Carry-on essentials: short flights vs long haul

It’s the holiday season and if you’ve got upcoming travels on your radar, you might be thinking about what to pack. Depending on if you’re flying for a long or short period of time, the things you bring along in in your carry-on will be different (long flights usually require more preparation to enjoy comfortably). To make packing a breeze, here are a few things you might want in your bag depending on the flight you’re taking!

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Short Flights

Usually for flights that only last a few hours you’ll want to read, play games, or take a nap. Shorter flights are easier to “tough it out” when you forget something, so you usually don’t have to put as much in your carry-on. Some of the things that are good to have in your bag for short flights are listed below.

  • Headphones – Noise-cancelling headphones are the best, and become especially handy when you’re sitting next to a Chatty Cathy and just want to sleep.
  • Snacks – Believe it or not, most airports let you bring food through security. Packing lots of snacks and a few sandwiches will keep you from getting hangry on a flight!
  • Book – Flights are one of the only times I have to actually sit down and read a book, so I love taking advantage of that! Hit up a discount bookstore beforehand to get awesome books for cheap.
  • Tablet – When you get tired of napping or reading, it’s nice to be able to play a game or watch a TV episode! Bringing a tablet is easier than bringing a laptop because it’s lighter and takes up less room.
  • Headache and nausea medicine – One thing that can make a flight instantly uncomfortable is having a headache or feeling nauseous. Carry some medicine just in case! You’ll be glad you did.
  • Hand sanitizer – Airplanes and airports are great places for germs to hang out. Keeping your hands disinfected will keep you healthy for your trip!
  • Tissues – The one thing that’s worse than having a runny nose is having a runny nose with no tissues. Keep a travel pack on hand just in case!


Long Flights

It’s a challenge to stay comfortable and have everything you need on longer flights. For long flights it’s good to bring everything you normally bring on short flights, plus what’s listed below.

  • Extra set of clothes – If you checked baggage, you definitely want to pack an extra set of clothes. Checked baggage frequently gets lost or arrives later than you do. Having an extra set of clothes will ensure that you don’t have to sit in your “flying” clothes longer than normal if your bags get lost!
  • Pen for customs/immigration paper – Prior to landing on international flights, the flight attendants usually hand out a customs/immigration paper to fill out. However, they sometimes don’t hand out pens. Bring one with you to avoid delay!
  • Scarf – Scarves are an essential travel item. They can be used as an accessory, a blanket, an umbrella, and much more! Bring a scarf in case you get cold or rained on!
  • Face wipes or baby wipes – On really long flights, you’ll probably be itching for a shower after you get off. If you don’t have much time between landing and your first activity, take a quick “baby wipe” shower in the airplane bathroom to stay fresh!
  • Fuzzy Socks – Airplanes are cold. Fuzzy socks keep your feet warm!
  • Blow up neck pillow – If you want to sleep for longer periods of time, a neck pillow is essential. Blow up neck pillows are great because they can be deflated upon arrival and take up less space in your bag!

What other essential would you recommend for a short flight or long haul trip?

Authored by: Becca Whiteman – STA Travel Student Ambassador

Becca Whiteman is an STA Travel Student Ambassador and majoring in Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University. She loves to swim, cook (eat), and travel. She also loves being out of her comfort zone while traveling because that’s when she has had the most memorable experiences!