7 items you should always pack in your carry-on bag

Feb 7, 2021

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If you travel often with budget airlines or because you’ve bought a Basic Economy fare on a full-service airline, you may be a whizz at traveling with a carry-on bag only. But for those longer trips or where you are traveling for an event like a wedding, you may need to check in a bag or two.

Checking in a bag can free you up to take fewer items on board, but what should you always remember to have in your carry-on luggage?

Related: How to pack only in a Spirit Airlines free carry-on bag

1. Your Passport Or ID

Don’t forget to keep some form of identification on you. Even if you don’t need a passport to board a flight, it’s a good idea to keep a photo ID on you in case your bag is delayed. You may not be able to check into a hotel or collect a rental car without proper identification.

Just think that if for some reason, your bag is lost forever, it can be a frustrating and expensive process to replace items like a passport and your driver’s license.

2. Phone and device chargers

With so many aircraft now featuring inflight charging points, you can ensure your phone, tablet or laptop remains charged for the duration of the flight. Be sure to bring those accessories with you so you can take advantage of the in-seat power.

If you have a lengthy layover between flights you don’t want your device to run out of battery just as you need it.

Related: This international travel necessity is the secret to a better domestic flight

(Photo by Jaromire Chalabala/EyeEm/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jaromire Chalabala/EyeEm/Getty Images)

3. A change of clothes

If you’re traveling on long flights that connect to another destination you probably don’t want to wear the same clothes for 24 hours. If you have access to a shower during your layover, it can make a world of difference to your mood by simply showering and changing into a fresh pair of clothes — especially socks and underwear! Carrying a set with you can help you to feel better for the duration of your journey.

Plus, if your baggage is delayed once you get to your final destination, you’ll definitely want clothes to change into. Even if your flight is short and direct, it’s a great idea to have a change of clothes in case of delayed baggage. Make sure this outfit is appropriate for your destination.

Related: What to do when your luggage is delayed or lost by an airline

4. Headphones

Don’t try and watch that funny video on your phone with the speaker turned up to full. This is annoying to fellow passengers both in the airport lounge and onboard — take headphones with you. It’s a good idea if you are using earbuds or AirPods to have these in your pocket as you board a flight rather than just in your carry-on luggage so they are easy to reach and use as you sit down without needing to get up and retrieve them from the overhead.

Related: Your guide to packing for toddlers

KRAKOW, POLAND - 2018/08/04: A woman passes by a Ryanair luggage info stand at Krakow John Paul II International Airport. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

5. Refillable water bottle

During the flight, it can be a good 20 minutes — or more — before the cabin crew reaches you during beverage service, which is an issue if you’re especially thirsty. With COVID-19, that wait could be even longer or beverage service could be nixed altogether. That’s why I carry a reusable water bottle with me so I don’t have to wait. Flying can really dehydrate you, especially if you’re drinking alcohol. It’s very handy to have a water bottle with you so you can reach for it whenever you like.

For airports that have limits on liquids you can take through security, you will need to remember to drink or pour out the water in your bottle as you pass through security. You can still take the empty bottle through, and an increasing number of airports will have free water refill stations to avoid paying for overpriced bottles of airport water.

Related: High and dry: The quest to stay hydrated in the airport and in the air

6. Daily medication

If you need to take medication daily, you should pack a few day’s worth in your carry-on luggage. If your luggage is delayed or lost, this could become critical to your health.

Also, if you wear contact lenses you may wish to take a few extra disposable pairs in the event that your luggage doesn’t return to you at the exact time you expected it. If you have permanent contact lenses, remember to pack the case you store them in overnight if you are planning to sleep on the flight.

Related: How to properly mix your medications and time zones while traveling

7. COVID-19 safety supplies

If traveling during the pandemic, you’ll want to pack supplies to keep you (and others) as safe as possible. Although previously required by most airlines, wearing a mask is no longer optional per a new federal mandate effective Feb. 2, so remember to BYO (bring your own).

You might also consider a face shield, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. In fact, TSA is now allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of sanitizer on flights, defying the 3-1-1 rule. While many airlines offer various assortments of these COVID-19 supplies to passengers while boarding or onboard, it’s not a guarantee.

Related: Face shields and sanitizer: 5 things we’re packing for flights during the pandemic

Bottom line

Whether you’re a packing pro or only travel with a carry-on bag, there are a few key items that will make any trip easier. And during the pandemic, some of these items are essential to getting to your final destination.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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