Surviving a long flight: What to keep in your carry-on

Jun 14, 2013 at 3:00 a.m. ET

The things you pack in your carry-on can make all the difference between a relaxed, easy flight and a stressful, when-will-this-torture-end flight. Make sure your carry-on is loaded with the right stuff before you take off on a long flight.

Woman with carry-on bag

Games and apps

Pack your carry-on with travel-friendly games like magnetic tic-tac-toe and activity/coloring books for your little travelers in tow. Don't forget to load up your iPhone with some new apps that will entertain your kids for at least some duration of the long flight.

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Airlines have had to tighten their budgets over the years, so in-flight freebies are pretty chintzy these days, and the offerings from the menu are downright outrageous. Pack a goody bag of snacks like nuts, dried fruit and granola bars. For the little ones, make a snack that doubles as entertainment (and a time-consuming activity), like a Froot Loops or Cheerios necklace, along with more substantial eats, like peanut butter crackers.

Creature comforts

Let's face it — after a few hours on a plane, your neck may begin to stiffen, your head may begin to ache and your ears may begin to tire from the chatter of the stranger next to you. Come equipped with a few necessities like a travel pillow, an eye mask, ear buds and Tylenol. It's also a good idea to have a pack of gum or a few hard candies to suck on in case cabin pressure causes your ears to plug or hurt.

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Cosmetic bag

You may want to touch up your makeup during your flight, but you'll also want essentials like hand lotion, sanitizer (remember to limit liquids to 3.4-ounce bottles or less), eye drops and lip balm.

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Never — and we mean never — leave home without your child's lovey. No, do not pack the beloved blankie or stuffed animal in your luggage that you won't see again until baggage claim. To ensure your own survival and that of those around you on the airplane, make sure your child's lovey is at arm's reach in your carry-on in case they get tired, scared or just plain cranky during the flight. Oh, and by the way… don't even think of leaving the plane before you've double and triple checked that said lovey is safely back in your carry-on.


If you're going to be on a flight for an extended period of time, let's hope you can get in some rest at some point. Plan ahead by packing a soft sweatshirt, sweater or light blanket in case the temperature in the plane gets too cold for your liking. Your little ones will want to cuddle up in their favorite blankets when they get ready for nap time, too. A pair of cozy socks is always nice, too!

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