Airplane Travel Tips & Free Printable Packing List

The summer travel season is in full swing. Today I’ve gathered up some of my favorite airplane travel tips and tricks to share with you, along with a free printable carry-on packing list.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to pick up a few useful tips to help make your next airline trip a bit less stressful.

In 1995 I took my first trip out of the United States; I went to London with many family members. It was my first international flight, my first time getting a stamp on a passport, and my first experience with jet lag.  

I look back on that trip now and laugh at all of the things I did wrong. You should have SEEN all the crazy things I had packed in my carry-on.  I even had a suitcase break open while coming down the conveyor belt because it was way too full. Thankfully I was young and somewhat naive, so most of those things didn’t bother me too much.

Four of my Best Airplane Travel Tips

Tips for surviving long airline flights, along with a free printable airplane carry on packing list

Since then, I’ve tried to take opportunities to travel as they come along. Most of my family lives 1600 miles away, so I have become accustomed to taking long airline trips quite frequently.

After my kids came along, I soon became accustomed to flying with kids. alone. *gasp*.  Now my kids are a bit older and easier to fly with, but we still have a pretty strict set of guidelines for airline travel with them. The number one thing is, “if you can’t carry it yourself, you can’t take it.” Let me tell you, that rule came about the hard way.


A few years ago, our family visited South Africa; it was an amazing opportunity and an even more amazing experience. 

I was nervous about the trip but even more nervous about the 17+ hour flight. Yes, you read that right, 17 HOURS!  After we got home and off the plane, my kids declared that after that, all the other flights would seem short, and in a way, they were right.

Tips for surviving long airline flights, along with a free printable airplane carry on packing list

As I mentioned before, I’ve learned a thing or two since my first experience with a long-haul flight in 1995. Today I’ve taken the time to type up my best tips and tricks for airplane travel. Since we have headed out again this summer, I thought I’d take the time to FINALLY type up my “go to” airplane carry-on packing list.  I’ve included a link for you to download the list for free; keep reading.

TIP ONE: Pack your carry on carefully

First, make sure you read and understand the TSA guidelines. I’m always amazed when I’m at the TSA checkpoints how many people show up with full-size shampoo bottles in their carry-ons!  You can’t do that!  

After you know what you can and can not take on the plane, the objective is to fit as much as you can in a carry-on with that carry-on weighing as little as possible.  No one wants to carry a massively heavy bag across 3 terminals to change planes, trust me.

Carry Two bags on the Plane with You

I like to carry two carry-ons. A suitcase to fit in the overhead bin, and a small bag/purse to keep under my seat. When I pack, I try to keep everything I’ll need during the flight in my purse so that the suitcase can stay in the overhead the whole time. I only get into it if I need to. The suitcase contains things like my camera, emergency medicines and a change of clothes.

What to Put in your Small Carry-On

I like to have gum, an iPad, hand sanitizer, headphones, a few snacks, and a refillable water bottle in my purse. I wear a shawl on the plane, so I don’t need a blanket and use a carabiner clip to attach my pillow to my rolling suitcase. Then, I clip it off the suitcase before I put it in the overhead bin.

Tips for surviving long airline flights, along with a free printable airplane carry on packing list

I no longer carry books or magazines with me on a plane. They are WAY too heavy, and I’ve become accustomed to reading on my iPad.  (here’s a TIP: have a favorite travel guide? Buy an e-version of it, and then you don’t have to lug around a GIANT travel book all day).

I use Apple News+ and download all the magazines I want for the flight before I leave.

My favorite iPad Apps for Airplane Rides (that are not games):

Apple News+: I have a subscription and can download my favorite magazines to read on the plane without wifi! To get this to work, you need to make sure that you click the cloud icon next to the magazine you want and click “download.”

Kindle: I love to read! I always have a few novels with me on my iPad; I also have an iPad mini that is the perfect size for exploring a city. I purchase travel books ahead of time and have them when I need them. This is especially helpful when traveling abroad.

My favorite Travel Guide Books are written by Rick Steeves.

Apple TV: If you purchased a movie on iTunes, you could download it in the app to watch on the plane.

Netflix will allow you to download certain TV shows and movies to your iPad to watch offline.

You can easily find enough to keep you entertained on a long airplane flight.

Free Airplane Carry On Packing List Printable:

To see the rest of what’s in my carry on, just check out this handy printable PACKING LIST (download for free using this link)

Tips for surviving long airline flights, along with a free printable airplane carry on packing list

TIP TWO: Stay Hydrated.

Avoid a lot of salt or sugar before your flight and while you’re on it. Take a refillable water bottle with you. You can fill it up at the airport (if there is no water fill station, ask a restaurant, most will oblige), you can then ask the flight attendants to fill it up for you during the flight. Much cheaper than buying $5 bottles of water at the airport.

TIP THREE: Move Around.

Set a timer on your phone (a silent one so you don’t wake up your neighbor) and get up and stretch your legs. If you’re lucky enough to be able to sleep through a flight, make sure you walk around as soon as you wake up.

TIP FOUR: Pack your Patience.

We’ve all heard the travel horror stories.  I don’t need to repeat any of them.  Do your best to be polite to those around you, including the airline staff.  Not only will those around you appreciate it, but you will also arrive at your destination in a better mood.

I mentioned before that I’m headed out soon, and I’d love for you to share your travel tips and tricks with me! In my opinion, you can never have enough good ideas!

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