Air Travel Checklist: Top 10 Carry-On Essentials


Air transportation isn’t as simple as getting from point A to B. Whether you’re traveling for business or leisure, it’s important to prioritize comfort and convenience. Here are a few carry-on essentials that may make your in-flight experience more enjoyable and ensure you arrive calm, cool and collected.

1. Medications

medication, pills, medicine, drugs

Whether your flight is daytime or overnight, and even if it’s short, you should always pack your medications in your carry-on bag. For prescription medications, bring more than you’ll need in case of unexpected delays or extensions of your trip. Over-the-counter drugs you may want to pack include Dramamine, sleep aids, ibuprofen and antacids.

2. Travel size toiletries

travel size, toiletries, trial size
As you’re probably aware, the TSA requires all carry-on liquids and gels to be 3.5oz or less. To make your life easier, go to your local drug store and purchase travel size versions of any toiletries you’ll need during your flight and throughout the trip. Many stores now have a section just for travel size products.

To freshen up during the flight, consider bringing items like wisps (small disposable toothbrushes), floss picks, face wipes and deodorant.

Can’t find your favorite conditioner or face wash in the right size? Purchase empty travel size containers and fill them up yourself with your favorite products.

3. Non-perishable snacks

Dried fruits and different nuts on white background
A well-fed traveler is a happy traveler. Be sure to pack non-perishable snacks for before, during and after your flight, even if it includes an in-flight meal. Some healthy and nourishing options include:

  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts
  • Jerky
  • Popcorn
  • All-natural granola or protein bars
  • Packaged nut butter

4. Electronic devices

smartphone, plane, air travel, airplane wing, iphone

Before you go packing up your laptop, tablet and Kindle, think carefully about whether you really need each of those items. These days, most of us carry a computer in our pocket in the form of a smartphone, so you may not need your laptop unless you’ve got some substantial work to do on the trip. If you’re traveling for leisure, chances are you won’t miss it if you leave it at home. You certainly won’t miss lugging it around, keeping it charged and worrying about losing it or getting it stolen.

Whatever devices you do decide to bring, make sure they have a full charge.

5. Pre-downloaded entertainment

podcast, smartphone, laptop

This may not be a physical item, but it’s important nonetheless. Although many flights now have WiFi available, it tends to be slow, unreliable and expensive, making it difficult or impossible to access any entertainment that requires an internet connection. Do yourself a favor and prior to boarding, download any music, movies, TV shows, podcasts or e-books you’d like to consume during your flight. Your patience and phone battery will thank you.

6. Chargers and power sources

smartphones, iphone, charging, phones

You won’t be able to consume all that wonderful pre-downloaded content on your devices if they run out of juice during your flight. If you know your aircraft will have power outlets, bring your plug-in chargers and power sources. If not, or you’re unsure, bring a portable charger. It’s a good idea to bring a portable charger regardless, as aircraft power outlets don’t always work properly.

7. The right headphones

headphones, smartphone, phone, iphone

Headphones are a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily, especially in today’s age of seemingly endless options – wireless, noise-canceling, headphone jack, Lightning, etc.

If you plan on enjoying the provided in-flight entertainment, don’t make the mistake of only packing your Airpods or other wireless headphones. Bring a pair of headphones with a traditional headphone jack, as most aircraft still require these types of headphones to connect to the in-flight entertainment. Don’t rely on the airline, as many of them still charge a fee for lending out headphones, likely with sub-par audio quality.

8. Sleep mask, ear plugs and neck pillow

sleep mask, ear plugs, neck pillow

Sleeping on a plane is challenging, to say the least, but a few carry-on items can help make it a little easier. Recreate your normal bedtime experience as best you can by bringing a sleep mask, ear plugs and neck pillow. Your senses will be shielded from engine noise, crying babies or sunlight pouring in from the window. To save space in your carry-on, attach your neck pillow to the outside of it.

9. Reading material

reading, book, flight, travel

A long flight is a perfect opportunity to dig into a book, flip through magazines or read the newspaper (yes, those still exist). Decide if you want your reading on the plane to be for business or pleasure, then choose your reading materials accordingly. For productive reads you can learn from, consider these must-read business books. Using a Kindle, tablet or other e-reader will save you space and weight, but no shame if you still prefer physical books – and they can never run out of battery.

10. Jacket and/or scarf

scarf

No matter the weather outside or up in the sky, planes can get chilly. Bring a jacket just in case the air conditioning is on blast and giving you goosebumps. If you really want to cover your bases, bring an oversize scarf that you can wear around your neck or use as a blanket.