Flying can be stressful. Even the most cool, calm and collected jet-setters can get wildly flustered when throwing together last-minute carry-on bags. You tell yourself that you need that 5th-edition GQ mag, and that you simply can’t go without your awkwardly-sized ukulele for two weeks.
When time is limited (because you just had to go say bye to Granny Betty, didn’t you) we often forget about organization and just put all of (what we assume are) the essential items into a bag that’s probably too heavy, and probably too full. Here’s the thing though: we’re packing incorrectly. We’re forgetting about the portable, important items, and seldom are we maximizing our space and minimizing risk. Make sure you have these little essentials in your bag; you'll thank us later.
When we’re flying around in those big metal birds, 35,000 or so feet up in the sky, the air is dry and recycled. Due to the extremely cold outside temperatures, the cabin needs have a pressurized air system, and while that’s great and dandy for our lungs, it does us no favors in the skin department. So, to combat the almost-guaranteed dry skin on the horizon, bring some moisturizer.
Of course, don’t go packing a 3-liter jumbo-sized tub of moisturizer, because the stern TSA agents won’t be handing out any exceptions to the 100ml max volume rule, even if you do have skin susceptible to dryness.
In the modern world where we can’t go more than fifteen seconds without binging Stranger Things on Netflix or streaming the Backstreet Boys on Spotify, it’s more important than ever to carry around a pair of headphones.
Apart from our desire to consume content, when we’re up in the air, the loud engine hums, plus complaining passengers, crying babies and the like can make for audio chaos. So, a pair of noise-canceling headphones is certainly the way to go. Flimsy pairs are often provided free of charge on long-haul flights, but the money-hungry airlines will drain your bank balance on shorter journeys, so just bring your own.
8 Water bottle
While some passengers are clever enough to bring their own, most fliers rely on cabin crew for water when they’re thirsty. However, this isn’t the smartest decision, as it means that you’ll not only have to wait until you see a flight attendant when you want to wet your whistle, but you’ll also be drinking water (unless it’s bottled) that has traveled through dirty, rusty pipes (shared with the lavatory water).
Note: make sure to bring an empty water bottle to the airport, and only fill it up after you have passed through the security section. Otherwise, you’ll be violating the 100ml of liquid rule and you’ll be forced to either chug the whole thing or say goodbye to your favorite Dora the Explorer thermos.
7 Facial Wipes
Next up on our list of important-yet-often-forgotten carry-on items, it's the glorious, underrated and under-appreciated facial wipe. In the same vein as our little tube of moisturizer, facial wipes are a simple and effective way to regenerate the moisture in the skin, which, at 37,000 feet, is exceptionally necessary.
It might be hard to fathom, but these nifty little pieces of cleaning cloth can be used for - hold onto your hats, people - other parts of your body too! Keeping a packet in your carry-on will be mean that you don’t have to spend millennia waiting for the tiny lavatories to become available if you simply want to scrub-a-dub-dub your hands before dinner.
6 Change of clothes
Unless we’ve somehow forgotten our potty training, or had a little accident with the satay sauce and rice, a spare pair of clothes ideally won’t be used whatsoever on board the plane. Why, then, would we pack it in our carry-on luggage? Well, the answer is simple - some extra clothes are crucial for if and when (because, let’s be honest, it’ll happen to everyone sooner or later) the airline loses or delays your checked luggage.
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There’s nothing worse than touching down in Cancun only to realize that you’re stuck wearing the same thick sweater and hole-infested underwear for the foreseeable future, so take a couple of spare items just in case.
5 A pen
Time and time again we fly from A to B without a worry in the world, and time and time again we forget the gosh darn pen! While some countries and airports have gone completely digital these days, a huge number of them still require handwritten customs and immigration forms.
So, unless you want to either be that guy who begs their unimpressed seat neighbor (they’re flying middle seat - they’ve been through enough already!) to use their pen afterward, or unless you want to be at the back of the 2-hour customs line because you didn’t think ahead, well, just bring a pen.
So, what’s the deal with airplane food? In reality, airplane food has dramatically improved over the last decade, with airlines like Emirates and Cathay Pacific serving up dishes that would rival even the most revered Michelin-starred restaurants. However, it’s no secret that the servings are generally quite small, and the bulk of airlines only provide adequate meals, at best.
Plus, in the event of turbulence, the dinner or lunch times can be significantly delayed. To avoid the dreaded tummy rumbles, bring along a healthy snack or two (but please, don’t be that person with the potent tuna and egg sandwich...)
3 Lip balm
Like the handy facial wipes and the underrated moisturizer before it, lip balm (or lip chap, or chapstick - whichever floats your boat) is one of those compact items that can make an enormous difference to how you feel during and after the painstakingly long flight.
With a formidable lack of fresh, high-quality air whilst on board, it’s no secret that our skin is extra susceptible to drying out. So, while a little tube of lip balm might seem unnecessary (because, worst case, the flight will be over in 15 hours), it can go a long way in bringing comfort and rejuvenation.
2 Hand sanitizer
There’s no beating around the bush here - airplanes are filthy, filthy things. Since the airlines are faced with a strict minute-by-minute schedule, where a half-hour delay can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, cabin crew often neglect cleaning the plane. The worst parts? The tray tables, headrests, touchscreens, seat pockets, and of course, the lavatories.
Unless you’re after a platter of bacteria for desert, a portable bottle of hand sanitizer (under 100ml, of course) can be the difference between arriving in San Francisco ready for adventure, or spending three days bedridden in a dimly-lit hotel room. The choice is yours.
1 Charger / adapter plug
In this digitized world, there is no nightmare quite as scary, no reality nearly as daunting as running out of power on our devices. Can you imagine having your phone cut out, with just 15 minutes left in the final Harry Potter film (what happens?! Does Gandalf defeat the gnomes?!)?
There’s a simple, two-pronged solution to this. Firstly, bring a charger. These days, most airline seats are equipped with some sort of USB or wall outlet. Secondly, bring a travel adapter as well. Depending on which airline and which country you're flying to, the electronic configurations may differ, so an international adapter will mean that you’ll never miss out on the end of Harry Potter ever again.