Carry-On Essentials: How to Survive an International Flight

Knowing what carry-on essentials to bring a long flight can make or break am international plane ride. Flying from Texas to Sydney, Australia is one of the longest flight in the world (17 hours straight in the air), so I know a thing or two about surviving long flights. These are the carry-on essentials you should pack to survive a long international flight:

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Wallet + IDs + Documents

First things first, obviously you need to make sure you have your wallet, passport, other IDs, plane tickets, and all travel documents before going on a long international flight. I use a travel wallet/passport holder combo that keeps all of those in one place, it makes things way easier!

PRO TIP: Make copies of all your documents and keeping them in a separate bag or place just in case you ever lost them.

Best Airplane Carry-On Essentials Bag

Whether you prefer a backpack or a purse, having a great carry-on bag for a long international flight is essential. The backpack I travel with if I am bringing all my camera gear is the Pacsafe Camsafe V17 Anti-Theft Camera backpack (also comes in a bigger version).

Carry On Essentials - pacsafe camera backpack

It has awesome anti-theft features that make it a great choice for travelers: The fabric and straps are made of eXomesh and are slash-proof. There are RFID blocking pockets that protect from scan scam. The zippers have a clip lock, making it difficult for pickpockets. It also has a front chest clip for comfort and security. 

PacSafe makes all kinds of travel bags packed with safety features, I highly recommend you check them out! 

If I’m not bringing all my camera gear, I will usually bring a big “carry-all” purse or weekender kind of bag on a flight. There are tons of great bags out there, but when considering what tote bag to bring on a long international flight, look for one that has these features:

  • Zips closed
  • Fabric is water resistant/splash proof
  • I use one that’s big enough to fit a laptop, but small enough to easily fit under the seat in front of you
  • Laptop pouch/compartment
  • Side pockets, especially one that will fit your passport so you can easily grab it when needed
  • Outside flap/luggage sleeve that lets you easily carry it on your roller suitcase (see below)

As a general rule, make sure any carry-on bag is less than 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. Here are some options from Amazon that have good reviews and are very reasonably priced:

See my list of best travel bags here.

Phone + Chargers

Bringing your phone on a long flight is a no brainer! Luckily many airplanes are equipped with outlets nowadays, especially ones flying internationally. Be sure to bring your charger and a portable battery just in case!

Noise Canceling Headphones (must have carry-on essentials)

If you are going to splurge on anything to survive a long flight, it should be Bose noise canceling headphones. I did not realize what a HUGE difference they make, especially flying. It makes everything so much clearer and quieter! 

They have over the ear wireless headphones, as well as earbuds.  They are pricey, but I swear they’re worth it… there’s a reason they have over 4.5 stars and 18,000 reviews on Amazon.

Neck Pillow

Neck pillows really do make a world of a difference on a long international flight. I personally like to sleep on my side which is obviously not going to happen on a plane, but I will most likely lean my head to one side or another. With that in mind, I went for one like this that had extra support on the sides

People also rave about the Infiniti Pillow! I was sent one but have yet to try it out on a long flight yet.

Eye Mask

Having an eye mask is really helpful for sleeping on flights. Even though airlines usually dim the lights now, there is always that one person with their light on or window shade open. I use this plain black silk one and it’s great!

carry-on essentials - eye mask

Carry-On Flight Entertainment

Nowadays, airplanes usually have a pretty awesome movie selection. But, that being said, I usually like to bring my own form of entertainment as well. Here are a few I recommend: 

  • Reading a book. I use my Kindle, it’s a lot easier than traveling an actual book
  • Downloading movies or TV shows on Netflix or Amazon Video app
  • Movies saved on my laptop
  • Games on my phone
  • Magazines from the airport
  • Writing in a journal

Change of Clothes

With long flights, you’re definitely going to want to change into some more comfortable clothes. I usually bring some soft lounge pants (if I didn’t already wear them to the airport lol), a loose, soft t-shirt or cozy sweatshirt.

carry-on essentials socks for flight

I also like to pack cozy socks, it’s much more comfortable than being in shoes or barefoot. Do your feet a favor and add socks to your carry-on essentials list.

Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle

The amount airports charge for bottles of water is absurd. Save $8 for something better and bring your own reusable bottle. I use a vacuum insulated water bottle because it doesn’t “sweat” and it keeps water cold for a long time!

carry-on essentials - water bottle

Swell bottles are good and fine, but you can get the same thing for half the price choosing a non name brand alternative.

Carry-on Approved Snacks

Sometimes airline peanuts just don’t cut it, so bring snacks from home to help hold you over! These are just a few of my faves: 

Also, gum is always great to help with your ears popping and a subtle way to remedy the guy next to you’s awful breath 😉 

Toothbrush

You can carry on a mini travel size toothbrush and paste, or a couple disposable toothbrushes like the Colgate wisp.

Cleansing Wipes

Bring cleaning wipes on a long flight to help freshen up! I look for ones that are moisturizing, like Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost towelettes, as well since flying can be so drying on the skin.

They say they’re for your face, but I use them all over!

Hydrating Skin Care

On long international flights, I do my best to hydrate my skin as much as possible. This is the routine I try to stick to for really long flights… 

As soon as the plane gets to flying altitude:

Halfway through the flight:

  • I’ll spritz my face with a hydrating mist (usually with lavender)
  • Then apply lotion or face oil
  • PRO TIP: use a contact lens case for your carry-on lotions, it’s the perfect size/amount and saves you from buying the “travel size” version  

An hour before landing:

Make-Up

Personally I like to do my make-up and freshen up before I arrive at a destination. I usually just bring the bare essentials: concealer,  foundation, bronzer, and mascara.

carry-on essentials make up

Chapstick/Lip Balm

My two favorite lip balms for chapped lips is Lucas Papaw and O’Keeffe’s Lip Repair. Neither are fancy or expensive, and they are literally the best I’ve found!

Carry-On Approved Perfume

I always always ALWAYS bring a travel rollerball perfume with me on a long flight. If its a strong perfume, be aware of that and maybe don’t use it until you’re off the plane.

Dry Shampoo

Living Proof Dry Shampoo is a lifesaver for traveling hair, it ACTUALLY cleans your hair, I can go days without washing mine now. 

Living Proof is a little pricey, Dove Dry Shampoo is a great, cheaper alternative.

Hair Tie

Always bring a hair tie just in case. I prefer scrunchies because they’re gentler on your hair and don’t leave a crease!

Hair Products to Bring While Traveling - scrunchy

Travel Size Deodorant

No one wants to be stinky after a long flight… deodorant is definitely a carry-on essential!

Carry-on Flight First Aid Kit + Meds

It’s always smart to bring be prepared when it comes to meds/first aid on a long flight. I personally bring something to help me sleep (like Benadryl, ZZquil, or melatonin), Advil, Emergen-C/Airborne, Dramamine, Tums/Immodium, eye drops, bandaids, tissues, etc. 

carry-on essentials - meds to bring on a flight

You can get most of those in travel sizes or put a couple of each in a pill travel carry case, it’s easier and more cost effective in the long run!

Hope these must pack items help you survice a long flight! Have a suggestion? Send me a DM on Instagram! Happy travels!

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xx Chels

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What you should pack to Survive an International flight - carry-on essentials
carry-on essentials for super long flight
What you should pack to Survive an International flight - carry-on essentials
carry-on essentials for international flight
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