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What to bring on a plane: Experts reveal what should always be in your carry-on

If you need packing tips for long flights, experts have opinions on what to bring on a plane

Someone packing their suitcase for a trip.
Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

The part of leaving for a flight that always gets the anxiety flowing is packing. Not even what we need when we get to our destination, but what to pack for the actual flight. Our friendly experts put together the list of what to bring on a plane, so you don’t have to stress about it. Keep these tips for long flights in mind for your next jet-setting occasion.

The health and safety needs

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Pain medicine/sleeping aid

We all have about three extra hand sanitizers in our bag or office these days, and you need to make sure one of those makes it on the plane with you. Thirumal Motati, founder and visa adviser at Visa Traveler, wants you to have hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes on you whether you are flying from state to state or country to country.

“Airplane seats can harbor germs. Having hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes handy will help keep your hands clean. These can minimize the risk of infections,” he said.

CEO of RatePunk Justin Albertynas wants you to take it further, saying that passengers should “always wipe down your seat and tray on an airplane since the airplane isn’t cleaned after every flight.” Just don’t look at the wipe when you’re done.

Travel-Lingual Founder James Smith wants you to grab any medication you need (just make sure you’re allowed to bring it on the flight). Whether that’s pain medicine for your back or a sleeping aid to snooze the flight away, pack it.

Man using his phone on an airplane.
Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

What to pack to keep yourself comfortable

  • Headphones
  • Neck pillow
  • Eye mask
  • Book/tablet/laptop

These are the essentials for long flights to be completely comfortable. You don’t want to land grumpy because your neck is sore or be bored the whole time staring out the window contemplating life for hours.

Every expert agrees about bringing headphones, whether you want to sleep, listen to a show, or if you get overstimulated with all the commotion. “Noise-canceling headphones can make all the difference,” Smith advised.

If you can’t sleep without the proper conditions, Albertynas says you should pack an eye mask, neck pillow, or whatever other creature comforts you need to nap the time away. Smith agrees that for any extended flight, not only will these items help you sleep, but will minimize body soreness.

And please bring something to do. Don’t look over your seat neighbor’s shoulder and watch their show — unless you’ve asked them. Read, work on your laptop, or binge your Netflix queue.

Man sitting in airplane looking out window with a laptop in his lap.
nicepix/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Don’t forget the odds and ends

  • Refillable water bottle
  • Charger/travel adapter
  • Snacks

A pilot friend of Albertynas’ told him that with “the water tanks being rarely cleaned,” a refillable water bottle is your best friend. There are fill stations after you get through security, so you don’t have to buy bottled or ask for it on the plane.

If you spend the whole flight on your phone or computer, bring a portable charger. If flying to a different country, Smith notes having an adapter to stay connected wherever you go. “Different countries have different plugs, so it’s best to find one that supports multiple types of plugs so you can charge your devices at different destinations,” he said.

Bring your own snacks if that one bag of pretzels won’t cut it. Just be mindful of your neighbors and opt for something like snack mix over anything that might stink up the whole cabin.

If you need a little help with what to pack in a carry-on so your journey is as enjoyable as possible, stick with these basics. Turn the flight into a little self-care station and get to your destination ready to start that vacation right away.

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Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
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