By: Linsy Hilton

Do you like me, dread packing your bag when you travel? 

There’s always a level of anxiety that comes with deciding what to pack. The process is long and resembles an episode of the bachelorette; I line up all the items I want to take, and one-by-one I reminisce about the good times we’ve shared, weigh up the pros and cons, and then decide if the item serves a purpose beyond looking cute.

It’s survival of the fittest, or in the case of luggage, most practical. Once the final cut is complete, I let out a sigh of relief, knowing the most brutal part is over. 

Then comes the next step, packing my carry-on bag. As my travel survival kit, it doesn’t leave my side and is filled with the bits and pieces that get me through those gruelling hours in transit. A well-packed carry-on can mean the difference between listening to your favourite travel tunes in comfort or the screaming baby two rows behind while you freeze. 

Here are my five must-have items for your carry-on bag: 

Refillable Drink Bottle

Do yourself and the planet a favour by carrying a refillable drink bottle. Sitting on a plane for hours can dehydrate the body. Throw a few too many glasses of complimentary red wine in there, and you’ll be arriving at the other end feeling as dry as the Sahara.

Having your own water bottle means you don’t need to rely on the hostess to quench your thirst. Fill up before you board, and during the flight, ask the crew to refill your bottle instead of the tiny plastic cups they offer. A keep cup or travel mug is also handy if you have room, these can be used for in-flight hot or cold beverages and cut back on your plastic use even further.  

Bonus tip–invest in a drink bottle that can be fastened to your bag with a carabiner clip, this leaves space for other items and gives you easy access to H20 without needing to dig around in your bag. My favourite brand is Klean Kanteen; they have a huge range of sizes, colours, and insulated bottles. 

Comfy Neck Pillow 

When the plane becomes your home for the next 24 hours, you need a comfy place to rest your head. Investing in a quality travel pillow can transform an extremely uncomfortable flight into a bearable one. With so many on the market, it can be hard to decide what design to pick. Memory foam pillows provide a whole new level of travel comfort.

I splurged on the Cabeau Evolution travel pillow at the Denpasar international airport in 2011. Eight years and many flights later, it’s just as comfortable as the day we met. Go for practicality over cuteness.

Sure a cheap novelty design might be fun, but arriving at your destination with a stiff neck definitely won’t be!  

Earplugs & Eye Mask Duo

I wasn’t on board with using either of these essential items until recently. However, after investing in earplugs to drown out my dad’s snoring when I visited home, I realised shoving things in my ears was a perfect way to quiet the world when I need to check out.

Pair them with an eye mask, and you’ve got enough sensory deprivation for a decent in-flight sleep. Earplugs also come in handy beyond the flight and are perfect for noisy hostels, screeching geckos, or rooster-populated tropical islands.

Cosy Shawl 

I’ve made the error of heading to a warmer destination dressed in slinky beachwear, only to be rudely kicked back into a winter reality on the flight. Some airlines love to blast the aircon and turn the cabin into an icebox, so I always pack a shawl, and a good pair of socks to keep me warm.

Both items take up minimal space, and my favourite shawl also doubles as my little piece of home while travelling.  

Power Bank

Music and podcasts are must-haves on any flight. Spotify playlists get you through everything from the departure blues, to the anxiousness of heading somewhere new, so a dead phone mid-flight is never ideal.

A power bank is a lifesaver on long-haul flights or long layovers and comes in handy during your trip. The Anker PowerCore 20100 is an affordable, high speed, and long-lasting portable charger that occupies little space and can charge seven devices before needing a recharge. 

Other Bits & Bobs

The dreaded lost-luggage scenario is always playing out in my mind during packing, so I ensure I make room to squeeze in a spare change of clothes, underwear, and basic toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and moisturiser for the just-in-case moments.

Medications and any important documents should be packed in your carry-on. Time zone changes can disrupt regular dose times, and you don’t want to miss a dose due to your meds being packed in your checked baggage, especially if the said luggage should get lost, so be sure to pack your meds in your carry-on. 

Flying can certainly be the most unenjoyable part of travelling, but packing a well thought out carry-on bag can be your saviour and get you through those long flights in comfort.