Long Flight Carry On Essentials for Women

Ladies! This post is for you! Long Flight Carry On Essentials for Women is a topic that has been covered extensively. Still, I decided to create an article of my own because I have some recommendations that I didn’t see anywhere else.

Also, when I use the term carry on – what I really mean is a personal item. Technically a carry on goes in the overhead bin and a personal item fits underneath the seat in front of you.

Everything described in this article is for the personal item. But I use the term carry on in the title because colloquially that’s what we all call it.

I have done a lot of long flights (4+ hours) so I am experienced, but not only that, I continuously read about products and observe others, so I stay updated and don’t assume that I know everything. There’s always something new to learn!

Below I share things I pack, things I don’t pack, as well as good practices. The products recommended are my honest opinions. I don’t receive any sort of compensation nor benefit.

Health
Beauty
Technology
Food
Sleep
Bags
Jewelry
Best Practices

Health

Water Bottle: in particular I’m a fan of Zojirushi. These bottles keep your hot beverages hot and your cold beverages cold and they do not leak.

When I say “it keeps your hot drinks hot”, I went to Starbucks at the airport (past security) and asked them to fill my bottle with hot water – it was extremely hot. Twenty-four hours later, the water was still warm. One more thing, this bottle is very easy to clean. So I usually pack a couple of disposable coffee cups, otherwise the water is too hot to drink throughout the flight if I leave it in the bottle.

There are fold-downable silicone cups on Amazon. I haven’t tried one but probably something I will look into.

ProTip: caffeine dehydrates the body and is generally recommended to be avoided on flights. Sometimes I pack caffeine-free tea bags.

The one con about this bottle is that there’s no handle nor way to attach it via carabiner to a bag.

It comes in 12oz. 16oz. and 20oz. sizes and in several different colors.

Medication: This is personal, but some over-the-counter medications I always have in my carry-on are: some sort of pain killer, Pepto Bismol tablets, Imodium, Sudafed, and some sort of antihistamine.

Any travel blog will tell you to always keep your prescription medications and OTC in your carry-on. It’s a best practice…always keep them with you.

Not only that but I place the painkillers prominently in an accessible pocket. When you have a headache you just want to grab the medicine ASAP – not dig through your bag trying to find it.

Eyeglasses and sunglasses: I don’t like to wear contact lenses on planes. The air is so dry. I do pack a couple pairs in my carry-on. I pack my sunglasses as well. Even though I don’t typically use them on a plane I worry they might break if they’re in my checked bag.

ProTip: one piece of travel gear that has been a fantastic investment = prescription sunglasses. I also pack a small bottle of lens cleanser solution and a small microfiber towel.

Other essentials:

  • Chapstick/Lip Balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lotion
  • Tissues
  • Sanitizing wet wipes – on several travel blogs and channels I’ve read/seen women say that as soon as they sit in their seat they’ll wipe down the tray table, entertainment system and arm rest. I have NEVER seen anyone do this – ever. Personally I think, in practice, it’s pretty weird and would make one look weird too. I keep them to wipe my hands or maybe my screens (computer, tablet, e-reader etc.)
  • Baggy for soiled tissues and wipes
  • Disposable toilet seat covers – these are right up there with prescription sunglasses in terms of best travel gear.
  • Small hand soap or soap sheets – I was recently at LAX – again that’s LAX not some small airport in the middle of nowhere and none of the 8 or so motion sensor soap dispensers worked. Just as I was about to pat myself on the back and get my handy soap sheets out, I spotted one wall dispenser that did work.
  • Travel towel + bag to put it in
  • Travel toilet paper
  • Feminine products
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Travel deodorant

Items for my husband: if my husband and I don’t have seats together I’ll make sure to give him a separate lotion, chapstick, hand sanitizer and tissues.

Beauty

Make up: I don’t wear any make up on long flights. And when I say “any” make up, I literally mean NO make up.

Make up remover wipes: when the plane is landing I like to freshen up with one of these.

Dry skin relief for face: sweet almond oil. Sweet almond oil is natural, an EXCELLENT moisturizer, absorbs quickly, completely and bonus – it’s inexpensive. I apply it when getting ready to leave for the flight so it can start absorbing into my skin. Almond oil leaves my skin soft, glowing and feeling so fresh!

With almond oil, a little goes along way, so I like that I can take a very small vial or container that can last for a two week trip.

I will say that oil takes more time to completely absorb into skin compared to traditional moisturizer so I tend not to apply it on the rest of my body before a flight so it’s not rubbing onto my clothes.

Lotion: I like Cetaphil and CeraVe. I’ve tested these inexpensive brands as well as more costly ones and I have found Cetaphil and CeraVe to be excellent and dermatologist recommended.

Change of Clothes: I have never packed a change of clothes in my carry-on. But, I don’t plan on going to an event/activity right when I land. It’s usually straight to my accommodations so a change of clothes is unnecessary.

Eye Compress: I love these travel, warm eye compresses. They are so soothing. They’re basically weightless and skinny so I can tuck a couple into my carry-on as well as checked bag.

Other things I take:

  • Compact
  • Mascara
  • Lip gloss
  • Tweezers
  • Hair brush

Technology

Camera: For international trips, I usually travel with my crop sensor DSLR camera. Crop sensor means, smaller DSLR compared to full frame DSLR cameras. Generally I travel with 1-2 lenses in my carry-on too. I put the camera and lenses at the bottom of the bag as I don’t use them while traveling to/from the destination. I’m a hobbyist photographer and I don’t travel with a tripod.

Wired and Bluetooth Earbuds: A few weeks ago I made the mistake of only taking my Bluetooth earbuds on my 5.5 hour flight, which meant that I couldn’t plug into the flight’s entertainment system. Thankfully, I had downloaded content onto my phone but I made a mental note to always travel with wired earbuds too.

Not Just Any Battery Pack: Every travel website will tell you to pack a fully charge extra battery pack. I agree. But I would add a detail.

Take one that will charge while you’re talking on the phone and on the move. A lot of battery packs are “bricks” that would be awkward to walk and charge your phone with simultaneously. This one isn’t.

Earlier this year there were fluke storms across the country that led to several flight disruptions. The lines at the airport, to talk to a gate agent were more than an hour long so I doubled down by calling the airline while in line. The hold times on the phone were incredibly long too and my phone’s battery drained.

It was already a stressful situation and the depleting battery added an additional layer that could have been avoided. In general, it’s nice to be able to keep moving and charge your phone/tech simultaneously.

Chargers: This is a no-brainer. Take your chargers: phone, tablet, e-reader, earbuds, watch etc.

Take a travel adapter: Sometimes on international flights the seats have outlets and if you have a worldwide adapter you can plug in your devices. These are handy to have while you’re waiting at the airport too. Get an adapter that lets you plug in multiple devices at the same time and has all kinds of connections: prongs, USB-a and USB-c.

There are also some where the outlets are more spread out so if you’re charging your laptop you can still charge other items. There are some that are flexible – can be plugged in horizontally or vertically. These features make all the difference in real world usability.

Make sure to double check the voltage range of your devices against the voltage in the country(ies) you’re visiting to see if you need a converter in addition to an adapter.

Long chords: Sometimes the seat will have an outlet but it’s by your feet. Make sure you have long enough chords so that you can rest your device on the tray table while it’s plugged in.

Tech pouch: I’ve seen this tech organizer and at first glance it looks great, but I prefer something zippered. I also like something that I can just stuff everything inside of.

Notebook: Many travel bloggers suggested taking a notebook. Personally I don’t – I see it as extra bulk and weight. If I need to take notes, I type them into the Notes app on my phone. I do take 1-2 pens though – so I can fill out Customs and Immigration cards.

Food

I’m always prepared with my own food and snacks. I can’t tell you how many times the airline didn’t have my vegetarian or vegan meal, despite ordering well in advance and following up with multiple calls and emails to verify.

Sleep

Travel pillow: There are so many options. I like how comfortable this Trtl pillow is. It’s also very compact – easy to pack.

Blanket: I have this one. It is very warm and cozy, but it’s bulky. It comes with a cover and I need to practice folding the blanket to be as flat as possible. When I did it on my flight recently it was very bulky. It’s nice that it comes with a carabiner to attach to your bag but it swung when I attached it to my backpack; and when I walked down the aisle of the plane it bumped people. I’m 4’11” so that might not be an issue for people who are taller.

SOLUTION FOUND: I went to REI and showed them my backpack and the blanket and I bought some straps for about $10 that secure it to my backpack. All was great on this international trip I’m currently on. I did have to unattach it from my bag in order to fit it underneath the seat in front of me.

If you’re traveling with a carry on roller bag, all of this becomes a non-issue. It has a luggage pass through to sling it onto the handle of a roller bag, which is really nice.

Wallet: I like one that is flat, long enough for a boarding pass without folding it, enough card slots, at least 1 zippered pocket, a passport slot, and a pen holder, like this one.

Sleep mask: I’ve never traveled with one but many people swear by them. There are lots of different types available on Amazon.

Bags

Carry on Bag: My carry on backpack doubles as my day bag. I need something that is big enough for my DSLR, maybe my laptop, plus all the items mentioned above. You know what you prefer: backpack, tote, sling, messenger, crossbody etc.

I prefer backpacks. For the last decade I have been using my Ogio Soho backpack as my carry-on and daypack. I’ve taken it to every continent, except Antarctica (only because I’ve never been) and on a variety of trips from trekking to traipsing around cities.

OGIO Soho women's backpack
Ogio Soho Women’s Backpack, $79.99

It’s feminine, has tons of pockets, large capacity and a laptop slot (unpadded). I love this backpack. It can fit all of the items above in it while also being comfortable…for the most part. But it’s not a hiking nor load bearing backpack with sternum, hip nor compression straps. And there have been a few times where the bag was uncomfortable, especially while hiking, as it’s meant to be a commuter, lifestyle pack. And an annoyance of this bag is that the water bottle pockets on the sides are shallow. Over time they have stretched out and become unusable.

NEW BACKPACK: So recently (as in 2 weeks ago) I decided to buy a Swiss Gear backpack to replace my worn Ogio Soho. Actually I was about to pull the trigger on a new Ogio Soho but then I realized that in the decade-plus that I’ve had that backpack they haven’t updated the design at all.

They haven’t added a key ring, nor addressed the shallow water bottle pockets nor lack of padded laptop pocket. And as much as I like their products it occurred to me that their target audience/market is men and they have a few products for women. Because if you look at their many men’s bags they’re super thought through and have all of the features mentioned above.

So I decided to look around. I love pockets and the Ogio men’s bags have lots, but those bags look very masculine in my opinion. I found Swiss Gear online and their bags have very similar features to Ogio but are unisex. And the bag I bought cost $90, only $15 more than the Ogio Soho. I bought it on Amazon so I got free shipping as well as free returns. I’m currently traveling on my first international trip with it and it fit nicely underneath the seat and every that I needed.

The other thing that was/is a dealbreaker is the height of the bag. This backpack is my personal item on flights. I also travel with my Osprey Ariel 65 backpacking backpack which I usually check in. So I need my personal item to be something I can comfortably wear on my front. If it’s too tall it is flush with my chin or even higher and bumps me in the face = not good.

Some specific features that I like about the Swiss Gear are:

  • Key holder
  • Padded laptop pocket with quick access zipper
  • Separate tablet pocket
  • 2 deep stretch mesh water bottle pockets with additional strap to secure bottle
  • Deep and long side zippered pickers – this bag just has lots of pockets
  • Deep front pocket that fits things like sunglasses and another pair of glasses in their individual cases
  • Front sturdy carabiner
  • Front attachment straps for anything you might need such as a towel to dry while walking or in my case my travel blanket
  • Sunglass hook on strap
  • Red and black unisex colors – my husband could easily use this bag too – can’t say that about the Ogio Soho
  • It’s a big bag but not too big for me – 4’11” and slim
  • The straps are padded but I could still fit the Peak Design Capture Clip

This backpack does not have a strap pocket. Many newer bags feature a pocket in the strap. Some are large enough for a phone. The Osprey Daylite sling has a slim mesh pocket perfect for Chapstick. I’m not sure how I feel about strap phone pockets. I haven’t used a bag that has one. In theory it seems super useful. But I do wonder why many brand names in bags and backpacks haven’t added this feature. In other words do they have some insight that consumers don’t?

I wonder the same thing about hip belt pockets in hiking backpacks. SO SO many people have provided feedback that they wish they were large enough to fit a phone; but Gregory, Osprey, Deuter, REI – big names who specialize in hiking packs, haven’t made it so in most of their women’s packs (not sure about men’s).

I also looked into the Osprey Tempest 20, Osprey Mira 22 and 32, Gregory Maya, Gregory Jade 28 and the Women’s REI Traverse 32. I like these bags because they’re also hiking backpacks. I have a 17.5in. torso. I really really like the Osprey Mira backpacks. But unfortunately they’re one size fits all. Even though they’re adjustable, as I mentioned I’m 4’11”, and the top of the pack bumped the back of my head.

The Osprey Tempest 20 is too small to fit everything that I needed and it no organization inside the bag. The Gregory Jade 28 bag is too big for me based on my torso. I looked at the Osprey Daylite and Daylite Plus but like the Osprey Mira pack these were too tall for me and bumped the back of my head.

Similarly, I looked at the Osprey Daylite and Daylite Plus backpacks. But they were too tall for me and bumped the back of my neck.

It came down to the Gregory Maya and the REI Traverse. The Traverse was a little more comfortable. I prefer panel loading backpacks. Both the Maya and Traverse are panel loaders. That means they open up fully with a U-shaped zipper vs. top loaders. The hip belt pockets on the Traverse aren’t big enough for an iPhone 11 Pro but to be honest the pockets’ position on the side of the hips don’t make them conducive to the frequency with which we need to use our phones. So I bought a sleeve from REI that I can attach to the strap of the backpack.

UPDATE: I ended up returning the REI Traverse as well as the phone sleeve. After testing the backpack more I found it not quite comfortable and the phone sleeve I should have read the reviews before buying. It has a magnetic closure which is great for easy access but bad for keeping your phone secure – as in it could easily fall out when you take your bag off and you wouldn’t necessarily realize until it’s too late. The Swiss Gear is my new backpack.

I recently bought the Osprey Daylite Sling. I bought that to function as a purse while traveling. After a long and fun day exploring and hiking with my daypack when I go out to eat or even if just eating at the hotel, doing a coffee run, or hanging out in the evening, I need a bag. And I won’t necessarily want to carry my big daypack.

Selecting this sling was a toss up between the Osprey Daylite sling and the Patagonia Atom 8L. I like the Patagonia Atom better but it’s not designed for lefties. You can only wear it on the right shoulder and that was a dealbreaker for me. The Osprey Daylite can be worn on either shoulder.

I also really like the Sherpani Pike sling but the Daylite and Atom are malleable. So they can be folded, scrunched to fit inside a suitcase, backpack etc.

I looked at a lot of different bags including less sporty looking ones, small backpacks, and crossbody bags. I like slings; such as the Beis Survival Sling but I wanted one that would fit my water bottle. Beis bags are more for urban use vs. hiking/trekking.

Jewelry

I don’t travel with expensive jewelry. But I like to pack a couple pairs of costume jewelry earrings and maybe a necklace or two. Mostly I like to wear earrings as they’re visible in photos. I don’t travel with jewelry that would be upsetting if it got lost or broke.

Best Practices

I have a master packing list in the Notes on my phone. And I have it categorized for carry-on vs. checked luggage. Though every trip is unique there are some – many – items that are universal. Having the list is a great way to ensure I don’t forget anything.

Think Through Logistics

I like to be prepared when I travel. So I think through steps and pack things I need accordingly. For example, every travel blogger says to take tissues, face and sanitizing wipes. But where do you put the soiled wipes until you can dispose them?

You have a travel towel, toothbrush and rain cover for your daypack – that’s great! Where do you put it and store these items when they’re wet?

A lot of travel towels come with a handy carabiner so you can attach it to your luggage or backpack to dry. That’s great for when you’re at your destination but you’re not gonna do that on the plane. So I always pack some extra baggies.

I put all of the restroom stuff in a pouch altogether and towards the top of my carry-on. Whether I’m in the plane or the airport all I have to do is grab that waterproof pouch and everything I need is right there.

Before you buy travel gear think through: how it’s used, stored, and packability. I saw a tech organizer on a vlog and at first glance I was like, “ooh I like that.” But then I thought through it and realized it assumes that I will have the time to properly wrap wires and secure them into their individual slots. Sometimes I’m hurrying off and need to stash things away quickly – this isn’t conducive for that. Plus it had a set number of slots. What if I need more/different slots over time? So I opted for a pouch instead.

Summary

In this article I shared long flight carry on essentials for women. There are a lot of articles about this by travel bloggers and vloggers and they are great and helpful. I still decided to publish this article because I shared products and ideas that others haven’t.

I hope this is helpful! Happy travels!

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