11 Things to Always Have in Your Carry-On Luggage So You’re Ready for Anything

Even if you're not taking a long-haul flight, extended delays from weather or maintenance can drain patience, not to mention your mobile phone, before you even squeeze into your ever-shrinking seat. Pack these easy, budget-friendly travel essentials, and you'll be flying easy in no time.

1/11 View as List

Power up with chargers

Traveling with a phone, laptop, or tablet? If it needs power and you'll be using it during your travels, be sure to keep your power cords in your carry-on, not in checked bags. Also take along a small portable power pack (they start at about $20) so if your phone is on 2 percent and there's not a plug in site (though you'll find them under your seat on most airplanes these days) you can still listen to your tunes in-flight or use a taxi app when you land.

Clean the scene with sanitizer

Planes are dirty. There, we said it. Have you seen how long cleaning crews have between legs to freshen up a plane between flights? Usually in the less-than-10 minute range. Which is why hand sanitizer and/or disinfectant wipes are a must for to not only clean your hands, but to wipe your tray too. Just how dirty are those trays? As we reported in Things to Never Do on an Airplane, "trays harbor an average of 2,155 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch." While you're at it, wipe down your armrest and the spot where you're about to rest your head if you snagged a prime seat next to a window.

Control the noise

To create your own stress-free island in the back of the plane, be sure to pack headphones. Don't count on airlines to provide auditory accessories, as many are now charging for disposable ear buds, and the ones you borrow might not be as germ-proof as you'd like to think they are. And if you pack noise-canceling headphones, you can check out without having to listen to music that might otherwise keep you awake.

Don't forget a snack

Although we applaud Delta for handing out Biscoff cookies (they're delish), a cookie does not a dinner make. And when airlines do serve food, it's pretty universally awful—here's why.) Pack a substantial snack such as protein bars, dried fruit, and/or trail mix or a sandwich or salad for a healthy boost until you get to your destination.

Hydration station

While you're packing your snacks, add a refillable water bottle to your must-haves. After you go through security, fill it at a fountain or restaurant before you board (not on the plane where water isn't potable in bathrooms, and is questionable at best in galleys). Staying hydrated on a flight is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick on a plane (add a vitamin packet for real pick-me-up).

Sleep soundly with ear plugs and eye mask

You don't need to pay a premium to get a first-class dopp kit. You can make your own for $8 at the drugstore by buying disposable ear plugs and a light-blocking eye mask. These travel essentials pack up small and let you sleep any place at any time. (Extra points for throwing in a pair of dollar store disposable socks for a true premium-class experience.) Check out these seasoned traveler's tips for getting to sleep on an airplane.

Wrap up with a large scarf

More than just a stylish accessory, a large wrap doubles as a blanket, can be folded up to be a pillow, and can even become a sarong skirt in a pinch, to say, cover up a pair of leggings. If you'll be touring cultural sites at your destination, a sarong can come in handy to cover shorts or a mini when entering churches, synagogues, and other holy places of interest.

A (few) aspirin a day to keep headaches at bay

All this talk of delays is sure to bring on a headache, but if you're on a plane, there's no chance to buy a painkiller. Always keep a few in your carry-on luggage for emergencies. While you're at, throw some upset stomach remedies in your bag as well because flying—and deviating from your regular diet—can upset a delicate system. These are the golden rules for taking the stress out of air travel.

Go analog with unplugged diversions

If you get stuck on the runway for a long delay, some airlines will make you stay powered down until take-off. Keep yourself entertained with an old-school paper book, magazine, newspaper, pad and paper, or stress-free adult coloring book. Reader's Digest has a great grown-up coloring book called Color Yourself Calm.

Refresh with toothbrush and facewipes

Whether you're on an overnight flight or just been on the road for what feels like 24 hours, pack a toothbrush with powdered tooth powder and pre-moistened face wipes, and you'll feel as fresh as if you were waking up at home. If you're a little more motivated, here's how to take good care of your skin on an airplane.

1/11 View as List

Become more interesting every week!

The Reader's Digest "Read Up" Newsletter

We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.