Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

Carry-on only travel seems to be all the rage - and almost a bragging right for some - but I’m the first to admit I’m not someone who only travels with a suitcase small enough to take on to the plane with them. I’ll happily check my (larger) suitcase into the aircraft’s hold and meet up with it on arrival at my destination but there are still some essentials that I need onboard during my flight.

carry on bag essentialsNote: the items shown are not the exact items I pack in my carry-on bag but are similar. To find out more about the products shown, click on the image above.

Here’s what you’ll find in my carry-on luggage on a long haul flight….

Travel wallet with passport and all travel documents

This is the first thing that goes into my carry-on bag as no passport means no travel.  In my travel wallet I’ll also include any printed tickets, vouchers or instructions that I need for any of my travel arrangements.

Small purse/wallet with credit card and travel money card

I hate lugging my every-day purse around with me on my travels.  It’s filled with store loyalty cards that I won’t use overseas, and because it has a decent sized coin section, I find I fill it up with coins, both of which add substantially to the weight of my purse.

Instead I pack a small purse just big enough to fit a credit card and my pre-paid travel money card, some notes and a few coins.


It goes without saying that my iPhone is a travel essential.  It’s my phone, camera, GPS, music player, boarding pass and much more.

Prescription glasses

I’m short-sighted and wear prescription glasses for long distance vision and for better vision at night time, so my specs are something I never travel without.


Winter or summer I always pack a good pair of prescription sunglasses. These Ralph Lauren sunglasses (#gifted) are my latest love.


An avid reader, I never travel without a paperback book or my Kindle.  It’s amazing how many hours of my flight I can kill immersed in a good book.


Sometimes you just want to listen to your own music or podcasts that you have on your phone and the headphones supplied by the airline don't always have the correct fitting.  For this reason, it always pays to carry a good pair of noise cancelling headphones.

As well as helping to lessen the noises around me, I can listen to my favourite music, podcast or meditation app to help me pass the time and relax.

Neck pillow, eye mask and ear plugs

To have any chance of sleeping in economy class, I always pack a neck pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs.  It’s only in the last few years that I’ve adopted the eye mask but I find it works a treat.  Sure, it’s not a great look but needs must!  

Ear plugs are also essential to try and block the noise of crying babies and noisy drink carts whilst I sleep, and a U shaped pillow helps to keep my head from flopping onto my neighbour’s shoulder!


I tend to get quite cold on aeroplanes so having a scarf or pashmina in my carry-on bag is always a must.


Handy for those arrival cards that always need filling out mid-flight, doing a crossword or just doodling!

Basic make up, hairbrush/comb, tissues, toothbrush and toothpaste

I’m kind of resolved to the fact now that when I reach my destination after 24 hours in the air, I’m not going to be looking at my best!  That’s not to say I don’t try, though.  My carry-on bag will include some basic make up (foundation and lipstick), my hairbrush, some tissues and my toothbrush and toothpaste so that I can have a freshen up before landing.

Further reading: Flight attendant tips for looking good after a long haul flight

What do I use for my carry-on bag?

All of my carry-on essentials are carried in a reasonably sized handbag.  My current favourite is my NAT reversible black and denim Hobo handbag from The Redletter Club which I purchased it from my local homewares and gift shop.

I love it because I can change the bag’s colour to suit my outfit by simply turning the bag inside out.  It’s also roomy enough that I can fit in all of the above travel essentials and it has three zip pockets and an extendable strap.

(I pack a small cross-body handbag in my suitcase which I use once I’m at my destination with just my daily essentials - purse, sunglasses, lipstick, etc. - in it.)  This article has some great suggestions for cross-body bags.

With my carry-on bag sorted, I can then turn my attention to my packing list for Europe and what to wear on a long haul flight.

What are the essentials you pack in your carry on bag?


Author's Note: I was gifted the Ralph Lauren sunglasses mentioned above by Vision Direct.








# Loretta 2017-08-04 10:15
I'm travelling with family, 3 kids, so a handbag just won't cut it. Even getting them to carry their own entertainment, a change of clothes and toiletries, I still need to have paracetamol, chew-able for the older ones, liquid for Mr 5 and some emergency distractions, for when they get sick of iPads, oh, and everyone's passports! I'm coeliac so I always travel with some snacks and instant noodles as sometimes the airlines make mistakes with GF food. I think I'll have to stick with my un-glamorous backpack, we use it shopping at markets while away too. I do have a small cross body bag too but I'm really wondering whether to bother or just rely on my pockets?
# Carolyn 2017-08-04 14:21
I can sympathise, Loretta. I remember travelling with our kids and all the extra paraphernalia we had to pack. I'd say your backpack - whether glamorous or not - is the best bet. If the cross body bag doesn't take up too much room it might be worth taking. You never know, you might have the chance to be backpack-free one day!
Wishing you all safe and happy travels.
# Anne Ryan 2017-07-03 14:28
I only take 1 handbag & this is the bag I use on the plane. I am currently using a crossbody Travelon bag which has enough room & pockets to take all on your list as well as my Ipad. In addition to your list, I take a usb cable to recharge Iphone & Ipad if needed, medications for 2 days in case plane is delayed and also a clip-in open ended glasses case (glasses are protected but easily accessible. My bag fits under the seat in front and I have no need to use the overhead locker.
# Carolyn 2017-08-04 14:23
It sounds like you've definitely got the in-flight essentials sorted, Anne. I prefer not to use the overhead locker, too.