10 things you should always pack in your carry on

Two years ago I flew internationally for the first time. It was an eighteen-hour flight and by the end of it I was exhausted and dehydrated. I was new to the whole world of traveling and made a lot of noobish mistakes that made my first flight much less comfortable than it could’ve been.

Since then I have flown internationally almost 15 times and each time I have learned a little more about the do’s and don’ts of international travel.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last two years is how critical it is to properly pack your carry-on. This is so important and can mean the difference between an enjoyable and a miserable flight.

10 Things You Should Never Fly Without

Today I’m going to share my packing list with you! Here are the top 10 things that you should not fly without. Making sure your carry-on includes these items will ensure that your flight abroad is both comfortable and memorable.

I hope this is helpful!

1. Copies of your travel documents & ID

Always remember to bring copies of all your important documents (like your trip itinerary, important medical documents, e-ticket, etc.). Stow these copies in various places. Have one in your purse and one in your carry-on—just to make sure you have a backup should it be needed. 

TRIP TIP! Always remember to triple check to make sure you have your passport on you!

2. Medication or motion sickness medicine

Be sure to pack any medication or motion sickness meds that you may need mid-flight in your carry-on. Even if your flight isn’t a long one, it’s still a good idea to put medication in your carry-on—just in case your checked bag gets lost or stolen.

This is especially important if you are flying into another country.

TRIP TIP! If you do have prescription meds, be sure to have a copy of your prescription just in case the customs officers ask what the meds are for.

3. Toiletries

Something that makes a long flight a lot more enjoyable for me is being able to freshen up halfway through the flight, and then again before I land. That is why I always bring toothpaste or mouth wash, some facial wipes, and a travel sized deodorant or body spray.

For you ladies out there, on top of the bare necessities mentioned above, I always bring mascara (so I look slightly less dead after my flight), lip balm, neutral lipstick, and some light foundation or moisturizing BB cream.

TRIP TIP! Remember, you are allowed one quart sized bag of toiletries per person. And all of your liquids must be in travel size containers that are three ounces (88 milliliters) or less.

4. Entertainment

Be sure to bring along whatever makes you happy and can keep you entertained for a long period of time. Phones, iPads, Kindles, books, games, coloring books, whatever floats your boat! Bring it along and don’t let boredom steal the excitement of traveling from you!

Also note that it is never a good idea to stow any of your valuable electronics in your checked bag in case it gets lost or stolen, so you’ll want to have those with you anyways.

TRIP TIP! Remember to pack the chargers for all of your electronics! Your phone or iPad will be offering very little entertainment after a couple of hours pass and the batteries are running low. So don’t forget to bring your chargers/external battery packs along in your carry-on.

5. Snacks (of course!)

If you’re someone who gets hangry (like me), you will definitely want to have some snacks handy for the mid-flight munchies. Even if you’re only flying for a couple of hours, you will be so thankful that you packed a snack for when your tummy begins to get rumbly.

TRIP TIP! Pack snacks that are healthy and rich in protein! I love to pack healthy granola bars, nuts, a piece of fruit, as well as a salty snack (what is it about flying and needing salty snacks?).

6. A change of clothes

I always like to have a change of clothes handy if I’m going to be flying for more than a couple of hours. You will feel so refreshed being able to slip into some clean clothes after your flight, even if you were unable to sleep a wink the entire time.

TRIP TIP! If you are going to be flying into a country with more conservative clothing standards, be sure to take into consideration what is deemed appropriate so that you can choose your outfit accordingly.

7. A water bottle (or two!)

Always remember to pack a water bottle with you on your flight! This is critical, especially on long haul flights. The first time I flew internationally my flight was eighteen hours long and I hadn’t brought a water bottle—big mistake. The stewardess only brought water during meals and once with refreshments. I was parched the entire flight and ended up accidentally drinking an alcoholic cordial when the stewardess brought it by because I was so thirsty.

TRIP TIP! Since you can’t bring water through security, bring an empty bottle and fill it up at a water fountain or Starbucks once you’re through. Alternatively, some people suggest asking your stewardess to fill it up for you once you are in the air—but as this may be an inconvenience to her, I would suggest just filling it up at the airport after you’re through security.

8. The sleep necessities

These include, an eye mask, ear plugs, and your travel pillow. If you are a light sleeper you will definitely need these items if you plan on catching any winks on your flight. You are not guaranteed a peaceful or quiet flight that is free from infants crying in the seat behind you or that one person with his window cover up when everyone should be sleeping. So remember to bring sleep necessities so your flight can be easy and refreshing!

TRIP TIP! Seat selection does play an important part in making sure you get good sleep during your flight. Make sure you visit SeatGuru to see which seats on your plane are rated highly and which ones you should avoid.

9. A pair of comfy shoes

I always recommend wearing your bulkiest pair of shoes on international flights so that you don’t have to go through the ordeal of packing them. That said, I think you should also pack a smaller, more comfortable pair of shoes or slippers to wear mid-flight. This way your feet will stay warm, cozy, and you will be able to get up and use the bathroom without having to put your big shoes back on again.

TRIP TIP! If you do end up packing a pair of shoes in your checked bag, make sure you wrap them in a plastic bag to prevent dirt and germs from spreading to your clothes!

10. Your diary & a pen (of course!)

Eric and I both love to write on our long flights. It’s a really good way to capture the emotions as they rise and record what it feels like to leave something behind and head into the unknown. It’s also a really good way to pass the time, and in the future, you will be so glad you journaled about it.

TRIP TIP! If you’re a short story writer, international flights offer a plethora of character inspiration. All you need to do is observe the strangers around you. Find what sets each one apart from the rest. Where are they from? Where are they going? Why? If you look for it, there’s lots of inspiration to be had at 35,000 feet.


That wraps up my list of 10 things you should never fly without! Thank you so much for reading!

Have anything to add to this list? What are things that you need when you travel that I forgot to mention? Be sure to tell me in the comment section below!

If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to subscribe to Seattleites Abroad to get more travel inspiration in your life!


Hello! I’m a Pacific Northwest girl who loves rainy days, vanilla scented candles, writing, and travel. Originally I’m from Seattle (which is an awesome place that you should totally visit) but these days I’m living as an expat in South Korea where I spend my time volunteering at an elementary school and co-writing SeattleitesAbroad.com with my husband.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share!

14 thoughts on “10 Things You Should Never Fly Without”

  1. This post sure comes in handy for me before my flight in 2 weeks time. No 10 is good tip especially as I just started blogging recently. I always bring my laptop when I travel but having a diary might be better in some situation. Thanks for sharing, Grace.

  2. These tips are so helpful especially number 8, I’m a light sleeper and even though I tried to sleep on planes before, sometimes I just can, even though I was tired, but an eye mask and earplugs or headphones in my case help out a lot.
    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Thank you for reading Denisse! I’m so glad that you found my article useful 🙂 I can relate on being a light sleeper as well. It takes me forever to fall asleep when I’m flying and so tip number 8 is essential for me.
      I hope you’ll visit my blog again in the future!

  3. Love this post! I definitely need to use this as a reference point for my trips, there’s nothing worse than realising you’ve forgotten an essential once you’re at 37,000 feet!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement Caitlin! I’m so happy that you took the time to read my post and that you found it helpful. I hope you will check back occasionally to hear more from us here at Seattleites Abroad 🙂

  4. Great post! Just to add to #3 there are these cool deodorant wipes that you can get from any drug store . These would be great to include in your toiletries they make you feel so refreshed and they smell clean. The change in clothes also comes in handy just in case the airline looses your luggage. lol that happened to me once and I was so glad I had an extra sets of clothes and shoes in my carry on.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment Kayla! I will absolutely add those deodorant wipes to my carry on necessities next time I fly. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *