Carry-On Travel Essentials— Must Have Items To Make Your Next Plane Ride Awesome

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Whether you love flying or would rather not step foot on a plane there are a few items that can make your trip much more comfortable.

Having the right airplane essentials can make even a quick trip a lot more enjoyable. I’ve tried and tested lots of items over the years and now know exactly what I need to be comfortable on an airplane.

Here are the travel essentials I use when flying. You can shop for all of these items in the Carry-On Essentials section of my Amazon Store!

Carry On Travel Essentials

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Carry-On Travel Essentials

A Carry-On Suitcase

First and foremost, you need a great lightweight, compact carry-on suitcase. Having the right luggage will make getting through the airport and on and off a plane so much easier. I love this one from Samsonite because it’s affordable and comes in lots of great colors.

Neck Pillow

I bring a neck pillow with me even if I am going on a short flight and have no plans for a nap. You can put it behind your back for some lumbar support which makes an uncomfortable plane seat much more bearable. Or you can use it to rest your arm on. There are so many ways to use a neck pillow that doesn’t involve your neck!

Carry On Travel Essentials | Neck Pillow
Image courtesy of

Hand Lotion

Airplanes can be super dry, so it’s always nice to have some hydrating hand lotion so you don’t have to have sandpaper hands all day. Keep in mind that any liquids, gels, or aerosols need to be in containers that are 3.4 oz or less. These are technically supposed to be in a clear quart or liter-sized plastic bag…but I have never done that and have never had a problem.

One of my favorite travel-sized land lotions is L’Occitane 20% Shea Butter Hand Cream, 1 oz. For more ideas check out my favorite skincare and cosmetics for travel.

L'occitane Shea Butter Hand Creme
Image courtesy of

Sweater or Jacket

The temperature on an airplane can vary drastically. I am always cold on airplanes, so no matter what time of year it is, I bring a light jacket or sweater with me in my carry-on luggage so I don’t get cold. I’ve even been known to travel with a blanket on long flights (ok, ok, so I actually bring a blanket with me on every flight).

If you are headed to a rainy area, a lightweight rain jacket is a great thing to have. I use this one from Columbia.

Pro Tip: When traveling in winter to a warmer climate, wear a lightweight, packable jacket. You won’t be cold going to the airport, and once you are on the plane you can pack the jacket in the included bag. It won’t take up much room, and it can double as an extra pillow or lumbar support.

Packable Jacket


This one has been a game-changer for me. I just recently discovered audiobooks (yes, I realize I am late to the game) and I totally love them. They are awesome for a road trip and perfect for the plane if you don’t want the person next to you looking over your shoulder to see what you are reading. I use Amazon Audible and have been really happy with it.

Give it a try with an Audible 30-day free trial.  If you need some inspiration on what to read first, check out my recommended books for a Zen AF life!

Travel Snacks

Generally, snacks on airplanes are pretty bad…unless of course, you score the coveted Biscoff cookies! Those are delightful. But, if you are trying to stay healthy, traveling with kids, or just want something with flavor, bring your own snacks.

Some of my favorites healthy-ish travel snacks for kids and adults are:

Trader Joe’s Nothing But Fruit and Nuts

Sahale Snacks All Natural Nut Blends

Pressed by Kind Bars, Fruit and Chia

Blue Diamond Almonds 100 Calorie Packs

Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies

GoGo SqueeZ Fruit & VeggieZ On The Go Pouches

Carry On Travel Essentials | Sahale Nuts
Image courtesy of


A must if you plan to listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook. If you are bringing an iPad to watch movies on, get a headphone splitter so you and your partner can watch together.

Reusable Water Bottle

Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up before you get on your plane. You won’t have to worry about a cup of water spilling on your tray, and you don’t have to wait for the flight attendants to serve drinks. I use an insulated stainless steel water bottle — just make sure you get one with a good seal so it won’t leak!

There are some really cool collapsible water bottles available now too, which are great for travel!

Carry On Travel Essentials | Que Collapsible Water Bottle
Que Collapsible Water Bottle. Image courtesy of

Kid Necessities

If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll need to bring a few kid-specific items.

>>Pro Tip: If you and your kids are headed to the beach, check out this printable packing list to make sure you don’t forget any essentials.


In addition to being a great piece to enhance your wardrobe, it can double as a blanket or neck roll on a chilly, uncomfortable airplane. If it’s summer, pack a lightweight scarf that can double as a beach cover-up.

A Great Carry-On Bag

I have carried the same Kate Spade bag on every plane trip I have gone on for years and years. Why? Because it’s the right size, has good pockets and I know where everything goes. Look for a bag with the following benefits:

  • An outside pocket for a water bottle
  • An easy to access pocket for boarding passes and ID
  • A zippered compartment for important items like passports and credit cards
  • Pockets for small items
  • A large main area for a book, laptop, or iPad

Check out these great carry on-bags:

Mare Pocket Tote from ABLE

Hong Kong Laptop Tote Bag from Baggallini

Carry On Essentials | Mare Pocket Tote From ABLE
I love this Mare Pocket Tote from ABLE as a carry on bag. Image courtesy of

Tech Organizer Bag

Keeping all of your tech accessories organized with a tech travel case will make for an easier flight. It’s no fun digging around your bag for 20 minutes trying to find your headphones. This doesn’t need to be fancy either — if you are on a tight budget, just store your cords and chargers in some ziplock bags to keep them organized.

I hope these carry-on essentials help make your next flight more comfortable!

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jason Seemann

    I’d say we use the headphone splitters because we want to share the same content and experience, not because we only have one iPad.

    On the audiobook front, don’t forget your local library almost certainly has a digital section with audiobooks and e-books! You’re already paying for your library membership; might as well use it!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      Good points 🙂

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