What to Pack in your Hand Luggage for a Long Flight

A long flight can seem daunting, but mostly they are just boring and uncomfortable. Especially if you fly economy like me, anything above 4 hours might seem like a lifetime.

But kowing what to pack in your hand luggage for a long flight can make all the difference. These travel essentials will help make your flight a little more comfortable.

I usually keep these things in a separate little canvas bag in my carry-on to avoid having to rummage through my overstuffed bag while holding up the line.

Always make sure you keep any valuable in your hand luggage as well, things get “lost” from checked luggage all the time!

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Bring plenty of water and snacks

Lifestraw bottle travel gadgets filter water bottle

Some super low budget airline won’t provide more than a light meal and a glass of water (or anything!) during a long distance flight. So be sure to pack a large bottle of water and some snacks like sandwiches, nuts and fruit to tide you over. Hunger and dehydration will make an uncomfortable flight hell and who wants to spend money on overpriced concessions? 

To avoid unnecessary plastic, bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up before your flight. I travel with a Lifestraw, Grayl or WaterToGo bottle, that are not only reusable, but also filter and purify the water!

Get some shut-eye with an eye mask, earplugs and a neck pillow

silk eye mask travel gadget

Do you ever get jealous of those people that seem to be able to just nap anywhere?

No need, with an eye mask, earplugs and neck pillow you can make an airplane seat feel like… well, not a bed exactly, but at least a more comfortable chair.

It also helps you block out the noise and light from the people around you so you can get some shut-eye. I can usually get at least 4-5 hours of sleep with these.

Bring a good (audio) book

e-reader book travel gadget

Sure, the upside of long-distance flights is the in-flight entertainment. But after 6 hours of movies, you might want to give your eyes a break.

So bring a good book, audiobook or e-reader to keep yourself entertained without all the blue light burning through your eyeballs. Download some podcasts and playlists of your favorite songs on Spotify as well.

Puzzle books are also always a good way to keep yourself entertained.

Need some inspiration? These are my favorite travel books

A small toiletry bag with the essentials in travel size

bamboo toothbrush solid toothpaste travel essentials sustainable

Toothbrush and toothpaste

Nothing makes me feel grosser than not brushing my teeth before bed. Even if that bed is an airplane seat.

The small act of brushing your teeth, whether it is on the plane or after landing, will make you feel so much more refreshed. And helps get your brain into the right timezone mindset.

Limit your plastic and liquids, and go for a sustainable bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste tablets or solid toothpaste.

Lotion, cream and lip balm

The air in airplanes is always super dry so bring some hand lotion, face cream and lip balm to soothe your dehydrated skin. Your skin will thank me.

Wet wipes

Wet wipes are great for cleaning your hands between meals, cleaning your face and just to refresh when you wake up all groggy after a three-hour airplane nap.

Choose biodegradable and compostable wipes, or make your own!


No one smells good after a long flight, but using deodorant makes it more pleasant for you and your fellow passengers.

You can take a small spray or a roll-on deodorant in your hand luggage.

Pack a clean t-shirt and underwear

castelluccio di norcia umbria italy sunny t-shirt

Air travel always leaves me feeling really frumpy, dishevelled and plain gross. I take an extra t-shirt and underwear so I can change once I get off the plane.

Or to tide me over in case my luggage gets lost (finger crossed that never happens).

Keep warm with a scarf, shawl or pashmina

Aran Islands Ireland Inismore scarf

Nothing has a many uses as a simple piece of fabric.

The air conditioning can be quite cold on airplanes and scarves can double as a blanket or roll up into extra neck support. You’ll sleep a lot better when you’re cozying up with your favorite soft wrap that smells like home.

And once you get to your destination, you can use it as a sarong, blanket for the beach, make-shift curtains at a hostel or, you know, a scarf.

Bring your own headphones or earbuds

head phones ear plugs travel essentials

The free headphone you get on your flight are usually pretty crappy. Bringing your own allows you to listen to the in-flight movies with a higher sound quality, and they can help cancel the noise from your fellow passengers.

If you’re traveling with a buddy, invest in a headphone splitter. That way you can watch movies together without having to sync them up manually.

Post COVID-19: mask and hand sanitizer

face mask covid-19 corona virus train

Once we’re allowed to travel again, flying post COVID-19 might be a bit different. Whether it’s required, for your own peace of mind or as a gesture towards the other passengers: bring a face mask. And hand sanitizer to battle all those pesky germs on the airplane.

So, tell me: what are your must packs for long flights? Anything I should add to this list?

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5 thoughts on “What to Pack in your Hand Luggage for a Long Flight

  1. Agree with all of those. I’d add earphone splitters, and a big comfy jersey and scarf. Planes are always freezing. And snacks! I keep à tin of those chocolate coated coffee bean marvels with me at all times.

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