When you’re flying short haul, hand luggage is premium real estate. With today’s cheap flights, your weekend getaway simply doesn’t warrant doubling the cost of your flights just to check in a bag. Thus we have evolved into a generation mastered in the art of cramming weekend essentials into an airline approved 56cm x 35cm x 23cm. It’s become almost second nature; I’ve been known to spend 4 days in Ibiza with just a handbag.


But when it comes to a ‘big’ trip, one in which everything necessary is stowed safely in the hold, the opportunities for hand luggage abound. We find ourselves giddy with the possibilities of what our oversized totes can handle (just me?). Perhaps you can include snacks, an activity for the journey, or even some miniature liquids just for the plane – you have full sized bottles for when you arrive waiting for you down below!


Over the years, I have crafted my personal on-board ecosystem of essentials. All these items work together, helping me to navigate the fine line between lugging unnecessary bulk around the airport and being able to travel in as much comfort as possible. Allow me to divulge…


A Book – Depending on how fast you read this may be one or five. Although it’s nice to have a physical book with actual pages, when I’m travelling I need to use iBooks or a Kindle as I read too fast. Those forgone tomes leave valuable clothing space which I am just not willing to give up. So for all those hard copy snobs out there; I hear you, I see you, and I raise you 3 extra outfits.


Ipad with case – I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that there is no end to the enjoyment you can have with an ipad or other tablet. If you travel frequently (or are planning to) I urge you to invest. Play games, stay in touch, learn stuff, watch TV, listen to music as well as read the aforementioned books. It’s the perfect travel companion. A case is also mandatory if you are anything like me and will inevitably smash it to smithereens.


Travel pillow – Not all travel pillows are created equal. I see at least one new design every week, from huge monstrosities that will anger your seat neighbours, to head hammocks wrapped around the seat in front (which I imagine to be equally annoying for the owner of that seat). My tried and tested pillow of choice is the infamous ostrich pillow light. It may look slightly…  avant garde, but you’ll have the last laugh when your head is encased in a cosy cocoon of blissful sensory deprivation.


Travel wallet – Such an underrated item. It may be seen as a total ‘mum’ accessory, but you can get some super chic ones these days. And what’s more chic than effortlessly producing required documentation exactly when needed? I can’t imagine VB rummaging around in her Tulip Tote looking for her boarding pass now – can you?


Travel notebook and pen – OK I may appear to be completely contradicting myself, but whilst it is more convenient to carry a tablet for reading on, nothing beats taking notes or keeping a diary in a journal. Sometimes I’ll write up travel notes to my ipad if I have a lot to say as it’s quicker, but I’ll usually always write it up into a beautiful notebook afterwards. I like to buy a new notebook for each trip and fill it up with all my musings and updates, along with a step by step walkthrough of my activities. If you don’t write it down, did it even happen? I also like to scribble drawings in the margins or furiously underline things that need to be emphasized, but maybe that’s just me. Also another excuse for beautiful stationery? Yes please!


pen laying open on blank page of note book
Sometimes a keyboard just won’t cut it


Baby wipes – Whilst I stress here that face wipes are the devil, I would be lying if I said that a baby wipe in the bag isn’t useful. I’ve had a bird grace me with good luck five minutes after touching down in Sydney, I’ve had to push a car out of a rainy ditch in the backstreets of Nepal. There are just some moments a dry napkin won’t cut it. God bless antibacterial agents.


Toothbrush & toothpaste – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. PACK THESE IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE. After 12 hours on a flight you are not exactly going to be minty fresh. This really helps to wake me up and make me feel more perky after being herded like cattle around an airport.


Clean pants – If you’re a frequent traveller, chances are you’ve had the experience of losing a piece of luggage. When this occurs, something that makes a bad situation significantly worse is hand washing and drying your pants every night, especially if you’re staying somewhere cold where they won’t dry in an instant. Pants take up minimal room, and should the need ever arise you will be eternally grateful to your past self.


Lotions & potions – By this I mean whatever you need to feel comfortable on the flight. For some this may mean makeup, whilst others they wouldn’t dream of slapping on the foundation at high altitudes. For me, this means the following: hand cream, lip balm, moisturiser, a cleansing aromatherapy mask and some key makeup essentials (mascara and concealer in case of emergency). I get very dry in the artificial air of planes, so being without copious levels of moisture would be utter torture. Usually, I’ll decant some coconut oil into a container as this can quadruple up as hand/face moisturiser, lip balm, a cleansing mask and hair serum for flyaways. You do you. But whatever you decide, you will definitely need…


An adorable washbag – Because cute little pouches are fun and, in this case, ABSOLUTELY necessary. On a long haul flight (or any flight for that matter) you should be maximising any simple thing that gives you pleasure. Knock yourself out. You deserve it.


Hairbrush and hair ties – These can also go in your amazing new pouch. I find that my hair gets super static in a plane environment so I have been known to also bring a combative serum, but most of the time a simple topknot is sufficient.


over ear headphones for music on a brown table
Because nobody ever complained that their music was too clear


Cashmere socks – I won’t back down on this one. Join me, buy them, and never look back.


Food – A highly divisive issue. For me, the extent of the food I will need is some mints to suck if my ears are popping and maybe a snack in case of completely inedible plane food. Again, it’s all about maximising packing space and, for me, food isn’t an essential. For some of you the opposite may be true, in which case go wild! Prepare yourself a smorgasbord of options in teeny tiny tupperware and snack like you mean it.


Headphones – These are another item worth investing in as they can bring benefits to your entire trip, not just the journey there. I’ve never heard anyone on an airplane complain that their music was too crisp and clear, or that they couldn’t hear enough of the baby crying in row 14. Then again, that might just be me.


Sunglasses – These will hide a multitude of sins for those early morning flights or long haul jaunts. They have the added benefit of adding intrigue to your persona and looking super chic. Use this as an excuse to buy a ridiculously expensive but indescribably fabulous pair. I guarantee you will never regret it.


Oversized scarf or pashmina – Looks effortlessly cool and doubles as your blanket on the plane. Because plane blankets = gross. That’s just science.


This may sound like a lot, but you can always pick and choose what works for you. There are also some tips on flying long haul here.
Did I miss off anything that you consider vital on a plane journey? Does something here not seem necessary? Drop me a comment below!


One thought on “The ultimate hand luggage list

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