Carry-on Essentials For Not Feeling Like Crap When You Land

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Jet lag. Flight delays. Swollen ankles. (Do anyone else’s ankles swell like crazy?) I love arriving at a far away destination, but the process of actually getting there is never pretty.

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a lot of long haul flights. Getting anywhere from Australia is considered long haul, and getting to New York is almost as long as it gets.

When I’m travelling for a full 24 hours (or even just 4 hours) I make sure to bring a bag or backpack that I can keep under the seat in front of me and stock it with all the stuff I might want throughout the flight.

Maybe this will help the next time you’re planning what to pack in your carry-on, or maybe you’re just nosy like me and want to know what I’ve got going on in my nerdy backpack.

Here’s the stuff I need to stay happy, hydrated and (hopefully) well-rested.


  1. Big water bottle
    I’m talking 1.5 liter big. It’s got to be empty by the time I go through security, but I can always find a water fountain once I get in the terminal. I’ll fill it up throughout the flight — either going to the kitchen and asking the flight attendants to fill it up for me, or on some planes, they actually have water spouts for this kind of thing.
  2. Almond or peanut butter 
    A security-friendly serving of nut butter really helps if I suddenly get hungry at a weird time during the flight or during a layover. It’s sanity insurance, really.
  3. An apple or two
    Fresh fruit can sometimes be hard to find on planes and in airports. Combined with my almond butter, I’m winning at life.
  4. A travel-friendly salad
    This last trip back to New York I cleaned out the fridge and made a shredded kale salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, and roasted carrots topped with a tahini, garlic & lemon dressing. I made everything the day before and it was even better after marinating in the dressing overnight. I waited until my seat mates got their meals so they weren’t overpowered by my preference for garlic-y dressing.
    Side note: Ordering the vegan meal is probably the best option for getting any vegetables during the trip. 
  5. Snack bars with simple ingredients 
    I usually like a little something sweet after my main meal, but anything that comes with my in-flight food is typically full of weird binding agents and preservatives, so I try to bring homemade granola chunks or something simple like dates or a Larabar (ingredients: dates & cashews – that’s it).




  1. Baby wipes
    I use fragrance-free baby wipes instead of makeup remover wipes. They’re way cheaper, gentle on my skin, and very effective. They’re perfect for travelling too — if I need a bit of a refresh during the trip or before I land, they feel like a total luxury.
  2. Rose hip oil
    Super moisturizing and silky feeling — I apply it to my face after washing or using baby wipes. Pictured: Triology brand.
  3. Face wash
    Sometimes I just need to wash my face — it wakes me up and makes me feel clean. It can be a little tricky in a small plane bathroom, but this cleanser (pictured) by SW Basics of Brooklyn can be applied with a paper towel and quickly rinsed off — no soapy suds. And it makes my skin feel great.
  4. Face cream that can double as hand cream
    First of all, “this bad boy don’t play” is definitely the best tagline for a beauty product ever. This moisturizer, also by SW Basics of Brooklyn (pictured), is made from organic shea butter, coconut oil and olive oil and great for heavy duty moisturizing – whether it’s on my face, body or hands.
  5. Toothbrush (and mini toothpaste)
    Self explanatory, right?



  1. Sleep mask
    Block out those lights and actually (maybe) get some sleep. (Melatonin helps too.)
  2. Noise-cancelling headphones
    Those throw-away pairs just don’t do the job when there’s a rambunctious 2-year-old across the aisle.
  3. Glasses
    I usually take out my contacts right when I get on the plane so I can fall asleep whenever.
  4. Notebook & pen
    For ideas, journaling and to-do lists that I might be inspired to write during the trip. You’ll also need the pen to fill out any landing documents.
  5. Phone with podcasts downloaded
    When I need a break from the in-flight entertainment and feel too weird and travel vortex-y to read, podcasts are where it’s at. They’re also great during layovers where you’re so exhausted that you actually can’t wait to get back in your tiny aisle seat to fall into an awkward open-mouthed sleep next to stranger. My favorites include: One Part Podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You, Call Your Girlfriend & Savage Lovecast.


What do you bring on flights to make them semi-enjoyable? I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

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