Long flights and layovers can be stressful, especially in unfamiliar places or busy airports. A well-packed carry on bag is the key to making both the airport and in-flight experience a breeze. Pack these must haves and be prepared for anything that’s thrown at you, whether it’s screaming children or lost luggage.

The first step to successfully packing your carry on is choosing a quality bag that suits your needs. Our guide to the best carry on luggage of 2020 can help you decide on the perfect bag for your travels. Whatever kind of carry on bag you’re packing, it’s essential to be able to find exactly what you need as easily as possible. But what do you need? Here are your absolute must-haves for carry on.


The essentials

Your carry on should contain your essentials, plus some extras to make the flight more comfortable. This means you should always keep your chargers (and adaptor if necessary), phone, important documents, and bank cards with you instead of checking them in.  If something happens to your luggage you’ll be thankful for these key items while you wait to be reunited with your wardrobe.

Portable power bank and chargers

Bringing a portable power bank minimizes the need to search desperately for one of the elusive airport charging points. Some airports even make you pay to charge your devices! Remember to pack the chargers for your phone plus any device you’ll be using on the plane. A durable charging cable like a lightning cable is a great choice for travel.

Travel adaptor 

Don’t leave this one in your suitcase! While many planes now have USB charging points, some airports only have wall outlets. Make sure you’re charged up at all times by including a travel adaptor for your destination country in your carry on.

Travel wallet

Consider a travel wallet to hold your cards, cash, and documents like tickets and passports. Travel wallets are less bulky than a regular wallet so they’re a good choice for successful carry on packing.

Eye mask, earplugs, and noise-cancelling headphones

Long flights aren’t always peaceful experiences. Take an eye mask to block out your neighbor’s bright overhead light and ensure a restful sleep. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones are essential for a tranquil flight. No more trying to ignore crying children or obnoxious hen’s parties – you’re free to listen to music, read a book, or do some work without getting a headache.

Travel pillow

A travel pillow makes a world of difference to a long flight. Don’t write off bringing one on board, as it’s easy to find affordable travel pillows that take up minimal space. Foldable and inflatable travel pillows make it easy to save space in your bag while letting you fly in ultimate comfort. 


A tablet is a good choice for keeping your carry on luggage light. As a multipurpose tool, it can be used as an e-reader, for watching films or television, for doodling, or for getting some work done. You’ll want to pack a few different options for entertainment, so if a tablet isn’t for you, consider bringing something to read, something to listen to, and something to do. 

A hoodie or scarf

Sitting for long periods of time slows down your circulation, making you feel cold much more easily. Combined with the air conditioning in planes, you’ll be thankful you brought along something cozy! A hoodie is a great idea, while a large scarf can be transformed into a blanket.

Compression socks

These aren’t just for older folk! Compression socks serve a dual purpose here: improving your circulation but also keeping your feet toasty in the chilly airplane cabin.

A change of clothes

Mistakes happen. If you get separated from your luggage for a few days, you needn’t go through it in the same clothes you flew in. At the very least, pack a pair of clean socks and underwear and a clean shirt. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it an not have it!


No need to go wild here, just bring what you need. While your checked luggage can hold hair care, soap, and cosmetics, it’s wise to pop your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, and a moisturizer in with your carry on. Taking a moment to brush your teeth or wash your face makes a long flight so much more comfortable!


Hand cream, face moisturizer, and lip balm are lifesavers in the drying air of a plane. If you can find a multi-purpose product and cut down the bulk (shea butter is a good alternative), it’s even better. Make sure to hydrate from the inside by drinking plenty of water.

Hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes

You never know who’s touched that seat or tray table before you did. Stay healthy by bringing antibacterial wipes and wiping down surfaces like the tray table and your seat arms. Travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer are perfect to pop in your carry on. Sanitize after washing your hands in the bathroom and before eating to ensure you’re as safe as possible. 

Travel pouch

A small zipped bag or pouch is a nifty way to avoid having to stand up and rifle through the overhead. Store it in your seat pocket and you can easily access your essential items (or snacks).


While airplane food isn’t as notoriously bad as it once was, it can still leave a lot to be desired. Make sure you have a few snacks with you to curb hunger between meals. Our top choices are nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, or muesli bars.

A pen

Filling in landing cards is much easier when you don’t have to ask someone else for a pen. Keep one handy in your carry on to speed up the process at passport control or the border.

Take advantage of a layover to break out and stretch your legs by stashing your luggage with Nannybag!