7 Must-Have Items for Your Carry-On

hxdyl / iStock / thinkstock.com

hxdyl / iStock / thinkstock.com

Every traveler knows that luggage space is a rare and precious thing: every square inch inside your suitcase matters.

When we’re talking about your carry-on, real estate becomes even more important. What you are able to stash in your carry-on will need to keep you organized, comfortable and occupied mid-travel—and possibly for a few days, if something happens to your checked luggage.

That’s why it’s important to select your carry-on items with care. Here are 7 items to keep tucked into your carry-on bag at all times.

Your Travel Documents
You already know that your passport is the number one most important item in your carry-on. Other travel documents are important, too: your itinerary, details on your accommodations at your first destination (often required for customs forms), emergency contact numbers, and so forth. These items can get folded, torn, and lost in the bottom of your carry-on bag, so your best bet is to keep them together in a pocket or pouch, separate from the rest of your stuff. Easy in, easy out.

A Water Bottle
You might not be permitted to bring liquids through airport security, but you can bring an empty water bottle. Simply fill it up at the fountains in the terminal once you’ve passed security.

Having a water bottle on hand means that you can stay hydrated throughout a long, drying flight, without shelling out dough for overpriced bottled water on board.

Beware: water bottles can be bulky. Look for bottles with clips, allowing you to attach the bottle to the strap of your carry-on bag. Alternatively, keep your eye out for water bottle pouches: these malleable containers can be folded down or rolled up when they’re empty.

A Good Scarf
A bright and colorful scarf can accessorize any outfit—but that’s not the only reason to include one in your carry-on. Select a large scarf made from a fairly heavy material, and ta-da: you’ll end up with a makeshift blanket. If the aircraft is on the cool side, you’ll be covered—literally!

You’ll likely find other purposes for your oversized scarf on your trip: an impromptu picnic blanket; a sarong at the beach; a shawl when the sun sets and the mercury drops, etc.

A Spare Pair of Underwear
Roughly 26 million suitcases get lost every year. Many of these are eventually returned to their rightful owners, but anyone whose ever had to deal with lost luggage knows that it can be inconvenient to be luggage-less for a few days.

At the very least, pack a spare pair of underwear and socks in your carry-on. Wearing layers on the plane will help you moderate your temperature, and will also provide potential outfit changes if your luggage goes missing. If you have any room in your carry-on, tuck in an extra shirt, just in case.

Your Favorite Pearl Necklace, or Your Expensive Camera
Take inventory of what you’re packing: what would hurt the most if it got lost forever? Store your valuables in your carry-on, so that you can keep an eye on them at all times. Electronics, jewelry, and sentimental items should always be kept on your person.

Airplane food has a questionable reputation and usually doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition. Instead of impulsively buying expensive and sodium-laden snacks, pack a few in your carry-on. Almonds, power bars, and hard fruits like apples travel well, and will leave you feeling fresher and more energetic than their airplane counterparts.

Hygiene and Cosmetic Items
A little bit of hand sanitizer goes a long way. Planes are full of shared surfaces, and you never know who was sitting in your seat right before you were—better safe than sorry, right?

A few other cosmetic items to keep on hand: moisturizer (to combat the dry air inside the plane), lip balm (ditto), and your essential make up supplies. Give yourself a few moments in the lavatory to freshen up your makeup prior to landing: you’ll feel refreshed and ready to go once you land, allowing you to make the most of your new destination. Bon voyage!

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