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Create your own flight kit with in-flight essentials, and you will have an easy-to-handle bag that saves time and stress on every flight. I keep these flight essentials ready to go, in a separate bag I call my “Flight Kit”.

My flight kit includes items I will likely use at my seat, during the flight. These travel essentials are also useful once I reach my hotel, cruise or other destination. 

There are three big advantages to packing flight essentials in a separate flight kit:

  1. It saves time at home prepping for your trip. Just grab your pre-packed kit of flight essentials and put it in your carry-on bag. When you return home, recharge any items that need it, and put them back in the kit ready for your next trip.
  2. It saves time when you board your flight. There is nothing relaxing about boarding today’s over-crowded flights. Everyone is jockeying for overhead space. When I reach my seat, I grab my flight kit and water bottle and I am in my seat.
  3. There is no need to access your larger carry-on bag during flight. It is so annoying to get settled and buckled in, only to realize you need something from your larger bag. Then you have to jump up and dig things out of the overhead compartment, or wrestle with the bag wedged under the seat in front of you. Easy access to your flight essentials is especially nice when you are in a window or middle seat with limited space and no overhead access.

My list of carry-on essentials for the flight includes must-pack items that are always in my Flight Kit. A convenient shopping and packing list is included below.

BOSE Noise-cancelling Headphones

My BOSE noise-cancelling headphones are the best travel splurge I ever purchased. I have the earbud wireless version, but BOSE also offers an over-ear options. Keep in mind that the over-ear headphones are going to take a lot more space in your kit. It is incredible how much of the background noise these headphones cancel out—crying babies, loud talkers, lumber-sawing snores. You don’t even have to plug these headphones into a device to get noise-blocking benefits. Just put in the earplugs, turn them on, and the noise dims. The sound quality is excellent. Use them with your smartphone, tablet, or computer to watch movies, listen to music, or play your favorite white noise or listen to a meditation app.

Compression Pillow with Eye Mask and Ear Plugs

Repeat after me: There are better, more travel friendly options than a standard neck pillow. That hour of sleep you’ll get using the pillow in not worth the annoyance of bring the bulky travel accessory along for the journey. I now leave behind my old travel pillow, preferring this compression pillow for my red-eye flights. *Bonus* it comes with a silky eye mask and ear plugs. Silly me. A nice silky eye mask makes all the difference when you are trying to catch a nap during flight or in your hotel room. The same is true for ear plugs.

Phone Plug and Cord

Some planes have outlets or USB ports at each seat. Include a small phone charger and cord  in your Flight Kit to keep your phone or tablet charged while you watch movies or play games during flight. If you are traveling with someone you could bring a 2-cord charger, but remember your goal is to keep things in your flight essentials kit small. Probably better to have each traveler take their own small charger.

Portable Device Charger

If your airplane seat does not have an outlet, you can use a portable charger as a back-up. Look for a slim portable charger. Avoid chargers with external power buttons that might get accidentally turned on when it is in your essentials kit.

I pack a mini-kit of several essentials that I may need during flight. My flight kit is in an 8 x 5 inch zippered mesh bag. A plastic baggie would do in a pinch, but a zippered mesh bag is much sturdier. Pack your flight kit with small items that you do not want floating around or falling out of the bigger bag. This is what I pack in my flight kit:

  • Antibacterial Wipes: Wipes are better than liquid because you can use them to clean your tray table, arm rests, etc. *BONUS TIP* Save the ones you get at restaurants and hotels for your next flight.
  • Cleaning and Makeup Remover Wipes: I love a quick refresher during or after my flight. I promise the hydration will do your face some good.
  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste and floss: One charge will last this travel toothbrush 14 days. Avoid disposable toothbrush options, the planet does not need more trash. I also carry a tiny clear container of packed micro mint flossers that I got on an international flight.
  • Lip Balm: I love Burt’s Bees because it is so moisturizing but any lip balm will do. Those airplane cabins are so dry!
  • Kleenex: The smaller Kleenex travel pack you can find the better.
  • Cough drops or hard candies: Sucking on a hard candy during descent can help offset ear pressure.
  • Throw in a few bandaids and antiseptic wipes and a few Imodium, Pepcid, and GasX and you will be prepared for minor in-flight emergencies. Add ear plugs if you do not have headphones.
  • Journal and pen: I write when I fly. Travel content ideas, blog ideas, reviews of the breakfast spot or how well CLEAR worked vs. the speed of TSA Precheck security line.

Large Silk Scarf

You may want to include a lightweight scarf or pashmina that can double as a blanket on your flight. If you are flying overnight, the airline will provide a blanket. I generally include a scarf in my flight kit only if I am going to use it at my destination.

Book, Tablet or Reader

I generally take an old-school print book on flights (Michael Weeda is a travel favorite of mine). Substitute your iPad or favorite tablet if you prefer digital books.


Are snacks really a travel essential? For me … YES! That tiny airline bag of dry pretzels is not going to get me through any flight. There is always room in a flight kit for nuts, snack bars, or other small snack. If you decide not to eat during the flight, long-lasting snacks will not need to be unpacked before the next trip.

Credit Card and Cell Phone

I usually move these from my purse to my flight kit just before boarding. The credit card is handy if you decide to purchase food or a drink during your flight. And we always need our cell phones, right? It is handy for entertainment, white noise, and getting in touch with folks during that seemingly endless time between landing and deplaning.

Collapsible Refillable Water Bottle

A collapsible refillable water bottle may fit inside your kit. I really like the pop-up spout on my Contigo water bottle. It fits on the side of my travel backpack and has my name on it. Add a couple of reusable metal straws so you can avoid disposable plastic ones. In most countries there is just no reason to buy bottled water. Bring your own bottle to stay hydrated and help the planet.

More Carry-on Essentials for Overseas Flights and Long-Haul Flights

Your flight kit may change a bit when you are packing flight essentials for long-haul and overnight flights. International travel essentials are very similar with a couple of important additions. 

  • Add your passport and any required travel documents (i.e. Visas) to your flight kit when you are packing carry-on essentials for international flights. You may need that passport info to fill out country entry documents. Keep it all together and secure with an RFID-blocking travel wallet.
  • You may need an International Travel Adapter if you will be flying internationally. Many non-US airlines have USB ports at each seat. So, leave the adapter in your carry on bag until you reach your destination. Rely on your portable charger if needed.
  • Keep your essential cables, chargers, etc organized, much better than dig into your bag all the time. This travel organizer has plenty of storage mesh pockets designed to store certificates, passports, driver’s license, electronic gadgets (such as power bank, external hard drive, SD memory card, cables, earphone, connector adapter). It comes with 5 cable ties to help you to organize your cables. You will find it very practical & useful for your daily life or while traveling.

Packing Your Flight Travel Essentials: 3 Steps to Flight Kit Success

I use an 8 x 10-in compression packing cube for my flight kit. It has a mesh front so it is easy to see items. There are two zippers. One zipper opens the bag on 3 sides. The second zipper compresses the bag, so you can fit more inside. To pack the kit:

  1. Unzip the expander zipper and add scarf and book or tablet.
  2. Add all other items on top of the book and close main zipper.
  3. Close expander zipper to make the bag as small as possible.

Voila! Your bag is packed and you are ready to fly. Then add everything else on top.

Flight Kit Packing and Shopping List

Here is a handy packing and shopping list for your airplane essentials.

In the good old days, seat pockets were pretty roomy and could easily fit your Flight Kit. If the seat pocket is too skimpy on your flight, prop the bag on the side of your seat (hold on to it during take-off and landing).

Here are two tips for managing your water bottle during flight:

  1. Loosen the cap of your water bottle before you take off. If the cap is tight, pressure will build during the plane’s ascent. When you open your bottle at elevation, the water will spray out, giving you (or someone nearby) a wet surprise.
  2. Since your cap is loose, it is essential to keep the bottle upright so it does not leak. Keep your water bottle upright by putting it inside your seat pocket.

As a travel blogger and agent, I am a very frequent flyer. I am also devoted to carry-on only travel and reducing the stress of traveling. I have developed my Flight Kit strategy over time, adjusting any time I found myself missing something during the flight. Your list of essentials may be different from mine, but anyone can use this strategy for packing travel essentials for the plane. If you fly with children, you may want to create a flight kits for each of them as well. I include our son’s cords, chargers, etc in ours just to keep track of everything.

What did we miss? Please share your flight essentials tips in the comments below. Whatever you include in your flight kit, we wish you safe travels!!

Until next time,


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