A traveler’s carry-on bag can be his or her lifeline—sometimes it can even mean the difference between several long hours of excruciating boredom or a restful, relaxing flight. As many know, air travel can also be unpredictable, occasionally stranding passengers for long periods of time in the airport or on the runway. The best way to be prepared for any situation when flying is to be well equipped to pass the time, whether a flight takes off according to schedule or experiences an unexpected hiccup along the way. Though passengers are limited in the amount of space available in their suitcases, a carry-on isn’t complete without these 10 essential items to create an ideal flying experience.
1. An E-Reader
Advocates of high-tech tablets or printed books may disagree, but a simple e-reader is often the smartest choice for long flights. Able to hold hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of files, e-readers allow travelers to easily switch from book to book in their personal libraries without carrying cumbersome paperbacks. Additionally, they offer a longer battery life than touch tablets, lasting weeks between charges rather than just days or hours.
(Also read: Essential Gear Tips For Techy Travelers.)
2. A Change of Clothes
At any time, even on a nonstop flight, a plane could be forced to land after take-off, effectively stranding passengers in an unknown airport without any warning. These unexpected landings could last anywhere from an hour to over a day, so packing an extra set of clothes can come in handy for overnight stays. A change of clothes is also useful in case checked baggage is lost during transit—nothing can ruin a vacation faster than arriving at a destination without the appropriate attire.
3. High-Quality Headphones and an MP3 Player
Every flight has the potential to become an hours-long debacle, thanks to equipment malfunctions, unruly passengers or other unforeseen circumstances. Stay entertained with an MP3 player packed with your favorite songs. Headphones with noise-cancelling features are ideal to block out external sounds, but even a pair of comfortable behind the neck headphones with cushioned ear pads will allow travelers to enjoy music and doze off during a long flight or delay.
4. Any Valuables
It may seem like common sense, but it’s important to keep all valuables in a carry-on bag—airlines are notorious for losing luggage, and checked bags are subject to TSA searches. Everything from phones, wallets, passports and travelers checks to jewelry, laptops and cameras should be kept with you at all times to ensure the best protection.
5. A Pen
Small and taking up little space in a carry-on, a pen can be an important item to have while traveling, especially on overseas flights. Skip the germs that accrue on a communal pen and use a personal writing instrument to fill out necessary customs declaration forms during international travel.
6. Socks or Slippers
Being barefoot on a plane is not only bad for personal hygiene, it’s also against most airline regulations. For those who like to take off their shoes mid-flight, a pair of throwaway socks or slippers can help keep feet clean and comfortable. Lose the shoes and protect feet during visits to the lavatory or short walks to stretch the legs.
7. An Empty Thermos or Reusable Plastic Water Bottle
Avoid the steep airport prices on water by bringing an empty re-sealable plastic bottle that can be filled up at a drinking fountain after passing through security. While flight attendants will come around with complimentary beverage service, a cup or two of water isn’t enough to stay hydrated during a long flight. Staying hydrated can help prevent airborne conditions like DVT (deep vein thrombosis).
8. Snacks That Have Plenty of Protein
Airline budget cuts mean that passengers no longer receive complimentary snacks like peanuts or cookies, even if there’s a lengthy delay. After sitting on the runway for a couple of hours due to a technical problem, hunger begins to set in—combat this by packing protein-rich snacks that leave you feeling full longer. Dry-roasted edamame, trail mix with dried fruit and pumpkin or sunflower seeds are great compact snacks that are good sources of protein to stay energized and full during long flights.
Recirculated air on planes creates a dry environment that can wreak havoc on skin and eyes. For a more comfortable flight, pack travel-sized containers of face and hand moisturizer, lip balm and eye drops.
10. Hand Wipes or Hand Sanitizer
Being in close quarters with hundreds of other people, not to mention breathing recycled air, can make flying a major potential health hazard. Minimize the risk of spreading and catching germs by bringing a package of hand wipes or a small bottle of purifying hand sanitizer. These can be used in lieu of walking to the lavatory after coming in contact with something undesirable.
Though some may want to cram carry-on bags full of high-tech toys and sugar-filled snacks, traveling light with just the essentials will ensure an easy, comfortable flight. Keep it simple and bring items that will enhance an air travel experience and help prepare for any situation that arises.