10 Essential Carry-on Items to Take on Every Flight

There’s nothing worse than getting on a plane and realizing you don’t have your essential carry-on items. This handy list will help you make sure you remember everything you need – from accessories to help you sleep to gadgets that will keep you entertained.

1. Passport

This one goes without saying, but that’s why you should always check, check, and check again that you have your passport in your carry-on before you leave for the airport. The last thing you want is to be looking for it at a check-in desk.

Ideally you want a safe, designated pocket in your carry-on luggage where you can keep your passport every time you fly. This takes away the stress of not knowing where it is, and allows easy-access when you need it.


2. Headphones

One of the easiest things to forget on a flight, but you’ll kick yourself when you’re up in the air without them. Headphones are not only essential for listening to music or watching a movie, they’re also a great way to drown out unwanted noise from other people on a flight. They are especially essential on long-haul flights when you need to listen to some relaxing tunes before trying to get some sleep.

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3. Laptop or tablet

In-flight entertainment has certainly improved over the years, but by taking a laptop or table on-board, you can watch whatever you want. If you usually work using a laptop, you could also use these gadgets to draft some emails or make some notes during your flight, making the most of your transit time.

It’s also advised that you take these items with you in your carry-on because they may get damaged, lost, or stolen when stored in cabin baggage.


4. Hand Sanitizer

With all the different air pressures and close proximity to crowds, flights have a habit of making you feel unclean. Using hand sanitizer is the quickest, easiest way to freshen up before, during, and after a flight, before you manage to get home or to your hotel. Just make sure the bottle you take is 100ml or less!


5. Earplugs

If you want to get some shut-eye in peace but can’t sleep with music in your ears, a good set of earplugs will cancel out the noise around you. If you’re not used to them, they can be a little odd at first, but if there’s any time to embrace the earplug, it’s on a rowdy flight when all you want to do is get some rest.


6. Neck pillow

Sleeping on planes is a pain in the neck – literally. Trying to get your head in the right position to sleep is almost impossible without having a neck pillow, and that can leave you even more shattered after a long-haul flight. The most efficient option is an inflatable neck pillow, which packs down very small so that you don’t have to take up too much space in your hand luggage.


7. Eye mask

Lights are turned on and off at all sorts on times on planes, but having an eye mask with you will leave you blissfully unaware of that. This is yet another thing that will help you create a more natural sleeping environment, and something else that will pack small, too.


8. Extra layers

Your destination or home might be hot, but once you’re up in the air the temperature can plummet, and being freezing on a plane isn’t fun. Bring an extra thin sweater with you on the plane for when you’re cruising at high altitude – it might also come in handy if you forget that aforementioned neck pillow.


9. A good book or magazine

Sitting on a plane for a few hours is a good excuse to get down to that book you’ve been meaning to start for ages. If you’re not much of a reader, pick up a magazine at the airport to have something to flick through on the flight. These are especially useful if you’re a nervous flyer – getting lost in a good book will take your mind off the experience.

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10. Snacks

We can all agree that plane food is priced extortionately, so grab some snacks in the departures lounge before you leave to avoid paying bumper prices on board.  While you’re at it, don’t forget to pick up some hard-boiled sweets to help prevent your ears popping painfully as the air pressure changes.

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Jake Smith
Jake Smith
Director of Special Projects - Jake is an experienced aviation journalist and strategic leader, regularly contributing to the commercial aviation section of Travel Radar alongside leading strategy and innovation including livestreaming and our store.


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