Airports are the obstacle courses of the modern world. What the Ancient Greeks invented as a test of skill, speed, endurance and dexterity today lives on, endured by men the world over.

Whether city-hopping for a weekend break or crossing borders between meetings, any man worth his weight in air miles knows that the majority of delays and frustration comes from luggage checked into the hold.

As a result, a new savvy breed of flyer is emerging, one less seduced by the idea of taking his entire wardrobe with him, understanding that travelling with hand baggage alone is cheaper, quicker and easier.

Assuming you’ve already equipped yourself with a sturdy and appropriately sized case, here are the hand luggage essentials that will ensure a smooth and stylish journey to the finish line.

Invest In Sleep

Nothing removes the glamour of air travel like arriving dead on one’s feet. Few will manage to catch forty winks on a plane without a little help. While spirits from the trolley service do wonders for this, the best bet is to pack a high-quality eye mask and some ear plugs.

A mask made from cashmere – like the one included in the Armand Diradourian Elton John Aids Foundation travel set for Mr Porter – or velvet will feel soft and luxurious against the face, while one scented with a Lavender aroma will relax the body for a tranquil kip.

Best High Priced

Elton John AIDS Foundation Armand Diradourian Travel Set, available at Mr Porter, priced £385.

Best Mid Priced

Aromatherapy Associates Holistic Silk Eye Mask, available at Lookfantastic, priced £46.

Best Low Priced

Go Travel The Nightshade Sleep Eye Mask, available at John Lewis, priced £4.99.

Over-Ear Headphones

If earplugs aren’t enough to drown out screaming babies, pop some over-ear headphones on your lugs and soak up your pre-holiday playlist.

Going wireless is a wise move here – UrbanEars’ first foray into wireless features a swipe interface on the ear cup – to avoid getting in a tangle when buckling your belt or getting something out of you bag.

However, if you plan to use the in-flight entertainment systems, Sennheiser’s highly portable PXC 250-II mini headphone model is optimised for this and comes with NoiseGard active noise cancellation technology to reduce ambient racket.

Best High Priced

Bowers & Wilkins P7 Mobile Over-Ear Headphones, available at Selfridges, priced £329.99.

Best Mid Priced

Sennheiser Travel Headphones, available at, priced £139.99.

Best Low Priced

UrbanEars Plattan ADV Wireless Headphones, available at, priced £79.

Garment Cases And Bags

If you need to pack several outfits or are planning multiple destinations, but still want to avoid the luggage carousel, take a garment case or bag to separate worn and clean clothes to avoid contamination.

Japanese retailer Muji, which is available in thirteen stores across the UK, has developed a range made from materials that have been specially treated to reduce odours.

Shoe bags are an equally good idea, to keep the soles of your Oxford shoes away from your Oxford shirts.

Muji Drawstring Garment Case, available at, priced £5.95.

Washbag Essentials

As noted by our Grooming Editor in his frequent flyer’s grooming guide – while you may enjoy flying, your skin doesn’t. Without the right tools to hand, the face can quickly dehydrate causing it to feel dry and tight, one of the quickest pathways to premature ageing.

Each of the products below is underneath the 100ml limit for passing through security, an important rule to remember if you don’t want to be torn apart from your favourite bathroom accruements. However, one way around the restriction is to dispense some of a large product into empty travel pots (also available from the likes of Muji).

Fly into the battle well-armed with a moisturiser to replenish the skin like the Jack Black Dry Erase Face Cream, which helps retain essential moisture and nutrients while acting as a protective barrier against the aircraft’s low humidity.

It’s not just the face that can need a refresh, especially after a longer flight. The dry air causes pores to work overtime, producing excess oil that can leave locks looking greasy. A quick spray of dry shampoo is the ultimate quick fix here. If that seems all too girly then Hanz de Fuko Quicksand powder clay combines styling wax with dry shampoo to mattify hair as well as giving it hold.

In the interest of flying light, don’t take anything the hotel is likely to have so leave the hand soap at home. The Molitor in Paris provides Clarins products in each room. Don’t expect that everywhere you go but don’t be afraid to check before. If you’re really pressed for space, most concierge services can provide things like razors (not allowed in hand luggage anyway) and stain remover for any mishaps.


Travel Document Wallet

A seasoned flyer is an organised flyer. You didn’t afford yourself extra time relaxing in the airport lounge by not checking a bag in to lose minutes fumbling for your passport.

Use a slick travel document wallet to organise your affairs so the bartender can get on with fixing your drink. Smythson has long been one of the kings of leather goods but high street offerings from the likes of Marks & Spencer offer more adorable alternatives.

Best High Priced

Smythson Marshall Leather Travel Wallet, available at Matches Fashion, priced £320.

Best Mid Priced

Luxury Leather Double Travel Wallet, available at Marks & Spencer, priced £69.

Best Low Priced

Rip Curl Travel Wallet, available at Surfdome, priced £19.99.

Luxury Loungewear

Layering is key when flying – particularly when moving between countries of varying climates or time zones – and a cashmere hoodie can help deliver a luxurious approach to laid-back dressing.

Brands like Derek Rose, Sunspel and Loro Piana are key here but come with hefty price tags of between £500 (considered mid-priced) and £2,000. A quality cashmere-cotton blend, offered by the likes of J.Crew, is a more affordable alternative that doesn’t compromise on style.

Best High Priced

Loro Pian Portland Zip Up Silk & Cashmere Blend Hoodie, available at Mr Porter, priced £1,185.

Best Mid Priced

Sunspel Grey Melange Cashmere Hoodie, available at, priced £425.

Best Low Priced

Cotton Cashmere Zip Hoodie, available at J.Crew, priced £98.

Highly Recommended

In addition to the above essentials, the following three items come highly commended for their ability to turn air travel from an obstacle course to a walk in the park.

A Portable Charger

For all it’s wonders, today’s modern technology appears to lose life quicker than ever. Popping a portable charger in your carry-on will allow you to top up your juice so you can watch that pre-downloaded boxset without the risk of running flat.

Knomo Power Pack For Smartphones, available at, priced £89.

Water Filter Bottle

Keep skin hydrated from within when flying by drinking plenty of water. While it’s worth checking with the airport/airline beforehand, many allow empty water bottles over 100ml to be taken through security.

Investing in a refillable bottle with its own filter system will stop you having to shell out £3 in a last minute dash to WHSmith.

Brita 600ml Fill & Go Water Filter Bottle, available at George At Asda, priced £14.

Inflatable Travel Pillow

Despite budget airline’s ongoing efforts to make their seats increasingly comfortable (note: sarcasm), many wake with a crick in their neck after an on-board nap.

A supportive neck pillow is the best way to avoid this but can take up precious room in your bag. So opt for an inflatable version that can be quickly stowed away for your onward journey.

Inflatable Comfort Travel Pillow, available at, priced £12.

Get Involved

Did we miss anything off our list? Got an item you won’t fly in your bag without?

Share your tips and tricks in the comments section.