After racking up 110,000km in air miles in 2018 we both figured it was about time we shared our list of long flight essentials. This includes what to bring and what to wear on a long flight. This article is appropriate for anyone of any age, whether you’re travelling as a solo traveller in economy or a family in first class.
Everything in this list of long flight essentials has been tried and tested by us multiple times. In most cases, we’ve bought multiple different products to find the best one of the bunch (because there’s now about 4,000 different water bottles to choose from). As a result, we’ve spent thousands of pounds, and wasted hundreds of hours, been through a couple of leaks, failed batteries and broken zips… all so you don’t have to.
So, to kick things off let’s talk about what long flight essentials you need to bring with you onto the plane. I’ve tried to keep this to a minimum after all many of us now travel ‘hand luggage only’ and having travelled to Thailand for 2 weeks with just 5kg hand luggage each I’d like to think we’re pros at minimalist travelling.
That said, all of these items are great, practical items to have during your trip so you won’t be wasting any space bringing them onto the plane.
Backpack / Mini Suitcase
In 2018, we went through four backpacks to find ‘the perfect backpack’. Each one has a story to tell of the miles it’s travelled, but more importantly, we have stories to tell of the reasons why each one never made it into 2019 and beyond.
We finished 2018 each with a backpack from the Craghoppers range. We both found 22l to be the most optimal size for both short-haul and long-haul travel. For us the key elements of ‘the perfect backpack’ are listed below in the order of importance;
- Laptop protection (good laptop protection eliminated the need for us to purchase, and bring a laptop case)
- Drinks holder
- Adjustments (can you make it bigger / smaller)
These key elements are likely to vary depending on your travel needs, however, they are the perfect starting point when it comes to finding the right backpack for you.
Right now, we opt to always travel with a backpack (and sometimes an additional rucksack depending on location and requirements) and not a mini-suitcase. We find the whole mini-suitcase thing frustrating, impractical and just damn right annoying. That said, if mini-suitcases are your thing then our friends over at YTravel have made a pretty epic, super detailed post on finding the right suitcase for you.
Passport & Travel Documents
The numbered item on your list of long flight essentials is going to be your passport and travel documents. We opt to get the travel documents on our smartphones where possible. Most airlines these days have a mobile application that allows you to get the boarding card directly onto your smartphone (I trust I won’t lose or forget my phone far more than I would a piece of paper).
However, if you’re going to opt for doing this be sure you’re phone is fully charged and that you have a power bank for topping up your phone’s battery as and when you might need it.
If you are planning on only using paper documents then you might consider a document holder. If you are planning on only using paper documents then you might consider a document holder. We personally don’t use these but I know lots of people who are super conscious about travel documents like us who do.
You’ll find most of these document holders have a section for your passports, another for your boarding cards, and then a couple of extra areas for bank cards, travel insurance cards etc.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that the best thing to drink on a plane is water. In fact, doctors suggest that you should drink 250ml of water for every hour you’re flying in order to stay fully hydrated.
Water bottles are great, not just as one of your long flight essentials but in general during any trip away from home. They minimise the cost of purchasing water, prevent plastic wastage and on a flight can stop you from having to ask for ‘another’ cup of water every 20 minutes.
However, with so many water bottles to choose from finding the right bottle for your needs can be a challenge. Here are some of the water bottles we’ve used as travellers, that might help you make an informed decision;
Since there launch in 2010, Chilly’s has quickly become a premier brand of drinks bottles. These leak-proof stainless steel bottles can keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours and warm for up to 12 hours.
We love the fact they are stainless steel and come with just a screw top lid as this makes cleaning them easy and quickly minimises the risk of mould (something pretty common in plastic water bottles). The bottles come in a variety of different designs so you can be sure to find one that best suits your personality.
We were first attracted to the Valourgo water bottles the Valourgo water bottles due to their collapsible technology. This meant that when we weren’t using them we could fold them up super small and stuff them into our backpacks. Better yet, these water bottles were super affordable – especially compared to some of the other branded water bottles we’d purchased.
However, we quickly found that the execution of such a style can have it’s drawbacks and the plastic quickly damages and breaks.
When we first set out on our travel adventures I used the CamelBak Eddy water bottle. CamelBak is a pretty premium name in the water bottle industry, however, it’s was with this water bottle that I first experienced mould.
The suction cap at the top of the bottle grew mould inside of it within 2 weeks. Since then the cap needed replacing pretty much every week, the cost quickly defeated the object of the bottle and despite the replacement, the whole bottle never felt entirely clean.
If you’re looking at a list of long flight essentials probably means you’re going to need to fill out some kind of visa, landing card etc. upon the arrival at your destination.
Having a pen available simply means that you can fill these forms out at your leisure. It’s likely to save you time as the flight attendants will have a limited supply of pens, and should you miss out you’ll have to wait until you land and then fill out the form prior to entering arrivals.
There’s the basic medicine as part of your general first aid kit that I’d recommend bringing as part of your long flight essentials, these include;
- Antidiarrheal (yay!)
- Antihistamine tablets
Then, of course, there’s any personal and more specific medication you might require both on the flight and during your trip. We’d also suggest packing the prescription forms (if you have them) just to prove the medicine is yours for personal use.
I always recommend packing medicine into a carry on rather than putting it into the hold – even if you have a bag in the hold, just in case your suitcase gets left behind. An if you’re like me and take a lot of pills then you might want to consider getting a small weekly pill organiser so you can be sure that you’re keeping up to all your medication.
Urgh! I never get dry lips… Like ever… except for you know those 20 times I year I just happen to be sitting on an aeroplane. I’m not sure what happens – well I am, it’s due to the air and all that jazz. Sitting with dry lips is a killer, like seriously, and trying to fix the problem without any kind of lip balm is going to ruin any future holiday snaps.
So, bring lip balm. It’s one of those things you can’t really share with people so you can’t count on someone else in your party has one. Luckily, I’ve found these keyring style lip balms perfect. Now I never forget a lip balm as it’s always attached to my backpack.
Whether you’re planning on using your mobile phone as a boarding card or not, a portable mobile phone/electronics charger is ALWAYS a good idea. Once again these items should always go in your hand luggage even if you do have a bag in the hold as they are made from lithium-ion batteries which can catch fire easily.
Alongside the charger itself, you’re also going to need your cables. Specifically a micro USB for charging the portable charger and other micro USB devices and occasionally a lightning cable for Apple products including iPhones and iPads.
Whether it’s watching films on the plane or listening to podcasts on a long bus journey, headphones are essential when it comes to travelling. There something Helen and I invest in heavily now that we use the time on a long haul flight to work (leaving us with more time to explore our destination when we arrive)
Pro Tip: We also use our headphones as earplugs/ear defenders when staying in a hostel. Noise cancellation ones work perfectly and save you having to travel with earplugs and headphones.
If you’re travelling in a pair, then consider packing a headphone splitter. These tiny little electronic gadgets are super powerful enabling you to split the audio through two (or more) sets of headphones. Helen and I use ours when we’re watching the same show together. It allows us to watch from just one device and maximise our battery life.
After all, you don’t want to be that one couple that’s decided to listen to the TV show on loud together in the quiet coach of a train do you?
For many, the camera on a smartphone is enough to take high-quality photos. However, we do a lot of photography and even more filming so for us a camera is essential. We currently shoot with the Canon GX7 Mark II and the Canon 600D with a 128GB SD card in each.
The Canon G7X Mark II comes without a case as we’ve pretty much got it in our hand all the time. However, we do have a slimline case for the 600D just to protect against any knocks. What’s great about this is that the camera bag usually goes as a personal item alongside the slightly larger bag with our travel goods in.
Considering this list is supposed to be ‘Long Haul Travel Essentials’ you might think a travel pillow is a little far-fetched, a little too luxury. Especially given the fact you’re provided with a free small pillow on most long haul flights (even economy) but honestly, travelling with a travel pillow has CHANGED MY LIFE.
Okay, maybe a slight over exaggeration but believe me when I say that a travel pillow 100% deserves to be on this list. We have this tiny little inflatable one and it works a treat. Providing neck support and an additional pillow as and when you might need it (I’m talking to you, hostels with really lacklustre pillows)
I never really thought much of eye masks, but honestly… I wouldn’t travel without one ever again. Once again, these are dual purpose. Great for blocking out the light on the plane but also in shared accommodation during your trip.
A great eye mask doesn’t have to be stylish or expensive. In fact, you can pick one up for just a couple of pounds.
If you’re planning on travelling light then a long-haul flight is probably going to require you to bring eBooks instead of the real thing. eBooks are great because you can pack 100, even 1,000 books onto the smartphone or iPad you’d be bringing with you anyway.
One essential item for a long haul flight for us is an eBook telling us all about the destination we’re visiting. There’s nothing more exciting than reading about the destination on the plane and planning all the things you’re going to do during your visit.
For the most affordable and extensive range of eBooks, we recommend an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription that works on all smartphone devices and the Amazon Kindles. Use our link and you even get a 30-day free trial of the service.
I never really thought much of compression socks, I figured they were just for old people… of course, when you’re sat in A&E with a blood clot you quickly realise that you should have probably taken the untrendy plane socks a little more seriously.
Now, for the sake of my health (and to avoid jeopardising my trip with a trip to a hospital), I always travel with a pair of compression socks a pair of compression socks.
Antibacterial Wipes / Hand Sanitiser
Aeroplanes are dirty, really dirty. Even though the plane is cleaned, there can be up to eight times the number of germs on the seat back tray as there can be on the handle of the toilet flush in the cabin toilets (nice!)
Not only is this great to help prevent us from catching anything during our long haul flight, but it’s also great to have during our trip before eating etc. Again, this is a really affordable, small item that can pack easily into your hand luggage and make a huge impact on the general wellbeing of your body during your trip.
For everything from clearing up a spilt drink to blowing your nose, a pack of tissues is once again an affordable necessity when it comes to our long haul flight essentials. While it’s not the end of the world if you forget this item (unlike your passport or travel documents) they are super convenient to have when you’re in a situation you need them.
First Aid Kit
We always travel with a first aid kit, and because the majority of the time we travel hand luggage only, we’re often travelling with our first aid kit in our backpack. Since then we’ve found that we use this first aid kit in the airport and on a long haul flight a lot.
We therefore always recommend packing your first aid kit into your hand luggage for a long haul flight. Just be sure it doesn’t contain anything that’s not permitted on the aircraft.
Because there’s nothing worse than feeling like you smell on an aeroplane and being able to do nothing about it we suggest a solid deodorant. Not only do these last forever, but they are also super environmentally friendly and don’t leak.
Toothbrush / Toothpaste
Because some flights are so long you should really brush your teeth. If you don’t like the idea of brushing your teeth on the plane or in the airport then a Fuzzy Brush is a great alternative.