9 Essential Carry-on Bags Approved by Airline Crews to Make Any Flight More Comfortable

It doesn’t matter if you’re hopping on a short-haul domestic flight or embarking on a transatlantic flight, proper flight preparation will always make your in-flight experience much more comfortable and stress-free.

Make sure your hand luggage is always packed so you can sit back and enjoy your flight. And, not to mention, bringing all your favorites with you from home will save you from spending too much at the duty-free or overpriced convenience store at the airport.

And, who knows better what makes for a comfortable flight than the people who spend their lives crossing the skies? We spoke to a handful of flight attendants and long-haul pilots to get their thoughts on the best products to make flying a more comfortable and streamlined experience. And, in the end, all it really takes is a little extra planning to streamline your experience like a pro. Here’s what the airline crew suggests adding to your packing list for a more comfortable flight experience.

$28.49 on Amazon

Remember to always put snacks in your bag. If you arrive at the airport and security takes longer than expected, you may not have time to grab something to eat before it’s time to start boarding, especially if the lines are long waits for food and drinks. First Officer Nick Motlagh says his snack of choice is a protein bar or a meal replacement bar. “They don’t take up a lot of space and are a simple and healthy way to prevent hunger on the go,” says Motlagh.

These Rise Protein Bars come in seven different flavors – from Almond Honey Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Banana, Mint Chocolate Chip and more. All flavors contain at least 15 grams of protein per bar, and each of the flavors contains only five ingredients or less.

$49.99 at Amazon and Anker

Amazon

New York-based flight attendant Ashley Yang likes to keep a well-stocked carry-on, including the right tech to keep it charged and ready to go once the flight lands. A TSA-approved portable charger and universal adapter will help ensure you always have access to your personal in-flight entertainment and don’t have to search for a plug at the airport if your seat doesn’t have a built-in sockets.

The Anker PowerCore 13000 is our pick as the best overall portable charger. We like the device mainly because of its charging capacity. At 13,000 mAh, it carries enough juice to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Its size is perfect for travel, as it won’t take up much space in your carry-on or your favorite travel backpack.

$13.99 on Amazon

Flight attendant Sydney Key always recommends traveling with cash. “You never know when a credit card machine might be down, or when you might find yourself somewhere where tap-to-pay technology hasn’t arrived yet,” she says. “A little extra cash on hand can save you from a dead end if plastic or digital currency isn’t enough.”

This tear-resistant and durable leather envelope is a great option for carrying bills if you want to separate them from the rest of your travel wallet. The envelope is the perfect size to fit in a purse or clutch – or in the safe when you arrive at your hotel room.

$29.95 $27.95 on Amazon

It’s hard to find true comfort without having a pillow and a blanket. “The first is a pillow and a blanket, mainly when we go on long trips,” says former flight attendant Zoila Streich. “You need to be comfortable for hours, not minutes.”

This EverSnug travel blanket and pillow combo offers a cozy microfleece material that can easily be tossed in the wash between flights. It comes in four different colorways – light pink, black, burgundy, grey, navy and teal – and is more substantial than the thin blankets often handed out on the plane.

$110 at Allbirds

A comfortable change of clothes and a pair of casual shoes you can slip on and off will make the airport experience much less of a hassle, especially if you’re traveling most of the day, according to Streich. Getting your shoes on and off at security and being able to slip on a new shirt between layovers can make all the difference.

We love the Allbirds Wool Runners as travel shoes because they’re incredibly versatile. They’re made from sustainable, ethical ZQ merino wool, so they’re soft to the touch while providing moisture-wicking and odor-stabilizing characteristics. So you can wear them from the airport to visiting your favorite destination.

$25 at ASOS

It’s no secret that the air in airplanes is dry. While some airplanes are better than others at keeping moisture in the air, you should drink plenty of water and help your skin retain moisture. “The air on the plane can be very dry, and we always have to look professional and well rested,” says Streich. Thus, she recommends carrying a moisturizer with you.

We particularly like the Aussie Flyer Face Base from Lanolips. Its rich formula is super hydrating but won’t make your face oily. Plus, at just 60 millimeters, this moisturizer is TSA-approved to be a must-have in your carry-on.

$19.99 $14.95 on Amazon

It’s always good to be prepared for the unexpected. “My number one product was my little first aid kit,” says Streich. “My feet hurt all the time from all the time I was on my feet – sometimes I would spend almost 12 hours in the same pair of shoes.” And as a passenger, you never know when you might need a bandage or some ibuprofen.

That said, you’ll want to make sure any first aid kit you pack in your carry-on is TSA-approved. In other words, no sharp objects or large bottles of antiseptic – all liquids and gels should be under 3.4 ounces. This mini first aid kit does the trick, though you may need to remove some sharp objects before going through airport security. It comes with bandages, gauze pads, first aid tape, antiseptic wipes and much more.

$30.99 on Amazon

When we fall asleep, our sense of hearing is the last sensation to fade, which means a sudden noise from the kitchen or the crying baby five rows away can wake you up again. To counter this, a good pair of earplugs is essential, says Boeing 787 Dreamliner pilot Charlie Page.

“There are all kinds on the market, from gifts you get on the plane to ones you can customize on your ear canal, but I use a mid-range set from Flare Audio, which has dual rubber tips,” says Page. “Not only are they great at cutting out any outside noise, but they’re so comfortable that when they turn on their side, they don’t dig into my ear and disturb my sleep.”

$19.99 $9.98 on Amazon

Mavogel sleep mask

Sleeping well on an airplane is all about setting the scene – and that includes creating blackout conditions for your eyes. “As for sunlight, it’s great for overcoming jet lag and adjusting to local time, but when you’re trying to sleep it can be a problem,” says Page. Consider a blackout eye mask, especially if you are sensitive to lighting changes on flights. Creating a perfectly dark environment will help you fall asleep no matter where you are.

We love the Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask – in fact, it won the title of best overall sleep mask. It features an awesome nose wire that blocks any light that might leak through other eye masks. It is made of 100% cotton fabric, so it is extremely soft against the eyes.

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