travel bag

Things your carry-on bag should always contain

When you’re based in Melbourne, Australia, pretty much any flight out of the country is a long one. Given I travel long-haul (which I define as a minimum of three hours but is usually much longer) around eight times a year, I’ve become adept at ensuring my carry-on bag has the essentials that are going to enhance my comfort.

Whether you’re checking in luggage or not, these items will hold their own against any others competing for space. We always prefer to spend our money on the ground rather than on air travel, so most times we’re back in the cheap seats. These are my eight essential items to help you arrive as fresh as you possibly can.

Even full-service airlines have cut back on the amenities they provide. While you’re still likely to get a blanket, pillow and basic headphones in economy/coach on a full-service carrier, you may disappointed if you’re relying on them providing eye-masks, socks or toothbrushes. I always keep the toothbrush kit from any hotel I stay in and pop that in a side pocket of my carry-on bag and  even when an eye-mask is provided on board, the quality can be a bit lacking.

And so, to my list – eight items you shouldn’t travel without. These are in no particular order.

Travel tip 1: A night-time or PM pain reliever

I got these during my last visit to the US. They’re excellent to aid sleep on the flight and also when battling jet-lag at your destination. My number one jet-lag tip is to stay awake for as long as possible the day you arrive and head to bed on ‘local time’. A couple of these help you stay asleep (or get back to sleep) around that pesky 3am mark when your body tells you it’s time to be up and at ’em. I use these very judiciously; I’m fearful of becoming reliant on sleep aids, so they stay tucked away until travel time.

Travel tip 2: Noise-cancelling headphones

These are a life-saver, particularly when travelling economy/coach. I keep a spare battery in the case and these are ready to block out the worst of the engine drone and squealing infants. One of the best items I’ve ever invested in. A tip if you wear earrings – I take mine out and put them safely in my purse before putting the headphones (these are ‘over the ear’ rather than buds). I’ve found that wearing earrings and the headphones can irritate my ears.

Travel tip 3: Lightweight down jacket

No matter if I’m travelling from one hot climate to another, my cheap-as-chips Uniqlo down jacket comes with me. It weighs nothing, folds down to nothing and it’s perfect as a substitute for the blanket on budget carriers. I either wrap it around my legs and put another layer on top, or, if the interior aircraft temperature is OK, I bundle it up for extra cushioning where I need it.

Travel tip 4: Inflatable pillows

This great little pack I bought very cheaply in a Singapore supermarket contains a standard pillow and a neck pillow, both of which are inflatable and a good quality eye-mask (see point 7). Even though they’re plastic, the material is brushed so that it feels quite OK against your skin. After I bought it, I opened the packet up and aired it out, to get rid of that horrible plastic smell. There are generally no pillows on budget airlines, so having two options, one for your lower back and the neck pillow to stop your head lolling around is a real bonus.

Travel tip 5: Beauty flash balm

I dab this on after I’ve woken up (or after I’ve tried to sleep), after using the moisturising wipes (see point 6). This just gives my tired skin a little bit of pep – a bonus is that this tube is small enough to comply with the requirements for air travel liquids.

Travel tip 6: Moisturising wipes

Great for wiping your face, neck and hands. These help me feel fresher immediately. Keep them well sealed and they won’t dry out. Cheap and easy.

Travel tip 7: Eye mask

Get a good quality one. Even where they’re provided on board, they can be a bit skimpy. Even during the day, if you’re trying to get some peace and quiet, an eye mask and the headphones are a match made in heaven.

Travel tip 8: Extra socks

I have a pair of tube socks that live in my carry-on bag. Once I’m settled on the flight, shoes get slipped off and the socks go on – over the top of any other socks/hosiery I might be wearing at the time. If they get dirty during the flight, no problem. They just get thrown in the first wash or, at a pinch, get hand washed in a hotel room somewhere. For warmth, comfort and practicality during air travel, an extra pair of socks is a very welcome thing, particularly on a long-haul night-time flight.

So, these are the basics, in my humble opinion, to arrive at your destination in as good a shape as possible. I also always pack some treats to eat on the flight (fruit in particular) and a change of clothes, suitable for my destination’s climate.

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