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For Australians, international travel = long haul flight…  aka you are confined to a flying metal sardine can for at least 10 hours.  Long haul flights tend to leave you feeling frustrated, tired and irritable.  You can have a relaxing flight, if you prepare and bring my 8 essentials in your long haul flight carry-on.

They say it is not about the destination but the journey.  But when the journey involves a long haul flight, even for the savviest frequent flyer – the experience can be a nightmare.   So unless you have sprung for Business or First Class ticket or found a way to teleport yourself to the other side of the planet, you will be enjoying the journey with 180+ of your not-so-closest “friends” in economy class.

The journey from Brisbane to our Austrian holiday home involves being in transit for over 28 hours including two long haul flights, a 3-4 hour stopover and a 3-4 hour drive.  Needless to say, I have some expertise in knowing what I need in my long haul flight carry-on to survive the journey.

Where to start?

Choose the right carry-on bag

I recommend using a soft carry-on duffel bag, instead of a hard case carry-on.

long haul flight carry-onWhy?

  • Most airlines restrict economy passengers to one carry-on that weighs less than 7kg.            Soft bag = less weight.
  • It is easier to carry down the narrow aisle of the plane to your seat and you don’t have to struggle through transit with too heavy luggage. 
  • It relieves the stress of trying to stuff a large hard travel case in the already too full overhead lockers. The last thing you need is to have to store your carry-on under the seat in front of you (giving up your valuable leg space). 

I am currently using the Lipault weekend bag as my carry-on.

Here are the eight essential items in my long haul flight carry-on

1: Travel Essentials

long haul flight carry-onPassport, wallet and copy of travel itinerary.  I like to keep my travel essentials in  a wristlet.  These tend to be cheaper than travel wallets, keep all the important travel documents together (and you don’t look like a tourist!).


2:  Electronic Devices

long haul carry-on

Pack your laptop, smart device/phone, USB cable, chargers, earphones (preferably noise cancelling) and airplane audio adapter.

Quite often the airplane complementary earphones are not new, only cleaned and repacked- so I always bring my own. Airplane audio adapters convert the dual airplane socket to the earphone mono stereo socket  – so you can hear in both left and right ear!


Make sure that all your devices are charged so you are not stressed trying to find an available charging station in the airport lounge.  Some airlines have USB charging ports at every seat in economy (thanks Singapore airlines A350s), while others only offer them at certain seats.  You can check if your seat has  a USB charging port on Seat Guru. 

3:  Sleep kit

long haul flight carry-onIf you are travelling overnight, you will want to attempt to get as much sleep as possible so make sure you pack your comfort items.
This can include: Inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, warm socks and scarf (great to keep warm and doubles as a pillow).

4:  Reading and Writing Material

long haul flight carry-on

Notebook and books. You have 10 plus hours so it’s a great time to read a real book, plan your trip, make notes, write your novel etc….

5:  Toiletry bag

Since 2006, international passengers are only allowed to take liquids, aerosols and gels in containers up to 100 ml that must fit inside an one litre resealable transparent plastic bag. I found  transparent toiletry bags at Daiso  and Kmart also has a $5 clear makeup bag.

long haul flight carry-on

The contents in my  toiletry bag are all about combating dehydration and dull post flight skin.

  1. Minimal makeup. We are talking basics, unless you are meeting the paparazzi at arrivals, a light touch up is all that is needed. I collect small travel sized containers of moisturiser, foundation or BB cream and pack all other makeup in my checked in bag.
  2. Travel toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash –Many airlines (including Singapore, Qantas and Emirates) provide amenity kits with a travel toothbrush and toothpaste- even in economy. These are great to collect and use in your carry-on.
  3. Lip balm, hand cream, travel size deodorant. Both my lips and hands dry out instantly on a plane, so I am constantly applying lip balm and hand cream.   And don’t forget  deodorant- after  sitting for 10 hours + on an airplane, your fellow passengers will thank you.
  4. Hydrating mist– Misting your face every hour maintains hydration, soothes any redness and it feels like heaven.
  5. Eye drops and saline sinus spray.  Eyes and noses tend to suffer from the dry cabin air.  Protect your peepers and nose from drying and itchiness.
  6. Contact lens solution, contact case and an extra pair of contacts.

6: Seat case

long haul flight carry-onI bring a small make up case that I pack  with the essentials that I use regularly at my seat.  I found a small make-up bag easily fits in the seat pocket (as opposed to the toiletry bag) and keeps all the bits and bobs together.

When I board the plane, I pull out my small makeup case to put in the seat pocket, then place my carry-on in the overhead bin.  My toiletry bag remains in my carry-on as I have realised that I only use the majority of my toiletries- two or three times during my flight, generally after meal service and when I wake up.


My seat case contains:

  1. Note card with passport info  If you are like me, you are responsible for filling out immigration and customs forms for the family. I use a plain index card and list passport #, expiry date, frequent flyer #s.   So when I need to fill out the immigration/customs forms, I have all the information handy.
  2. Pen. For filling out those pesky immigration forms.
  3. Tissues
  4. Antibacterial wipes*.  Airplane tray tables are not regularly meticulously cleaned and have been shown to be a bacteria hotspot. When I get to my seat, I  clean the tray table, remote (and anything else icky) with antibacterial wipes.
  5. Cleansing face wipes*. The recycled dry air on the plane tends to make my skin feel grimy and greasy.  So nothing feels better than being able to cleanse my face.  If I cannot find travel sized packs, I pack a few wipes in a sealable sandwich bag.
  6. Face sheet masks*.  For in flight pampering (you are on holidays), pack a moisturising face sheet mask.   As they don’t require rinsing you can have a facial, while you are reclining in  your seat watching your favourite movie or TV show.
  7. Travel hair brush and hair ties.
  8. Panty liners. If you don’t have the luxury of an inflight shower (oh to dream), changing your panty liner every few hours will make you feel a lot fresher and without the feeling of wearing the same nickers for days.
  9. Medication – Nurofen for headaches, antihistamine. For any prescription medication (including codeine based medicines) ensure that have the script as some countries restrict the import of certain medications.
*Current security restrictions do not classify wipes as liquid so they are not required to be in the transparent plastic bag.  However, security is updated regularly so check with your airline and if doubt carry them thought security in the transparent plastic bag.

Once I pass through security while I am waiting to board my flight, I reorganise my toiletries taking out the liquid items that were in the transparent case and putting them in my small seat case.  This includes moisturizer, lip balm, hydrating mist and hand cream.

7:  Snacks and Water bottle

long haul flight carry-onContrary to what many people think, you can bring food on the plane—as long as it complies with the liquid restriction and customs (you need to eat fruit and veggies before you disembark).

Options like trail mix, nuts, muesli or protein bar and some favourite lollies & dark chocolate (we are on holidays) will ease the hunger pains or boredom during a long haul flight.  I also pack herbal and green teas and pouches hot chocolate mix for the kids.


Once I have passed through security, I purchase a bottle of water or fill up a water bottle.  Those in the know, recommend that you drink at least 1 litre of water every 5 hours to keep hydrated.

8:  Change of clothes

long haul flight carry-onUntil it happens to you- you won’t realise how important this is. A mid-flight spill, delays or lost luggage, a backup outfit will turn an unfortunate event into a distant memory.  My “emergency pack” contains trousers, t-shirt and underwear in a small packing cube.  The packing cube keeps the clothes organised and easy to find- if you need them.  And your undies wont accidentally “show themselves” while you are rummaging through your carry-on.

I also pack a travel sized lint brush as no matter what I wear I become a fluffy mess at the end of the flight.  As well, I  pack a pair of ballet flats or slip-on shoes.

Ready for take-off

What do you take in your long haul flight carry-on luggage?  Have I forgotten anything essential?

Find my Carry-on Check list