The essentials you need to pack for a long-haul flight

people on long haul flight

Do you have a long-haul flight coming up? We’ve gathered together all the essentials you’ll need for your flight in one place, and made a helpful printable checklist for you (scroll to the bottom for the free download). This is everything you’ll need to make your trip a breeze and arrive fresh at your destination!

Flight essentials

Hydration

An empty water bottle

Take an empty water bottle through security and fill it up before you get on the plane. Airlines usually offer bottled water in little cups on long haul flights but those little cups are only 150mls at a time. You need more to stay hydrated on a super-long flight. We recommend you check out our favourite water bottles, but if we have to pick just one for travel, it would be the Klean Kanteen.

A rich moisturiser

The dry cabin air takes it’s effects pretty soon after take off. We like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and you can use it on your lips, face and hands and it adds a thick protective layer to your skin to avoid moisture being sucked out from your skin.

Saline Spray

Not the most glamorous, but definitely a must-have for long haul flights, is saline spray. Use it to keep your nasal passages moist. Not only does this keep your breathing comfortable, but keeping your mucus membranes moist reduces your chances of catching germs while on the plane.

Hyaluronic Acid Sheet Mask

This one isn’t strictly essential, but if you have twelve or more hours to kill, it makes sense to apply a super hydrating mask and let that liquid goodness sink into your skin while you watch the latest movie.

Sleep

Eye Mask

Get yourself an eye mask designed with space for your eyes for extra comfort. This is an absolute essential, as you can’t control your neighbour using their reading light!

Ear Plugs

Airline-provided ear plugs are not comfy – set yourself up with ear plugs designed especially for softness. We like Mack’s ear plugs for their super-soft comfort.

Inflatable Pillow

We prefer an inflatable pillow because:

  1. They can be inflated as much or as little as you like, so they can mould to the shape of your seat, or whatever else you’re leaning against.
  2. They deflate completely so they take up barely any room and weigh almost nothing. This means you can put it away when you land and not have to be one of those people wearing their chunky neck pillow all around the airport.

Order a window seat

For the least sleep disruption in your flight, book a window seat!

Melatonin

Take melatonin if you are trying to shift your body clock. One milligram is all you need- just take it about thirty minutes before you want to go to sleep. It will also help you get back to sleep quickly if you are awoken during the flight.

Sleeping Pills?

Sleeping pills aren’t necessarily flight essentials. They sedate you into a slumber that is good for making the time pass but the quality of the slumber is not the same as sleep. So, if you want the restorative effects of sleep, skip the sleeping pills. If you just want the time to pass, take them, but be prepared to be exhausted when you arrive at your destination!

Electronics

Noise cancelling headphones

Put these lifesavers on as soon as you can after entering the airport to keep you in a zen headspace. The noise cancelling function drowns out all the hideous noises in the airport – gate announcements with harsh flight attendant voices, clattering bags, random loud beeping and people talking. It’s amazing how tiring that stressful background noise is, and it’s not a great way to begin your journey. There are a range of options out there but the best noise cancelling headphones are made by Bose. If you don’t have a set already, get the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and enjoy the peace and quiet!

Your phone, with these essential apps downloaded

iPhone 11
Need a new phone for travel? Try the iPhone 11
  • Two playlists downloaded. The first should be a calming playlist that you can play when you want to rest but can’t sleep. The second should be a fun playlist with your favourite tunes to boost your mood, and that you can play when you’re feeling awake and excited.
  • Local Google maps ready for offline use. Follow these instructions if you’re unsure how to do it.
  • Google Translate, if you can’t speak the local language at your destination. This app is genuinely genius, you just point your camera and it instantly translates. You can download the language too for offline use.
  • The local ride-share app. Uber is available in many countries, but some have locally-owned apps, like Zoomy in New Zealand or Cabify in Spain.

A power bank and USB charging cable/s for your devices

We recommend you take a power bank on your trip. Phones are the essential trip item so running out of battery is not an option! You’ll have to take your power bank in your carry on because it’s a massive battery (airline rules).

Make sure you also have a USB cable with plugs that match all your devices. You can get a sweet little multi USB cable that will charge micro-USB, lightning and USB-C devices simultaneously.

Clothing

Compression Socks

Compression socks are essential for flights, especially for fliers at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT): women using contraceptive pills, obese people, pregnant women or if you’ve had serious medical conditions (like stroke, cancer etc). If you want to learn more about DVT, and how to prevent it, check out the NHS website.

Tips for using your socks:

  • One flight only? Put your socks on directly against your skin then put the airline-provided socks or a spare pair of socks on top (to keep your compression socks clean from the dirty aircraft floor)
  • Two flights? For 24 hours of flying, layer up. Add a layer of regular socks in between the compression socks and your foot. On the second flight, replace the sock layer closest to your foot and you will feel fresh again on your second flight. (Of course, you could take two pairs of compression socks, and that’s up to you if you have the spare luggage space).

Wear socks and shoes

Many airports still require you to remove your shoes for security. Don’t get caught out having to walk on the sticky airport floor with your bare feet and picking up all the foot germs/sweat of travellers who have walked the floor before you.

Trousers you can move around easily in

Save your jeans and be comfortable for your long haul flight in leg wear you can stretch in.

comfy pants for flying are essential
The Lululemon Luxtreme fabric is comfy and light for travelling

Lululemon makes a range of comfy leggings that can look cool when paired with a long light knit or oversized sweater and sneakers. Try the Super High Rise Wunder Under leggings in black.

comfy pants for flying are essential
These Alala joggers are so fresh!

If leggings aren’t your style, invest in some soft and cosy joggers. With drawstring waistband and little pockets, joggers feel like loungewear but still look stylish out in public. These navy joggers by Alala are the perfect mix of comfort and style, with nice touches like the zips on the pockets and flattering ribbed taping down the side of the leg. Pair these with sneakers for a fresh look.

Pack a full change of clothing

It’s not unusual for a checked bag to get lost, so there’s a possibility you could be without your bags for a day or two when you arrive. Mitigate this risk by packing an outfit that you plan to wear on the first day of your trip plus two sets of undergarments (a swimsuit could double as undergarments if you are low on space). This is also helpful in case of an unexpected spill during your journey.

General

  • Antibacterial wipes. Good for wiping down tray tables and seat arms (notoriously dirty) and also great if you’re getting sweaty (the antibacterial properties clean away the smell from sweat, so you can use these on your armpits, between your toes or anywhere else that needs freshening up).
  • Hand sanitiser. An absolute flight essential! Make sure it’s less than 100ml!
  • Tissues. The airplane tissues are rough on the nose.
  • Pen and notebook. For filling in forms and for taking time to think, reflect and plan.
  • Dedicated pouch or wallet for your passport and tickets with RFID protection.
  • Makeup. If you must, all you need is your blush and mascara, and concealer if you have a distressing blemish.
  • Mouthwash and floss. You can also pack a toothbrush and toothpaste if you like.
  • Stick deodorant and a light fragrance. Of course, you could just nab a spritz at duty free pre- and post-flight!
  • Finally, pack all your essential medical items (prescriptions, contraception, optical and dental needs etc.). If your checked luggage is delayed or lost, you’ll be glad to have these.

What to pack all your essentials in – our pick of the best luggage

Small 4-wheeled hard shell suitcase

Put your clothing and other items that you don’t need with you in your seat into this bag. Hard shell cases are great for carry on as they will protect your contents from being squashed by other bags in the cabin’s overhead lockers. You definitely want four wheels so you can just gently push the bag along when you’re waiting in queues, rather than still carrying some of the weight with a two-wheeled bag.

a functional wheely bag - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
The American Tourister Bon Air is affordable and has the necessary compartments for an easy flight
the most glam wheely bag - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
The Tumi Tegra Lite Max is a beautiful piece of luggage and has many special features

Small “personal item” bag

This item needs to be big enough to fit all your in-seat flight essentials but small enough to fit under the seat in front. Try a backpack or tote bag that has:

  1. A handle that can slide over the extendable handle of your wheeled bag. This way you don’t have to carry anything in the airport, and just glide your belongings along with you in queues for security and passport control.
  2. A zipped opening, so nothing will fall out during the flight. You’ll likely keep this bag under the seat in front of you and it’s easy to lose items if your bag doesn’t have a zip top.

Backpacks

great backpack - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
This gorgeous Tumi backpack fits a 15″ laptop and has plenty of purpose-built pockets. The bag also has a specially designed strap for attaching to wheeled luggage.
great backpack - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
This backpack by Kathmandu can comfortably fit a 15″ laptop, noise cancelling headphones, a DSLR and small accessories. You can attach the bag to your wheeled bag with the side handle.

Totes

cute tote - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
The Longchamp Le Pliage tote doesn’t have a strap to attach to luggage but the shoulder straps are long enough for the purpose. The advantage of this tote is that it is super lightweight and that it folds down to a very small size.
cute tote - add it to your packing list of flight essentials
The Tumi Mauren Tote has special compartments for a 13″ laptop and tablet as well as water bottle and a hidden phone pocket. The tote also has the strap on the back to attach to wheeled luggage.

Packing cells

Use packing cells in both your wheeled suitcase and your personal item to keep similar essentials (or items used for one purpose, like sleeping) together.

packing cubes - add them to your packing list of flight essentials
Packing cell by Kathmandu. Also available is a cell for footwear.

Get our free printable checklist!

Click the download button below to download our checklist. There’s also space for you to add your own notes on the side for any other items you need to take.

Where will you travel?

Now you have everything you need to get to your destination, check out our travel guides to some of our favourite destinations!

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