How I pack a carry-on for long haul flights

One of my not so secret talents is packing. I can pack ten days of fabulous outfits in a carry-on (my current situation in India); I’ve previously lived out of a backpack for 5 weeks (once in Southeast Asia and once in Spain), and I can throw together a suitcase half an hour before leaving for the airport on a work trip.

I just got off my longest ever direct long-haul flight (ORD>DEL) and while I don’t usually write “how-to”s- I figured if I can make someone’s flight at least a smidge easier, that’s a win for me.

(I won’t bullsh*t you, I flew business class to India and slept comfortably during my entire flight. No physical item stuffed into a backpack will necessarily equate [Ambien?] BUT I can help!)

I travel with a hard case carry-on suitcase (it’s from AWAY and I love it) that contains my clothing, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, etc. and a tote or backpack with staple items I keep nearby, usually stowed under my seat. The smaller bag is what I’ll cover today…

Here’s a list of things I always have on hand on a long haul flight:

Noise Cancelling Headphones: They’re bulky and annoying to pack, but every time I’m without them on a flight I regret it. They are incredible for instantly shutting out crying babies and airplane snorers. I have these from Bose, and I love them!

Slip silk mask: Okay, so maybe you don’t need a SILK sleep mask (any kind will do), but this one is just so soft. Essentially for knocking out on the plane even when the lights are still on.

Chargers: I always have my “bag o’ chargers” with me since most long haul flights have in seat outlets. I carry both an iPhone and a Google Pixel, so I always have a few chargers and convertors on hand.

Compression socks: My legs swell up on long haul flights, and it’s just not healthy to be sitting for that long. Compression socks help make sure everyone is circulating nicely. I ordered these from Amazon because they’re inexpensive.

AllBirds: I was a non believer at first, but these wool runners really are the comfiest shoes in the world. They’re like clouds, but for your feet. They’re comfortable enough to wear through the flight, stylish, and…you don’t have to take them off at security!

Pen: I feel like I always randomly need a pen. Just pack one so that you don’t have to ask a stranger. Unless said stranger is cute. In which case, loose the pens.

Melatonin: I almost never get too jet lagged. I use my travel day to adjust to whatever time zone I’m heading to and sleep or stay awake on my flight based on what time it is in my destination. So if it’s only 6pm but it’s midnight at my destination, you bet I’m taking melatonin, putting my headphones on, and slipping on my eye mask.

Book: Or kindle, whatever floats your boat. I always pack one because I’ve learned that you CANNOT count on all long haul flights to have a TV.

Cozy Hoodie or Cashmere Sweater: Airplanes are cold. There’s a correlation between passengers fainting up in the air and the temperature of the cabin, which is why planes are intentionally frosty. Don’t be a hero- pack something warm.

Refresher Kit: I pack wet wipes, mints, hand sanitizer, tissues, lip balm, and hand cream. I refresh during the flight and 30 minutes before landing and Voilà- new human! 

RX Bars: Always bring snacks in case you sleep through meal service or don’t like the food. Any snack bar will do, but RX Bars are my favorite for long trips because they can get absolutely smashed in your bag and still be fine.

Water bottle: There is very little moisture on airplanes and it’s easy to get dehydrated! I always bring an extra bottle of water or two, and I make a few trips to the back of the planes to get a cup of water from the flight attendants (keeps you moving!)