.)

And you may have to put up with the screams of an unhappy toddler.

Carry-On Essentials for the Plane

15+ Carry-on Essentials

Over the years we’ve flown, we’ve learned to pack certain carry-on essentials on every flight.

Trust us, these really are essential travel items to take on a plane!

Bringing them onboard with you is sure to help make your flying experience more bearable – and with luck, perhaps even enjoyable.

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1) Collapsible water bottle

You know the #1 thing to do when flying is to drink lots of water. But what if there’s no more room in your carry-on for a hard-sided water bottle?

Enter the Nomader collapsible bottle! It’s sturdy when filled. But you can conveniently fold it up, so it takes up less space when you pack it away.

Made of flexible silicone, it’s BPA-free too – free of all those unsafe chemicals associated with plastic bottles.

2) Noise-canceling head phones

Bose head phones are one of our favorite carry-on essentials for the plane.

A crying baby in the seat behind you? Talkative neighbor? Engine noise?

Not with these top-rated Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-canceling headphones.

They’re wireless and come with Bluetooth connectivity. Watch your movie or listen to music in peace.

These headphones are perfect for travel – and everyday life too…

3) Ear plugs

We find it almost impossible to get a few zzz’s on a plane without ear plugs. Foam ear plugs can irritate your ear canal (happened to us).

These superior quality Ohropax ear plugs are made from cotton wool and wax. And they’re super comfy. Definitely one of our long flight essentials!

Ohropax, by the way, is a German company that has been making ear plugs since 1907.

And, yes, these ear plugs cost a little more than the standard foam ones, but they’re designed to be re-used (foam plugs should be thrown away after one or two uses).

What to know about ear plugs

Not all ear plugs are created equal. After some research and checking with our pharmacist, we discovered that the Ohropax brand (made from cotton wool, petroleum jelly and paraffin waxes) is the softest and best.

See our review of the best earplugs for sleeping (Ohropax).

4) Passport and ticket organizer

You don’t want to be rummaging through your backpack and purse for your passport and boarding pass every time you go through security, customs and check-in.

One of the key travel essentials you therefore need is a travel document organizer (or folder) to keep your passport, airline tickets and other essential travel documents together in one place.

(We also like to put the booking confirmation for our first night’s hotel in here too.)

5) Travel shawl

A shawl is a must-have travel essential for the plane

This one’s for you, ladies.

Wear a big travel scarf or pashmina. It can double as a blanket on the plane and add an extra layer of warmth when you’re out and about on your trip.

6) Slipper socks

If you’re flying long haul in Business or First Class, you typically get a pair of socks in your amenity kit.

But if you’re flying Economy, well, you don’t usually get much (though EVA Air gave us slippers on our Economy flights to Asia).

The point is – you’ll be much more comfortable removing your shoes and putting on some warm socks. Your feet will thank you!

These soft slipper socks are stretchy (easy to put on) and also have non-skid gripping soles, giving you grippy traction when walking.

Note: You might want to take the socks off and put your shoes back on when walking down the aisle to the bathroom. Those bathroom floors sometimes aren’t the cleanest.

Compression Socks

Some people prefer to fly with compression socks to help prevent swelling and deep vein thrombosis.

Looking for comfortable sandals?

Check out the best travel sandals for men and women we’ve sussed out – for the beach, city and adventure!

7) Neck pillow

Our pick for the best travel pillow? The MLVOC travel pillow.

This 100% memory foam pillow provides all-round soft comfort and comes with a drawstring at the ends, so you can adjust the tightness around your neck.

Plus, the M-shape cradles your head sweetly upright (doesn’t push it forward), and the sweat-resistant pillow case is machine washable.

And don’t worry that it’s bulky to carry – just stuff it into the small travel bag it comes with, and it compresses down to half its size (just a little bigger than a baseball).

8) Disposable toothbrush

You know you shouldn’t brush your teeth with water from the airplane tap; it may be dirty.

These disposable mini-toothbrushes are therefore ideal for airplane use, as you don’t need water to brush with them.

They come with a liquid-filled bead in the center of the brush head. When you brush, the bead squirts your mouth with a burst of liquid toothpaste.

The Colgate Wisp toothbrushes are small too – “pocket-sized.”

You can carry one discreetly in your hand when you walk to the airplane bathroom. (They’re also good for brushing your teeth on the go when traveling in general.)

9) A Kindle to read

If you’re like us, after watching a couple of movies on a plane, you’re probably “movied out.”

You may try to doze or catnap, but the reality is that on a long flight, you’re probably awake for several hours and simply trying to pass time.

For us, reading a book helps that time pass more quickly.

The Kindle is thus one of our long-haul flight essentials.

While we still like the feel of reading a “real” book, a Kindle is so much more convenient for travel.

You can carry a whole library of page-turners in one light slim gizmo. Plus the built-in adjustable light lets you read without having to turn on the overhead light and disturb your partner or seat-mate.

10) Sleep mask

A sleeping mask is also tops on our list of carry-on essentials for long flights. (It’s also great for blocking out early morning light in hotel rooms.)

We really like these Eagle Creek Sandman sleeping masks. The mask is made of fleece. And the soft, slightly-raised contouring around the bridge of your nose means the mask doesn’t squish your eyes like some cheaper sleeping masks.

11) Instant stain remover

Eating on planes can be, well, messy. Tide To Go instant stain remover fixes up most splotches – at least it makes them look a whole lot better!

12) Disinfecting wipes

Ugh. Catching a cold or other bug on the plane is unfortunately one of the downsides of traveling.

Frequent hand washing with soap and water is one of the best things to do to help prevent getting sick. And try not to touch your mouth with your hands or rub your eyes (until after washing your hands).

For those times when you can’t conveniently lather up, Wet Ones disinfectant wipes help kill some of those germs.

They’re really one of those travel necessities you simply must pack in your carry-on.

You can also use them to wipe down the tray table, armrests and other notoriously germ-infested airplane surfaces.

13) Travel pill box

Yes, you’ll be packing your medication in your carry-on. But you don’t want to have to reach overhead in the plane and haul out your wheelie for a few pills.

Much better to have a small travel pill box for the pills you’ll need for the next 24 hours. (Throw in a couple of Tylenol too in case you get a headache on the flight.)

14) Lubricant eye drops

Flying is so hard on the eyes!

We find the GenTeal eye drops soothe dry red eyes, however. We always carry one of these small squeeze bottles in our flight essentials kit.

15) Portable charger

Newer planes have plugs for charging your phone, iPad or other gizmos.

But there’s no guarantee when it comes to what plane you’ll be on. So carrying a portable USB charger is always a great idea.

Key must-have travel essentials

Your passport and ticket is essential to take on the plane!

Of course, don’t forget the following key items!

1) Your passport

2) Airplane ticket(s)

3) Other tickets, e.g., train tickets

4) Hotel and car rental confirmations

5) Trip itinerary – We like to create and print out a summary of our itinerary, showing where we’re staying each day and any “can’t miss” times for particular days (train times, internal flights, booked tours, etc.)

6) Face mask (depending on health guidelines and airline requirements)

Other travel essentials for the plane

You’ll want to also pack these items in your carry-on bag:

1) A change of clothes – If your luggage gets lost, you at least have fresh clothes to wear the first day of your trip

2) Valuables – Always pack jewelry, camera, laptop and other valuables in your hand luggage

3) Your medication

Enjoy your flight!

So there you have it – our list of plane essentials to take with you in your carry-on bag.

For shorter daytime flights, we might skip some of these items – like the neck pillow – as we probably wouldn’t need them.

But for long-haul flights, these are the flying essentials we absolutely couldn’t live without on the plane.

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Travel Essentials for the Plane