After taking multiple long-haul and short-haul flights in 2019, I have decided to make a definitive list of the carry-on items essential to having a good flight in 2020. I have had my fair share of amazing flights and crappy flights over the years and am constantly updating my plane plan. I have found that the more prepared I am for the type of trip I am taking, the better the flight goes. Even so, some things are out of my control, so I try to plan for those as best I can. The 8 essential items on the list below have never failed me before, and have saved me more times than I can count. I hope they can help you too.
I used to think having an eye mask wasn’t essential even if I was planning to sleep on the flight. Then, on a the overnight flight from Dallas to London, Conor was seated in the middle seat directly below the glaring light of the seatbelt sign. Because it was such a turbulent flight, the seatbelt sign was on for the majority of the flight, making it impossible for him to get any sleep. An absolute nightmare. Since not all planes are built the same, it would be a good idea to pack an eye mask just in case you find yourself in a situation like this. Or if your seat partner decides to read through the night with their light on. Or if you’re trying to adjust to your destination’s time zone and need to sleep while the plane is still lit. There are a variety of reasons why an eye mask is essential. So in 2020, I will be packing one for every trip.
Another item that most people pack, but those who don’t really regret. If you are tight on space, there are inflatable neck pillows – my brother gifted my sisters and me Hoodies Pillows for Christmas one year, an inflatable neck pillow with a hood, thank you Shark Tank. When not using it to sleep, I sometimes use it to cushion my back or I’ll sit on it for extra cushion in the not so comfy Economy seats. Either way, I have come to swear by neck pillows.
Planes are like movie theatres – they are always colder than you think they are going to be. Planes are always boiling when you get on, but within the first hour they are freezing. For this reason, I always wear layers, whether is a sweatshirt or cardigan, there is always something to put on or take off. This could also be important if the destination you are flying to has a different climate from your origin. The worst is flying from San Diego in shorts and a t-shirt to Ohio in the winter. Or vice versa, so be prepared.
I cannot stress this enough, I love my 4-wheel carry-on suitcase. I have never been a duffle bag flyer, my shoulders could not handle it. Two-wheeled luggage is fine, until you’ve experienced 4-wheeled luggage. The difference is in control and movement. 4-wheels allows you to keep your suitcase close, no one tripping over it behind you. And it allows you to move quickly in crowded airports (a must if you’ve ever been in a customs line). It also requires practically no effort to move at all, even better. If you’re in the market for new luggage, definitely go with 4-wheeled luggage.
Reusable Water Bottle
Flying dehydrates you, a lot. This causes worse jet lag symptoms. And yet, airlines only serve you like 4oz of water at a time. And I kind of feel like an asshole asking for the entire litre bottle of water from the flight attendant. So, I always bring a reusable water bottle with me. Obviously it needs to be empty to get through security. After that, you can fill it up at a water fountain or any airport restaurant. Once I’m on the plane, I also order water from the flight attendants whenever I can and make sure to finish my bottle before we land. I refill it at the next airport. This has also saved me from buying large plastic water bottles at the airport – saving money and the environment. Reusable water bottles are essential to offset jet lag and stay hydrated.
I ALWAYS bring a book on flights, even if I think I won’t read it because I’ll be watching movies or sleeping. I felt redeemed in my choice on my last flight from London to San Francisco when my in-flight entertainment system didn’t work for the entire ten-hour flight. I was also landing in the early evening so I didn’t want to sleep in order to start resetting my body clock. Luckily I had my book. Thank God for that book or I would’ve have literally gone crazy. It got me through five hours of the flight (a nap, yoga, and some Sudoku got me through the rest). Thus, having a book is a 2020 carry-on essential.
Personally, I don’t suffer from motion sickness due to turbulence, but I have flown with friends and family that do, or who can’t sleep because of turbulence. I have found that Dramamine (the original kind that makes you drowsy) works best on long flights. Because it causes drowsiness, it not only helps with the turbulence but also with falling asleep. I wouldn’t recommend for flights shorter than 4 hours because you could feel groggy from it (there are non-drowsy options for motion sickness), but for long flights definitely.
These are essential to any flight. Most planes will give out headphones that work for their entertainment system, but you should bring your own headphones that work for your entertainment, such as a phone or iPod. Usually I’ll wear headphones while I sleep with no music because they act as a noise blocker (alternatively, you could pack ear plugs). But also, when I’ve run out of things to do, listening to music helps pass the time (back to the London to SFO flight, I passed a couple hours listening to Hamilton). Usually though (and regrettably), headphones are always the first thing I forget to pack, leaving them on the counter before I leave. For this reason, they have made my 2020 carry-on essentials list and my resolution is to not forget them.
- Plan your carry-on items before packing.
- Adapt to how much luggage you’ll be taking.
- Better to be prepared than bored for a ten hour flight.
Bonus: Wake Up Essentials Kit
This one is especially for long-haul flights. After spending 8+ hours on a plane, I feel really gross, from my skin to my hair to my clothes. Because of this, I developed my own wake-up essentials kit. In it I pack face wipes, travel size moisturiser (important to keep your skin hydrated), CC cream (to give me color), mascara, a travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste set, and a comb. I also pack deodorant and an extra pair of undies. I use the kit either on the plane before we land or in the bathroom in baggage claim. It helps me to feel refreshed and off to a good start on any vacation. I usually only need it for long-haul flights, but I pack a version of it for short flights as well. It will continue to be a 2020 travel essential.