7 Carry-On Packing Tips For A Comfortable Flight

“Work Tip: Stand up.  Stretch.  Take a walk.  Go to the airport.  Get on a plane.  Never return.” -Mary Engelbreit

There is nothing more exciting for a traveler than settling into the seat on a plane and anticipating the adventure ahead.  For me, part of that adventure starts at my favorite window seat. The keyword there though is adventure, isn’t it? I think we all agree that travel by plane is always an adventure; sometimes good, and sometimes, not-so-great.  

Over the years, I have found ways to make the less-than-romantic parts of flying as comfortable as I can make for myself and my husband and while this is not meant to be an all-encompassing list of everything that I have stashed in my carry-on, I hope that these 7 tips are helpful as you prepare to stay seated, with your seatbelt securely fastened.

Have everything you need at your fingertips

Packing my carry-on often involves quite a bit of consideration each time I fly, with much of that thought directed to what I need as we make our way through airports and while we are in the air. I have discovered that the best option for me is to pack a lightweight accessory bag with everything I will want or need during the actual flight. As we are about to board, I take it out and keep it with me before I store my carry-on in the overhead. This ensures that I’m quick to settle into my seat, I have all my gear at my fingertips, and I’m ready to fly!

This bag has most, if not all of the gear in this blog but I also include any medication that I might need in case a headache pops up or indigestion flares from that meal we inhaled during a layover. In the end, I hope to have a small survival kit with me in my seat.

Finally, if you are someone that wants a paper boarding pass but you have a habit of putting it in a spot that you think you’ll remember but then you don’t, this is a terrific spot to assign to your boarding pass so you are sure not to lose it.

Of course, you’ll need to consider what you will want to keep it close at hand for your flight.

My in-flight gear goes into my favorite accessory bag so I have what I need in hand and don’t have to dig around in my carry-on while we fly. I found this one on the Etsy shop, MollyMooJessicaToo.
All my in-flight gear fits nicely! Let’s go!

Rest on the plane, if you can

Our trip to Scotland was wonderful but by the time we boarded our very early morning flight for home, I was exhausted. Chronically ill, I struggle most when I am not rested so by the time we finally boarded, it took me no time to get settled and comfortable. I was so tired, that I don’t remember pushing back from the terminal, the safety demonstration (sorry to our flight attendants!), taking off, and at least half of the flight!

I know that there may be some of you who just can’t sleep on a plane but resting during a flight can be vital for your body and well-being as you travel. If you’ve scheduled yourself for an early flight like ours, or you are on a long-haul flight and you need to rest while you fly, packing some essentials to help you rest can be a good idea. The number one piece of gear I never leave home without when I travel is a good set of earplugs. When we boarded our early flight home from Scotland I immediately reached into my handy bag of gear and popped in my earplugs, falling fast asleep. My ever-present earplugs block engine noise and any conversations going on around me, allowing me to close my eyes and rest. For some travelers, another option is to invest in noise-canceling headphones but anything that helps to block noise is a great idea.

Some travelers also pack a travel pillow, which is a great idea, but my husband and I have never managed to find one that fits our travel style and we have only successfully managed to leave it behind on an airport shuttle! My travel pillow wish list includes a comfortable pillow that takes up very little carry-on space and does not need to be carried separately. So far, no luck in finding this magical pillow! I’m open to any suggestions you might have though!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

When you can’t control the temperature

I am always cold and airports are notoriously arctic regardless of the temperatures outside. I have also found myself sitting in subzero temperatures on a plane, specifically in an emergency exit row and sometimes in my beloved window seat. Sitting close to a plane window or door can be bone-chilling. To cope at the airport and on the plane, I recommend equipping your carry-on with a light jacket, blanket, or scarf to make sure that you can be more comfortable.

Also, staying warm and comfortable goes hand in hand with resting during your flight. I don’t know about you, but I can’t sleep if I’m cold. I know that some travelers wear a hoodie for warmth and to lend some cocoon-like, bedtime ambiance so they can sleep. If you’re cold-natured, like me, it’s a great idea to wear your source of warmth onto the plane, if you can!

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Stay hydrated

The air on a plane is very dry so staying hydrated is a must.  Aside from drinking plenty of water, I always pack a soothing lip balm for my lips, hand lotion for my hands, and saline for my eyes and even my nose to ensure that I stay comfortable, especially on long flights.  Just a reminder, make sure that your gear is within any limits for liquids or gels allowed by security points. 

Have a nosh

On a very memorable travel day with my husband, we flew to California on a flight that did not provide more than a small snack, and in combination with our flight times, we managed to miss a couple of meals. Unfortunately, we were not prepared and by the time we arrived, we both had terrible headaches that made for a difficult last leg of our day’s travel. Since then, I have ensured that we don’t have a repeat of that experience.

Depending on the duration of your flight, you may need to consider that the airline will not provide a snack, meal, or these days, even a drink.  You may also want to consider the time of day you will be flying and layover lengths. Be prepared.  One recommendation would be to travel with an empty water bottle that you can fill once you have cleared the security check. Also, grabbing a beverage in the terminal ensures that a beverage is always within reach.  Food inside an airline terminal can be pricey or limited so, when possible, I pack my favorite nibbles in my carry-on.  I often ensure that these snacks are in unopened packaging or in clear zip-topped bags to be sure there is no pushback at security.  I love to bring along my favorite trail mix, but other ideas could include cookies, crackers, gum, or hard candies.  Of course, grabbing a quick snack or meal during a layover is always an option, if you have the time.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Stay well and germ-free

It is always a good idea to carry hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes when traveling. I keep these vital pieces of travel gear in my carry-on, in my purse, and I have a supply in my suitcase for the duration of the trip and a few to get us home.


If I don’t need to take a nap, I always make sure to have a way to stay occupied while I fly.  I always pack a set of earbuds that I can use to watch a movie if the airline has a good entertainment system (some airlines will give or sell headphones to you, but I prefer my own).  Otherwise, my iPad Mini travels fully loaded with a book to read, movies to watch, and games to play.  Some travelers go old school and take an actual book or newspaper. Still, other travelers carry a laptop to make the flight time productive.  Consider how you can supply your carry-on with entertainment that can help you pass the time. 

I hope that my tips for your carry-on help you to have a comfortable and pleasant flight. 

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