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Top Ten Carry-On Packing Essentials


As you plan your next big trip abroad, you are probably thinking about what to pack and how to fit everything you need to live in your giant backpack or rolling suitcase.

But do not neglect the carry-on! This will be your only source of supplies for the many hours you spend on the plane AND in airports. Plan carefully and remember that you will need items of necessity not only in the air, but on the ground as well- because your checked bag may never make it to your destination, or it might roll in twelve hours after you.

Even if you are not checking a bag, you do not want to keep getting into your main luggage piece in the overhead bin and rustling through your clothes to find a piece of gum. You will want to keep a few things handy. These ten things are always in my carry-on. 

  1. iPod or other music listening device. Nothing makes a nine-hour flight fly by than your favorite music, and earplugs just don’t cut it when your seat neighbor is a screaming baby or a snoring old man. Create a playlist called “Sleeping on Planes” and use it.
  2. Water. Though you will have to buy a bottle after the security checkpoint (or bring an empty one to fill at the fountain), the most important way to stay healthy on a plane is to stay hydrated. The puny little cups the flight attendants serve will not be enough. While going to the bathroom is a pain on a plane, being dehydrated when you arrive in the city of your dreams is even worse. Drink up.
  3. Snacks, Gum, & Chocolate. Believe it or not, the meal served on the flight might really suck. Bring a stash of granola bars or peanuts or beef jerky, along with some gum to help your ears pop and chocolate and gummy bears just for the hell of it.
  4. Something to Read. Whether it is the fat novel you have been nursing for a while, some junk magazines, or a guidebook for your destination, bring something to flip through.
  5. Wet Naps or Hand Sanitizer. While they clean the planes thoroughly at least once a year, you still want to ward off illness by keeping your hands as germ-free as possible. Arrive healthy.
  6. Cameras & Expensive Gear. Do not put anything you can’t afford to lose in your checked luggage. Most travel insurance policies do not cover cameras and other expensive gear if they are lost. Keep it on you.
  7. Toothbrush, Face Wipes, Chapstick, Eye Drops. Whatever it will take to make you feel fresh upon arrival instead of like you just got off a plane, bring it. Never use the plane’s tap water to brush your teeth- use the bottled water that you brought instead. Freshen up before you deboard and hit the ground running.
  8. Eye Mask and Inflatable Neck Pillow. Think you might want to sleep on the plane? Shut out the world with your eye mask, pop in the iPod, and wake up crick-less with a neck pillow. Buckle your seatbelt over your blanket so that in case of turbulence, flight attendants won't disturb you. See you in the morning, sunshine.
  9. Prescription Medicines. Whether you can’t live without your medications or whether it would just be a giant pain to track down your pills in Bucharest, keep these important items with you. Always. Carry copies of the prescriptions themselves so you don’t get hassled going through customs.
  10. Clean undies & a change of clothes. Also stuff in a swimsuit, depending on where you are going. Although no one wants to imagine their luggage will be lost, it happens more than the airlines want to admit. These things take up a little space but will be worth their weight in gold if you arrive to your perfect beach resort but your bikini does not.

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