One of the more stressful things about traveling can be deciding what to pack, especially on those overnight flights.
It’s sort of a catch 22 – you want enough stuff to keep you comfortable, cozy, and entertained, but not too much that you’re cursing yourself for the weight of your bag. I don’t know about y’all, but I think flying is so boring and to top it off it can sometimes be *such* a challenge to get comfortable enough to sleep. Learning to pack the right things will help to keep you comfortable and happy.
An annoying neighbor that’s squished up against you? The person on your other side with their overhead light on all night? Or the person behind you that is constantly pushing the back of your seat? Yep, we’ve all been there.
Making sure you have the right things packed and with you will make the start and end of your trip much more pleasant. So, are you wondering what to bring on a long haul flight? Check it out below!
*This guide does assume that you have checked a bag for your trip. I will write a full carry on guide one of these days!
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Long haul flight essentials
I am a self-confessed suitcase lover. I have SO many bags of various shapes and styles because I can never figure out which ones I think work best for each type of travel. I like the idea of backpacks, but think they can be a little small. Duffel bags are nice cause there is more room, but they tend to be heavier and more cumbersome. If you’re checking a bag, having a second wheeled suitcase isn’t always the most manageable.
I’ve used all of those options and still don’t have a surefire system, it’s still situation dependent. I think you are flying abroad and have a checked bag the smartest thing is to either use a backpack or a cross body bag. Be careful not to overstuff your cross body bag because after 20 minutes you’ll be sick of lugging it around.
Carry on suitcase
I don’t have the following bags, but use something very similar to them –
Just for organization and storage purposes, I would definitely recommend a bag that has pockets on the outside. I love to stuff phones, wallets, headphones, boarding passes etc in there. Easy to find and out of the way.
Now that we have a suitcase, we’re gonna get super organized. In order to stay sane, all of your items need to be grouped together by similarity and placed in their own respective bags. Before I became overly organized I used to just throw everything in together and all the little stuff would end up at the bottom and it was always such a disaster.
The easiest thing to pack first is your extra change of clothes. This will sit at the bottom of the bag since you won’t need most of this while in flight. What you’ll want to bring is at least one set of clothing to change into once you deplane your overnight flight, and something cozy to sleep in. Or if you want to pack extra light, just bring a change of clothes and wear something cozy to the airport. I usually do option two, I’m not one of those girls that wear heels and fancy outfits to fly in. Who has time for that?
I typically bring
- Comfy pants or leggings
- A couple t-shirts or an oversized sweater – it does get cold on the airplane, especially at night
- A couple pair of underwear/bras or other under clothes
- One or two pairs of socks – If you plan on wearing sandals on the flight, make sure you have an extra pair of socks handy because if you don’t have TSA precheck you’ll have to take off your shoes and walk barefoot across the floor and that. is. so. gross.
Having one extra set of clothes is nice for either
- Canceled flights
- Lost luggage
- Simply wanting to change into something so fresh and so clean clean after your overnight flight
All of this extra clothes will fit perfectly into a packing cube. If you’ve never used these before you’re seriously missing out! I find that they give maybe a little more room in suitcases because you can shove so much into them and then compress them down. But the biggest thing for me is the organization of it. Everyone knows how annoying it is to open up a suitcase and have everything piled on top of other stuff, wrinkled, unorganized etc etc.
I’d recommend a couple sets of cubes per person, this set here has various sizes that work well for all types of clothing. I like using the large ones for pants, vests, big sweaters, maxi dresses etc. The medium size is perfect for tops, workout gear, shorts, sundresses and other smaller clothing items. The smallest one is a great way to organize underwear, socks, bras, headbands and other small loose clothing.
I have this mix set from ebags and have used them repeatedly for years and years. I’ve never had any problems with tears or broken zippers and I’ve packed them to the seams, especially that larger one.
This 6 piece set is pretty nifty too, I’m thinking about buying these before we take our trip abroad this year. I have a couple of the slim bags and I love those for other smaller clothing items like tank tops, camis, yoga gear etc. These would be great for baby or toddler clothes, undergarments, headbands, socks – you name it.
So grab whatever size ebag you think is sufficient for your overnight clothes and fold everything nicely and place that in the bottom of the bag.
You could check most of this stuff if you wanted, but I always like to keep these with me. If you plan on checking electronics, make sure they don’t have lithium batteries…if so, you’ll wanna pack that in your carry on bag. If you have an extra slim ebag laying around you can use that to organize all of your electronics. I personally keep mine in one of these bags-
Similar to the ebags, but this one is from Eagle Creek. I find that it’s the perfect size to hold
- Cell phone charger
- Camera charger
- A small point and shoot camera or GoPro
- Laptop charger
- Headphones, this is the extra set – keep your main set out with you if you plan on listening to music or watching the in-flight movies
I have a second bag like the one above that I use for my power converter and the adapters. It fits perfectly and keeps the various plugs out of the way unless I need them. And they’re all together so they don’t get lost either at home or while traveling. I also like to put my car and house keys in this bag as well. You know, all about organizing.
This is the converter I’ve used to travel abroad for the last 3 or 4 years. It works everywhere and I’ve only ever had one thing plugged into it that didn’t work. A travel steamer in a Lisbon hotel, which is bizarre because I’d used the steamer before and the converter worked with other things in the hotel.
You can wrap all the cords up nicely and pack them in or use these little guys to wrap around the cords to keep them all contained. Rubber twist ties are one of the best inventions ever. I use the long ones all over my house too so they’re not just for travel.
Now we have your bag filled with-
- A packing cube with one change of clothes
- Two small packing cubes, one with cords and electronics, the second with the converter
Let’s organize all of your travel documents and put those in your carry on. You want something that will hold the following-
- Color copy of your passport – not something you want to lose abroad, but if you do, having a copy of your first two pages makes getting your passport back easier. Not speaking from experience – I always keep mine on lockdown
- Flight information – it’s also handy to have on your phone, but just in case your battery dies it’s nice to have a hard copy
- After you’ve boarded your plane you can stick your passport in here too. Or just keep it in one of the side pockets for easy access
- Throw in a couple ink pens for filling out the customs forms
- Future and used boarding passes as well as your check baggage tag
- Hotel address and confirmation – you’ll need this for customs forms
You can also keep your money, cards, or your entire wallet in here if you like. I typically leave mine in the side pocket because I always get self-conscious I’ve lost it. If you’re less paranoid than I am, keep it in here!
I don’t have these exact organizers, but I use something similar. Really anything would work well.
Tuck the document envelope into your carry-on and let’s pack all the cosmetic and beauty products!
I use/love/highly recommend GoToobs. Like I said in my travel gift guide I’ve used all sorts of brands before and these are hands down the very best. I have two sets of these large ones but am thinking about buying a third set. They are perfect for throwing in your purse or car as well.
If you don’t fly much or have never flown before, you should know that the TSA regulates size and quantity of liquids, gels, and aerosols that you can carry on board. Everything must be partitioned out to 3 fl oz or smaller and fit into a 1 qt clear bag.
I recommended packing the following in your liquids cosmetic bag
- Your favorite lotion – plane air is SO dry
- Eye drops – your eyes will appreciate some moisture
- Oil to tame frizzy hair
- Dry shampoo if your hair gets greasy after a night
- Travel sized toothpaste – I’ve seen those little things at the airport stores called wisps, I think? I hate them so I bring my own brush and paste
- Mouthwash if you use that
- Perfume if you wear it, or just use lotion
- Lightweight foundation or BB cream
- Any liquid medications for the trip, not just overnight. Make sure you have enough medication to last several days in case of lost luggage
- Contact solution if you wear those
A couple of my favorite products from the list above –
This lotion from Aveeno is wonderful. It is super moisturizing, lasts a long time, and has the perfect amount of coconut scent. I just ordered another bottle of this since the one on my desk is getting low!
These eye drops are amazing. They seem to be more viscous or oily than other ones I’ve tried. I feel like they really get in there and coat your eyes which is always a welcome relief after being on an airplane. I put them in at least at the start and end of the flight, but if I wake up during the flight I’ll pop a couple in as well.
This Bumble and Bumble hair oil is like my dream come true. I first started using this a few years ago when I was doing those monthly beauty product boxes, like ipsy and birch box. It is expensive so I’ve gone in waves of using and not using it, but lemme tell ya, when I do put it on my hair it’s fabulous!
It works for dry and damaged hair so you wanna concentrate the product at the ends. It smells utterly amazing and keeps your hair shiny and healthy for a long time. They also have this line in shampoo or conditioner, I haven’t tried those but I’m sure they’re to die for.
Before flying, you can move the hairdresser’s oil into one of these little squirt bottles. How much you wanna bring depends on your preference. Either put just a little bit in the travel bottle and pack the full bottle or fill up the squirt bottle and just use that for the trip.
If you don’t regularly use dry shampoo you can skip this next part. I don’t wash my hair every day so this is nice to spray near my roots to keep my hair looking fresh. So between the dry shampoo and hair oil, your hair will be looking great after your long-haul flight.
I have all three of these brands at home and use them interchangeably…I don’t think I have a favorite.
If you’re looking for a good chapstick these guys by EOS are my favorite. I’ve never actually used a full tube of chapstick before I started using these. They just taste so good!
Feel free to add your favorite liquid makeup products, mascara, deodorant etc. Keep all of your dry makeup products like blush and bronzer in a separate bag that I’ll talk about below. All of these liquid products will fit perfectly into one of these bags.
You’ll want to keep this bag with your liquids easily accessible when you check into the airport. If you don’t have TSA precheck you’ll have to pull it out of your bag when going through security.
For all of the non-liquid cosmetic products, I really like these types of bags-
I love that there are little side pockets and that the top of the bag has a zipper which keeps everything nice and contained. And it has a cute little handle which makes it easy to carry to the airport bathroom or the bathroom on the plane.
In the side pockets I put enough cotton balls and q-tips to last the entire trip, these are both handy for makeup application and removal. Inside the bag, I like to put
- Face wipes to remove makeup and to wash my face in the morning after the flight
- Panty liners – an easy way to stay fresh and clean after a long night
- Sanitizing wipes – airplanes are so gross. It’s always nice to wipe down your seat and table before eating on it or touching anything
- Hair ties
- Medications – I always bring something for headaches and some Benadryl if I have trouble sleeping. And like the liquid medications, put any other pills you take daily in this bag as well
- Any dry makeup or brushes you need – if you care about putting on makeup after your flight, sometimes I bother, other times I wait until I’m at my hotel
A couple of my favorite products from the list above –
I love love love these face wipes. I’ve tried a few other brands, but still think this yellow pack from Burt’s Bees is the best.
I usually just pack my at home toothbrush in this bag. I have one of the Diamond Clean brushes by Phillips and I’m not sure if it has a lithium battery or not so I always leave it in my carry on. You could pack a cheap manual brush in your carry on and your electric one in your checked bag if you know it’s safe down there.
What I typically do is this –
If I leave my home airport and go directly onto the overnight flight, about 30 minutes before boarding I take out my liquid and dry cosmetic bag. I go to the bathroom and basically go through my home night routine. Even if it’s at 4 pm. So, wash my face, brush my teeth, change into jammie pants – basically just get comfortable.
Once I’ve finished getting ready for the evening, both the liquid and dry cosmetic bags go into my carry on. Then when I land, I’ll go back to the bathroom with the cosmetic bags and my change of clothes and go through my morning routine.
On the other hand, if I leave my home airport and have a 1-2 hour flight to another airport in the states, both of those bags go into my carry on until I am about to board the overnight flight. If that connecting flight leaves little time you can always take your two bags into the airplane’s bathroom, but it’s a tight fit and is more difficult to change, but it can be done.
Let’s recap up to this point – In your carry on you have
- Packing cube with at least one change of clothes and something comfy to sleep in
- Little packing cubes for electronic devices
- Document folder
- Clear bag for liquids
- Cosmetic bag for other cosmetic products
Extra things to keep you comfy
You can either add the following inside the suitcase or stuff things into the side pockets for easy access.
- A pair of nice headphones or earbuds
- Snacks, gum, mints
- Magazine, tablet, book, kindle etc
- Compression socks – you’ll want to wear these before your overnight flight. They’ll make your legs feel better and decrease the chance of blood clots
- Eye mask
- A nicer pillow if you want
- A scarf – it does get cold on airplanes
- Empty water bottle
Some of my favorite things from the list above-
Any sort of earbuds will do. I’ve tried various brands and I don’t have a favorite. They all work well for about the same amount of time.
I started wearing compression socks when I was working in the hospital. After standing for long periods of time I was finding my legs were kinda achy. Same goes for desk jobs and sitting a long time. Average compression socks have about 20-30 mmHg compression and that is sufficient for overnight travel. Plus, they’ll keep your legs warm.
Eye masks are one of the greatest inventions when it comes to overnight travel. As luck would have it, I am always sitting near someone that refuses to shut their light off…even if they’re asleep. It’s mind-boggling.
I linked this eye mask on my gift guide too, I think it’s just one of those essential travel items.
This is probably the best travel pillow for long-haul flights. I have several different styles and usually will bring one of them along. But sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it and will use a scarf or something as a makeshift pillow. But if I had to choose, I think that this Therm-a-rest is my favorite. It’s pretty comfortable and packs up fairly small. It’s also a good pillow to take camping.
My latest water bottle obsession is these super cool Vapur bottles. I’d seen them on Amazon for the longest time but thought there was no way that would actually work. I bought one for Pete a few months ago and we took it to Morocco and it ended up being a great bottle! It’s nice because you can fold it up when it’s empty and then clip it to another bag when it’s full.
Also, check out the 22 items every traveler should own!
What other ideas would you add?
What type of suitcase do you use for carry-ons?