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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

16 Essentials You Should Pack in Your Carry On for Your Next Trip!


When traveling these days, you never know how the day is going to go. If you are lucky (as I have been lately...hope I didn't just jinx myself), it will be super smooth from Point A to Point B with no disruptions. However, most of the travel stories I am hearing lately tell tales of unexpected delays, being stuck on the runway for hours, cancellations, diversions...you name it. Because the unexpected is not necessarily an unusual occurrence when airline travel is involved, you need to make sure that your carry on has everything you need to handle these complications like a pro. Here is a complete list of Carry On Essentials to make sure you are ready for whatever your travel day throws at you!


Carry On Essentials:

  • Identification-Driver's License or Passport (Be aware of upcoming REAL ID requirement effective May 3, 2023)

  • Cash and Credit/Debit Cards-Make sure to always bring some cash for tips and those instances where a credit or debit card is not accepted.

  • Travel Documentation-Documents that have all the detailed information regarding your trip. Boarding passes, printed out itineraries, printed out confirmations for booked tours, hotel reservations, etc. I like to keep all these documents in a folder for easy access. You can't always depend on wifi or cell phone battery and you may need to access these documents in a pinch.

  • Cell Phone and Charger (or Power Pack for extended battery life)

  • Lap Top and Charger

  • Earbuds or Headphones-If you have Apple headphones, don't forget a converter so you can plug in if you want to utilize the onboard flight entertainment. Alternatively, you can buy a bunch of cheap headphones at the dollar store and just keep them in your carry on so you always have headphones that will work on the airplane jacks.

  • Medications-Always bring your medications with you and not in your checked bag in case your luggage doesn't show up at the same place you do! Make sure to pack a few extra days' worth of medication in case you get unexpectedly stranded somewhere.

  • Extra Change of Clothes and Undies-Again, important if you and your luggage end up going on separate trips! Also nice if you have a long, overnight flight so you can freshen up in the morning and feel rejuvenated upon arrival. It is also nice to have an extra sweater or sweatshirt with you if you get cold during your flight or the temperature at your destination is a little cooler.

  • Travel Toiletries-Follow TSA's 3-1-1 Rule for Carry On toiletries. The 3-1-1 Rule is that each person can carry on liquids, gels or aerosols in travel size containers of 3.4 oz (or 100 milliters) that fit into one quart size clear bag. Things to think about bringing are toothpaste/toothbrush, mouthwash, lotion, contact solution, makeup remover, deodorant, feminine hygiene items, etc. Being able to freshen up during a long flight by brushing your teeth or taking off yesterday's make up is great.

  • Extra Contacts/Glasses/Sunglasses-Throw in some extra contacts and your regular eyeglasses so you are not stranded if your luggage takes a detour. Also make sure you have a couple of pairs of reading glasses if you are of a certain age where they are required to read small print...I wouldn't know anything about that [smirk]. And don't forget your sunglasses if you are going somewhere where the sun will be shining!

  • Valuable Jewelry-You may want to keep your valuable jewelry with you so you can feel confident that it is safe and secure and you won't lose it if your luggage is accidentally misplaced.

  • Snacks-Given that these days the food on the plane amounts to a bag with 5 tiny pretzels, I always like to make sure I have packed some snacks in my bag. Even on shorter flights I pack a bag of almonds, some Luna or Kind bars and maybe some chocolate for my sweet tooth. You may want to pack a bagel or a sandwich so you have something more substantial to eat in the event of a long layover or flight delay. Also make sure to pack some gum or breath mints so you don't overwhelm your seat mates with bad breath after you eat that Everything Bagel! I am a Diet Soda addict so I always purchase one at the airport store so I don't have to wait for the flight attendants to make their way to my seat. I usually also grab a water bottle for hydration, but you can also bring along a refillable bottle to use once you are through security.

  • Book or Magazines

  • Tylenol or Advil

  • Pen-Especially important on international flights as you will have to fill out Customs forms before arrival.

  • Covid Essentials-In the post-pandemic travel world, be sure to pack hand-sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and extra face masks (in case they are needed to enter some tourist sites or local market places).

With these items in your Carry On bag, you will be equipped to handle any crazy travel hurdle placed in your path. It will still be frustrating, but at least you will be as comfortable as you can be while trying to get to your destination or get back home! Happy (prepared) Travels!

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