Carry-On Basics: Travel Essentials You Should Have in Your Carry-On

Depending on the destination, checking in at least one other suitcase as well as a carry-on is still the norm among most travellers due to the stress that comes with bringing just hand luggage for a trip.

There's frequently some stress involved in boarding the plane early to make sure you get the space you need in the overhead bin above your plane seat. However, you do enjoy savings with just a carry-on because you don’t need to pay a baggage fee. Plus, you can also leave the airport terminal earlier when you don't have to wait for baggage claim.

Whether you support the "carry-on culture" or not, there are some items you definitely have to pack in your hand luggage to make your time on the plane not just bearable, but even enjoyable and relaxing.

Sleep Gear

Neck or Travel Pillow

A comfortable pillow is essential if you'd like to sleep your way through a flight. Get an inflatable pillow or one that rolls into a pouch.

Image: Infinity Pillow

Gel Eye Mask

An eye mask allows you to sleep even before "lights out" time on the plane or even while your seatmate decides to turn on the reading light or tablet/other device.

Apps like Timeshifter are now available to help you ease in to the time zone of your destination by regulating your exposure to darkness and light.

Ear Plugs or Noise Cancelling Headset

These items will not only drown out the noise from inside or outside the plane cabin but also help minimise any pain in your ears that come from altitude changes.

Water and Snacks


Solid food is usually permitted on the plane, but there may be conditions for gel and liquid products.

Make sure your snacks are packed in a spill-proof wrapping, such as plastic wrap and aluminium foil, or in a bento box type container. Avoid bringing food with strong odour like hardboiled eggs and tuna. Messy and sticky products are also not advisable.

Dried or fresh fruit, beef jerky, crackers, chips, hard cheese and museli bars are advisable. Avoid food that may cause gas pain or bloating such as beans and peanuts, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprout), fast food, spicy food, soft drinks, alcohol, coffee and tea.

Reusable Water Container/Bottle

Bring your own water so that you don't have to buy bottled water before your flight and you'll stay hydrated while you're airborne. Then when you use it all up after your plane ride, you can simply refill at hydration stations. Of course, only fill up after your security check before and after your flight.  

If you're on an international flight or departing from an international terminal within Australia, remember the Department of Home Affairs' restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs). Such items must weigh 100 grams or less and be inside 100-millilitre containers. Authorities will prohibit LAGs in larger containers even if they’re only partially filled.

Your bottle or water holder should be able to fit in a clear and snap-lock or other re-sealable plastic bag and then placed inside your carry-on. The bag’s four sides shouldn’t exceed 80 centimetres (dimensions can either be 15 x 25 centimetres or 20 x 20 centimetres).

Image: Memo Bottle



Use it to clean your tray table, armrests, controls and rear-seat entertainment system. Besides reducing the liquids in your carry-on, wipes won't spill in your bag and they occupy less space.

Lip Balm and Hydrating Lotion

Humidity drops to around 20% or less in airplane cabins, way below the 40% to 70% level that your skin is accustomed to or comfortable with. Use lip balm and hydrating lotion to restore moisture on your skin. DHA’s policy on LAGs also applies to lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, perfume and liquid makeup.

Image: Kiehl's

Medicine and First-aid Kit

Pack sleeping pills and medications for motion sickness, upset stomach and diarrhoea. Medicine against headaches, body pains, fever, cough and cold will be good to add to your kit, which should include items such as a thermometer, adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, cotton and hand wash.

Just make sure to consult your doctor and not take any medicine during your flight for the first time.

Footwear and Clothing

Compression Socks

To prevent deep vein thrombosis and enjoy good blood circulation during long flights, bring compression socks or leggings to help you adjust to pressure changes.

You may also consider foldable slippers or slip on flats that can make your feet breathe easier while on the plane.

Shawl/Large Scarf

Pick a dark coloured scarf or shawl so you can use it as a "mini-tent" to block out light if necessary. Or you can fold it several times so it becomes a makeshift pillow.

Power Charger

Although power outlets are available when you fly on larger planes, it's better to have a back-up power source to recharge your phone.

E-readers, Books, Magazines

Pre-load your Kindle, iPad, or what have you with your favourite books to catch up with your reading while waiting for or during your flight.

Include paperbacks and magazines so you have something to read when your device dies out or you'd like to rest your eyes from lighted screens.

Packing Cubes

One packing hack you can do for your carry-on is to use packing cubes. When you start to pack, you can group related items together (like the way we listed above) and assign a particular packing cube for each batch of items, particularly one for toiletries, another for snacks, another for clothing, footwear and so on.

1 comment

  • Jenny

    You have shared such great things for travel. Lovely pictures. Thanks!!!

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