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Hey travel Hustlers, I want to talk about the pains of travelling. You only ever hear about the good stuff. Rarely do you ever see an article highlighting the bad things about travelling, and you definitely don’t hear many solutions to these travelling pains. That’s why I’m going to be showing you my ultimate guide to packing the perfect carry on bag.

…because we all know how “comfortable” air travel can be.

Feel free to save this to Pinterest so you can come back to this for your next trip! (you don’t want to read it, forget it and then repeat the same mistake next trip…do you?)

First things first, prepare for hydration

The average flight will see the air stewards handing out refreshments around 4 – 6 times throughout the whole flight. That’s not bad since the recommended amount of water/ liquid a person should consume is 8 cups, but an air cabin is super dry.

The air in the cabin is basically recycled again and again making the air lacking any moisture whatsoever. That makes 4 – 6 cups of those smaller than average cups not enough, and if you want more you’ll either have to get up and walk to the pantry or call for help.

Nothing wrong with both, but it’s just a hassle to get up, climb over a few people or shimmy pass the 4 grown men standing in the aisles because, well, economy is tough on tall big people. It’s also tedious to wait for someone to come when all you want is water.

Drinking water shouldn’t be so hard

So what can you do?

You can’t bring water or any other liquids over 100ml on the plane, but you can bring an empty bottle to fill up once you’re on the plane. My girlfriend takes this to the extreme and brings an empty 1.5L bottle, but just a normal 500ml bottle would save you so much hassle. My sister also takes a memo bottle like the one below. It slots in the front chair pocket without taking too much room.

Pack yourself a bottle in your carry on bag and you’ll save yourself some hassle.

Drinking enough water also helps you sleep better because dehydration causes restlessness, headaches and feelings of nausea.

But that’s not all you need to do for proper hydration. You’ll also want to bring chapstick, moisturiser and if you’re on a long haul flight, a paper face mask in your carry on bag. They’re all small and lightweight items that cause zero hassle but make your flight more comfortable.

It’s not a big deal if you don’t bring any of the above, but these little things can help make you feel more refreshed when you arrive at your destination. Also, skin that dries out. Breaks out. Don’t know if this is TMI for you, but I’ve always noticed my skin giving birth to new pimples out of nowhere while on a plane. Out of nowhere!

But moisturising minimises it to only the odd one or two on my face. The biggest benefit is it helps you shake off jet lag faster, and makes you feel ready to start your adventure instantly instead of after a nap.

Time to get comfortable

Sleeping while in a upright position will see your neck flop around left and right, which isn’t too big of a problem until you wake up with the worse neck cramp ever. *Having flashbacks to my teenage heavy metal days…*

The common solution is to bring a neck pillow, but I’ve bought my fair share and never found one that did the trick for me. Instead I found rolling a sweater or scarf up and propping it behind your neck works just fine. Though you do need to bend the head rest up as well.

Something like this.

It works just as well as a neck pillow, which means it’s rather mediocre. But it doesn’t cost you extra and it’s one less thing to bring on board.

Once your neck is supported you need to think about the rest of your body. Air cabins are cold, uncomfortably cold in my personal opinion and if you agree with me, then you’ll want to bring a shawl or light sweater in your carry on bag. It doesn’t matter if my destination is in the tropics, I always bring something to keep warm, or my whole flight is just me shifting in my seat non-stop.

Ok great. You’re ready to sleep. But wait! The engine is deafening and the whole cabin is alive and awake. You need earphones and a sleeping mask. I found noise cancelling earphones are the most effective in getting some peace in the chaos. Put on a playlist and just drift off to sleep hearing nothing but music you like. Then you put on a sleeping mask to avoid the glaring reading lights or the bright skies outside.

Wha-la! You are now able to sleep.

Again, everything so far in your carry on bag is very lightweight and small.

Things that come in handy

Passport holder with everything in it

I mentioned how you should bring physical copies of your travel documents with you before. This includes your hotel reservations, flight itinerary, visa documents etc. and of course your passport. A simple plastic zip folder works wonders. It’s waterproof, it’s foldable and it’s cheap.


Bring your laptop with you in your carry on bag. I rarely ever place it in my check-in luggage because my laptop is my livelihood. It’s way too important for me to run the risk of losing it. So I bring my Mac with me, but I don’t bring the wires to keep it as light as possible.

USB charging cable

Another handy thing to bring other than your mobile phone is to bring a USB charging cable. Most planes have charging ports and it’s nice to know your phone won’t die on you once you land. I don’t bother packing a charging battery in my carry on bag, because I find I can also charge with a wire and it’s a lot lighter to carry.

Click the image to get this very model I use.


A pen is just something you should have with you when you travel anyway. But having a pen for landing cards or any other immigration forms you need to fill in can save you time and energy. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until you find someone near you filling their form out, and then finding the perfect time to interject and ask if you can borrow their pen after them.

Not a big problem, but it’s just so much more comfortable to be asked for a pen instead of being the person waiting and asking for the pen.

Pack a pen in your carry on bag guys. Seriously, pen and paper is still relevant.

Alcohol wipes

The tray table and pretty much every touchable surface on a plane is infested with bacteria. The average commercial flight will fly routes back to back with only a few hours in between each landing and take-off. What does this mean? Things don’t get cleaned.

You’ll want the alcohol wipes to wipe down your tray table as well as clean your hands.

Deodorant / Antiperspirant

I don’t think I need to explain this one too much. It’s just common courtesy to not smell bad when people have to smell you for hours on end with no escape.

buying a big box of these are the cheapest to use and they last the longest because they’re individually packaged.

Chewing gum

A great way to prevent your ears hurting during take off and landing is to chew gum. The chewing minimises the amount of air pressure that gets built up from moving your jaws up and down.

It’s also handy to pop one in before landing since most airlines don’t hand out a dental kit in economy anymore.

You don’t even have to pack this in your carry on bag. Let’s be

real, you just need to pop it in your pocket. No excuse to not use this little trick.

A snack you can pick at

Airlines offer snacks readily available at the pantry, but they’re mostly savoury and not a wide selection. We’re talking about, pretzels, nuts, granola bars. Foods that crumble, and go stale.

Instead, buy one of those resealable bags of candy. There won’t be crumbs. It won’t go stale. It’s just a clean, easy snack to pick at throughout your flight whenever you want. My personal favourite is a big bag of skittles.

A smaller version of your first aid kit

I talked about the importance of having a small first aid kit with you while travelling in a previous post. It’s always good to have it with you at all times, but I also like to keep my bags as light as possible. This means, I make a smaller version of my first aid kit just for my carry on bag.

It only needs to be enough for a flight and nothing else. So we don’t need to go wild here.

This is what I put inside my clear plastic bag:

  • Menthol oil – great for insect bites, headaches, motion sickness or a quick pick me up if you’re tired.
  • Band aids – small cuts on a plane need to be covered. It’s way too dirty on a plane to leave a small cut open
  • Paracetamol – a quick way to deal with any sort of unexpected pain or even if you feel like you’re catching a cold
  • Chinese diarrhoea medicine – self explanatory.

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