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What to Pack in Your Carry on Flight Hand Luggage!

Packing your hand luggage, or carry on bag is as important as packing your suitcase, especially if you are boarding a long haul flight! Taking into consideration your health, hygiene, the need to be entertained, and of course emergency supplies incase your suitcase is missing or you find yourself delayed, you need to pack a whole lot into that little bag – and it’s not as much as you might think!

The Bag(s)

I always find a duffle/sports style bag is best. They tend to be roomier, easier to carry/balance atop suitcases and have a variety of inner and outer pockets. I always squish my bag under the seat in front too as pulling it out of the over head mid flight whilst trying not to take up the aisle or land it on the heads around you is just plain ol’ frustrating!

Now, here is my first hand luggage packing secret – a bag in a bag! Inside my official cabin bag, I have a drawstring spots bag! In this I put all the items I’m going to constantly be using throughout the flight, such as; headphones, e-reader, pen and paper, mints, tissues etc. Most of it is for my own entertainment, things I will swap and change with each hour to keep me occupied. If you are planning on putting your hand luggage in the over head compartment then having the little drawstring bag saves you have to keep pulling your main bag out of the over head. I think it’s also a great idea for those traveling with children!

Another bag inside the main bag – a small toiletry bag. You don’t want to take all your fresh-me-ups loose in your hands but you don’t want to drag your cabin bag along either. Usually I have all my toiletries essentials in the clear plastic bag you use for carrying liquids on the plane. Convenient and compact, easy enough to take along to the bathroom with you! If you want something more discreet, take a small foldable toiletry bag and once you’re through security, pop your clear bag of liquid products into the toiletry bag. Voila!


The one thing I cannot stand about flying is the recycled air. The thought of breathing in other peoples airy excretions makes my skin crawl and more than once have I felt a little ill during and after a flight (and it’s not because of the plane food!). Unfortunately, we have to breathe and taking our own air supply on board is not exactly the ‘done thing’!

All that recycled air really dries out your skin too which can be really uncomfortable! This might sound like one for the girls, but the guys always end of feeling the same and use our products!

What to pack

  • Paracetemol or equivalent
  • Dissolvable multi vitamins
  • Water
  • Hand Moisturizer
  • Facial Moisturizer
  • Lip balm / Vaseline

Yes I said water! Not all flights have drinks included and you don’t want to be forking out constantly for a cool H2O. I always buy two of the largest bottles I can find air-side and carry them on board. Drinking water is the best thing you can do, constantly flushing the inhaled toxins from your body. Keeping hydrated is key – and you won’t come off looking like a shriveled prune either!

Top tip: Buy a set of refillable travel bottles and decant your staple products into them. It saves having to buy mini versions of the products you already own!


Remember that recycled air I was talking about? Germ avoidance might not be high on your list but it should be! You don’t want to land feeling ill, that’s no way to start your vacation! Packing a few essentials will help you fend off as many in-flight germs as possible! It’s also a good idea to pack a few bits and bobs to keep you feeling fresh. It’s easy to feel dirty after a long haul flight, so freshening up, especially before landing is a must!

What to pack

  • Hand sanitizer gel
  • Tissues
  • Wet Wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Liners/sanitary towels (us women need are always prepared!)

Bottles of this and tubs of that might all sound like a lot. But remember, each product can be no more than 100ml, so you’re only going to be taking travel sized versions of most things.


Though most airlines have some sort of inbuilt in-flight entertainment system, a few films and re-runs of The Simpsons just isn’t enough to get you through an 8+ hour flight. I find that packing the basics and rotating through them every 45mins – 1 hour keeps me well entertained – grown ups get just as board as the kids!

What to pack

  • Book / e-reader
  • Music player
  • Hand held gaming device
  • Puzzle books
  • Magazines
  • Deck of cards

Only you know what keeps you entertained. And don’t forget pen and paper!

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Misc Essentials

· Snacks

· Extra jacket

· Neck pillow / Eye mask

· Extra socks

· Carrier bag – ideal for keeping your rubbish in!

· Mini first aid kit

The ‘oh no we’re delayed/my bag is missing’ Essentials!

A few years ago a friends plane got delayed overnight and the airline would not allow them their checked baggage back, so they headed to the overnight accommodation with only their hand luggage. Our cabin bag is no substitute for the suitcase filled with everything but we can pack a few bits and bobs just incase we find ourselves in a similar position!

What to pack

  • Change of underwear
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Hairbrush / hair tie
  • Facial Wipes
  • Spare t-shirt

These won’t take up much space at all and are a real stress avoider and money saver!

It might sound like an awful lot, and of course if you’re only on a short haul flight you might be able to skip out on a few of the above. The longer the flight the more you are going to need – unless your lucky enough to be able to spend most of it asleep! I do love flying and traveling, those few hours where I can just escape into my own little bubble 30,000ft in the air – we don’t get that kind of escapism often!

We all want to start our holidays as we mean to go on, so having the most chilled out, comfortable and relaxing flight possible is the only way to go!

More long haul flight tips!

Don't forget...

To keep up to date with my writings and goings on, check out my blog


Mike from Harrisburg Pa on April 06, 2018:

With the mini first aid kit and mini sewing kit. I first keep a few empty medicine containers. Then when I run out of band aids, thread, etc, I buy a larger of whatever I need. The medicine containers come in handy for me for needles, buttons, etc. If I need to I buy a Tupperware type container for these type items plus I bought one for my toiletries. I wouldn't recommend a travel size deodorant unless going through airport security..

While traveling I had a pair of jeans that I popped a button off the front of them. Fortunately I had a spare button that I replaced that and the hotel's maintenance staff let me use a hammer. The guy only asked me to show him how replace it.

jamie roach on August 21, 2013:

im 13 qnd flying to turkey this friday, i have flew many times but when really young you don't worry about thing because all you need is a magazine but this helped a lot now im a little older,

im taking

deck of cards (im a young magician, whole reason for trip)


hand lotion

spare underwear

spare tshirt




some sweets bought after security

roll on deodrant incase im delayed

and that should keep me more than occupied and thanks for the list and some advise

Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on June 06, 2013:

Great advice. As I started reading, I wondered if I'd have anything to add to the list, but you covered it all...and then some. Hand sanitizer is a must! I feel the same way about germs on a plane. I have it with me at all times. Thanks for this hub!

Kawika Chann from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 09, 2013:

Hi Saloca, I like the idea of bag within a bag - that makes a lot of sense. I like to travel as light as possible, but those 5 hour flights really drain me. Thanks for the tips, I've got another 5hr flight coming next week. Upvoted/useful/following. Peace. Kawi.

Wotshernameagain? on April 15, 2013:

Great post!

Very helpful

I get so bored and fidgety on flights I have to have a number of home comforts and entertainment devices to keep me happy or all hell would break loose

Check out my travel post

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on February 06, 2013:

@freecampingaussie The bag within a bag trick is a great idea, I hate having to get up all the time and rummage through the overhead! Taking a sarong or shawl is brilliant too, those blankets they give you on the plane can be so itchy sometimes and I've had the odd ones that have been a bit smelly too! Thanks for the comment :)

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on February 03, 2013:

Great hub ! I am packing a bag within a bag so I don't annoy everyone on our long flight ! I always take water on board, a few lollies to suck on take off + landing, Kindle,paper ,pen , glasses, camera - . A sarong is great as well to put over you when you sleep etc ! Voting you up.

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on January 15, 2013:

@peterg-hd that's a brilliant suggestion! Especially if you're unlucky enough to be sat near the obligatory crying baby that's on every flight! Thanks for the comment :)

Peter Greenwood from Hong Kong on January 15, 2013:

I think you missed a good one. I always pack some good ear plugs in my hand luggage

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on January 10, 2013:

@Riviera that's brilliant advice! Packing nothing but a carry on sounds daunting but it can be so easier if you can really cut back - most of the things we take in checked luggage never come out of the suitcase for the duration of the trip! Thanks for the comment :)

Riviera Rose from South of France on January 10, 2013:

Great ideas here - for shorthaul European flights I only ever take hand luggage so have got very good at keeping things to a minimum...and wearing something with big pockets is a good idea too! Voted up and interesting.

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on January 08, 2013:

@sarahshulihan I always make sure to pack clean underwear and a fresh top JUST incase my suitcase doesn't make it or I'm stuck in an extended delay! The one time I didn't pack any I was delayed for 11 hours then had a 9 hour flight! I felt so dirty and uncomfortable!

Thanks for the comment! :)

sarahshuihan on January 08, 2013:

This is a great list! I think people forget to pack some items of clothing in case their luggage does get lost. It's happened to me more times that I care to mention.

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on January 04, 2013:

Sound advice! It pains me when I see people having to throw away full sized products because they're over the allowed limit - especially when they're clearly expensive creams and lotions too!

Thanks for the comment :)

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on December 28, 2012:

Brilliant idea! I'll have to try that the next time I fly! :)

Marie on December 28, 2012:

I take a couple of empty water bottles through security then fill them on the airplane side at a water fountain. lot cheaper than buying.

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on November 17, 2012:

Glad you've found it so helpful! Have an amazing trip and happy birthday!!

Suzy on November 16, 2012:

What a great help for my long haul flight to NZ.My first flight on my own to spend time with my daughter and to celabrate my 60th Birthday. Thank You

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on August 28, 2012:

Thanks very much!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on August 19, 2012:

I like to bring slippers, so I can take my socks and shoes off but still wander around the plane. Voting this Up and Useful.

Sam Graham from Australia on August 08, 2012:

Water is a must. I always buy plenty once in the departure lounge. On long haul flights the dry mouth is unbelievable at times. In my experience, flying from the UK to Australia you can take more than 100 mls once you are in the departure lounge. Toothbrushes, combs and other bits can often be found in bathroom if you rummage through the drawers. I always help myself to some. I agree with moisturiser as the skin dries out, lip balm too. I also squeeze in some leggings so nice and comfy on those long hauls.

Harriet on August 05, 2012:

Thanks who ever wrote this you have really helped me pack xxxxxx thanks you so much x :)

megster on June 16, 2012:

I'm going on holiday in a week and I was struggling on what to take !!!!! But ur blog really helped me !!!!! Thanx so much xxx

Sadie on June 01, 2012:

Thankyou very much!

I am going away soon, and your blog helped me a lot!

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on May 24, 2012:

Thanks! Have a great trip!

Sarah Campbell (author) from Liverpool, UK on May 04, 2012:

Thanks ComfortB! I've always been allowed to take bottled water drinks on the plane, as long as I buy them once I am through Security and on the 'boarding' side of the airport. Any liquids over 100ml are taken away from you before you pass through security. I'm not sure how true this is on a global scale but flying between the UK and USA and Europe this has always been so :)

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on May 03, 2012:

About the water, I thought passengers are not allowed to carry water in carry-ons, or have they changed that rule?

Anyway, these are all great tips for International travels, especially when travelling with children. Thanks for sharing. Voted Up & Useful!

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