What to pack in carry on

What to pack in carry on luggage on international flights

I lead a lot of trips with first-time international travellers and often people who have never been on a plane before. This is one of my favourite parts of my job as I get to share my passion for travel with them. I often get asked, what should I pack in my carry on luggage? Here is my go-to list of hand luggage/carry on essentials for international flights.

1. Passport.

Yes, you need your full passport to get into the country you are visiting (for US readers who have a passport card – that can only be used for land border crossings into Mexico and Canada).

2. Access to money

A small amount of the local currency plus credit card/travel card. The first reason is that there is a good chance that the airline will misplace your baggage for a short (or long) period. Secondly, this makes life easier when you arrive if you have to pay for a visa or taxi. You don’t have to think about getting access to funds, you can just get straight to exploring!

3. Copy of your itinerary/return flights/hotel address

Immigration/Passport control officers may want to see a copy of your return flights and you will need to write the hotel address on your entry form.

If you have 1, 2 and 3 all else can be bought but for comfort I recommend the following items also go with you on the plane.

4. Pen

To fill out that entry form. Often these are given on the plane and if you have a pen you can get it done before you get off and then skip ahead of the people who are standing writing on each other’s backs at passport control. Also, a great way to make friends with your seatmates if you are travelling alone – I often get asked to borrow my pen then we chat until the plane lands.

5. Phone/Computer/Entertainment

On cheaper airlines, you need to bring your own entertainment. The great news is now we have plenty of options in gaming devices, e-readers and downloadable shows for binge watching.

6. Charger – both USB and plug

Most long haul aeroplanes have a USB charger in the seat for each person. Others have a ‘wall’ charger under the seat – these are usually a little hidden, dig around or ask the flight attendant.

7. Clothing for 2 days

Airlines lose luggage – not everyone’s and not every day but when they do you want to be ready. I spend 4 weeks of my 5-week honeymoon with no luggage after the airline lost it 1 week in. It turned up 6 weeks after it was lost but I spend my entire honeymoon feeling uncomfortable in clothing bought from resort and cruise shops. I recommend packing two sets of clothing in your hand luggage. That way you can wash one set while wearing the other.

8. Sweatshirt/jumper

Aeroplanes get cold – especially if you are flying overnight. I always pack a cozy jumper to keep me warm because I get cold easily and it is hard to sleep when one is cold.

9. Scarf/Turkish towel

I used to swear by a pashmina scarf but now I’m a Turkish Towel convert. As in 8 above, it gets cold on planes so a scarf or Turkish towel can act as a blanket. I also use it to put over my head to block out light when trying to sleep on the new time zone while flying. Then when you arrive you have a towel, blanket and scarf all in one.

10. Earplugs

I love having earplugs for travel! For the plane, to block out screaming children or gossiping seatmates. Then for dorm rooms and snoring roommates.

11. Toothbrush/Toothpaste

Arriving in a new place with fresh teeth makes the world a better place – for you and your travelling companions. Just make sure your liquids are less than 3oz/100ml.

12. Medication

As discussed above – airlines misplace checked baggage. Anything you can’t live without needs to go in your carry on.

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