Packing a Carry-On for the Long Haul

There are so many articles all over filled with tips and tricks on how to pack, but rarely do these sites actually share what to pack, especially for a carry-on. Now, we could go into the benefits of small carry-on bags, but really when it comes to travel, being prepared is often the best outlook. In this case, I’d love to share my tips on what to pack for a long-haul flight and show you what I took on my United flight from Denver to Shanghai over the holiday season.

Seventeen hours traveling can be a long time, especially sitting for long periods of time. I try to look at each trip I am about to take, no matter the length, with fresh eyes and lay out everything I might need right away when I land and backups of certain necessities. The first thing I think about is my personal comfort. For any flight over 8 hours, I pack new socks and a 2nd pair of shoes. I know this might seem a bit much for some, and it might be a habit I bring over from the Marines, but changing socks after getting off the plane has helped me always feel fresh and ready. I pack different shoes as back-up in case my feet swell from the flight or I just find I am too uncomfortable in the first pair. And as they are always oxfords for me, they pack fairly easily and don’t weigh too much.


For the long hauls, I also recommend a pair of glasses over contacts. The air inside the cabin seems to dry out my eyes very quickly, and if I do end up catching some sleep on the way, I don’t have to worry about taking my contacts out. Instead I just pop them in with some fresh eye drops after landing and am good to go without any irritation or dryness to worry about.

Next up to go through is the entertainment/quick access items. This really doesn’t change much for me between flights. Covering the entertainment section, I usually pick up a newer copy of a higher end print magazine (Conde Nast Traveler below, but also recommend Gear Patrol) and pack it alongside my tour book and tablet. Always needed for traveling, and I have my charger cable and block readily handy especially with most the United planes having outlets below each seat, and a backup battery just in case for my phone.

As a writer and photographer, I love to capture both travel notes and moments, so my Canon 60D paired with the 50mm 1.4 lens is a constant in my bag alongside my travel notebook and higher-end pen. A lightweight watch is a must as well, especially for the long-haul when little things can start to become heavy after sitting too long. Then there is a little bag of toiletries. Now, I was lucky to snag a United BusinessFirst toiletries bag mid-year on a flight, which came packed with toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, eye mask, and socks, and its size has become perfect for me to keep using since. As I tend to fly the red eyes for work, when I land I like to freshen up as much as I can for whatever work is ahead of me. Plus, after 18 hours in a plane, nobody really is at their freshest.

Finally, let’s not forget the passport. Now, I might be a little different than most, but I carry it with me everywhere I travel. It’s placed in a hidden pocket in my bag until the hotel and is then put in the hotel safe. Why? It’s the best form of secondary and backup identification I have and by making a habit of always having it when I travel, I feel more confident hitting the airport before an international flight.


You will notice what I did not pack; everything else. My clothes and such all get packed and checked unless it’s a short trip. But for long hauls, the last thing I want to be doing it lugging around a 35lb bag when tired, and this saves me from being ‘that guy’ on the plane. Seriously, nobody likes ‘that guy’ so don’t be him. And with these items, I have a small enough bag to put in front of me in any seat on United, from the back Economy, to Economy Plus, up to Business. I can grab and go quickly and stay relatively out of the way, while having access to just about anything I would want on the flight.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of United Airlines. The opinions and text are all mine.