July 23, 2017

What To Pack In Your Carry On Bag

Six items I’d stuffed into this backpack helped salvage the first night of my trip.

I’ve suffered through flights delayed due to weather, missed connections, and mechanical issues, but had never before completely missed a flight. Until now. And what the experience taught me: what you pack in your carry on bag can pretty much make or break a travel experience. 

Think about it: if you’re traveling with checked luggage, chances are the lion’s share of everything you need for your trip are in that bag. And I’ve learned–also from experience–that sometimes you just cannot depend on your carrier to get both you and your luggage to a destination at the same time (let’s put it this way–I’ve never been to Amsterdam, but my suitcase has. Lucky suitcase.)

That long, cold, lonely night I recently spent on the floor of Newark airport taught me a few things. To resist complacency. That I should never trust my airline when it tells me my seat is confirmed. And to always be ready for almost anything.

It was almost 11 pm and any chance of getting to the UK within the next twelve hours was long gone. Also long gone? My suitcase, taken from me by the check-in attendant from hell during a moment of confusion. The only good fortune I experienced that night boiled down to a set of six items I’d absentmindedly packed in my carry on backpack, each of which I used to survive–quite comfortably, I might add–during the course of my night in Newark Airport. And since I’m such an incredibly generous person (*wink*), I’m going to share that list with you.

The list

Whether you’re flying standby due to a missed flight or missed connection, or hanging out in the airport due to a mechanical or weather delay, consider packing these items in your carry on luggage in the event of an emergency. I did and it made what could have been a really bad experience just a little bit better.

  • Neck pillow – many travelers have one of these anyway for in-flight comfort, but it can also double as a pillow should you ever have to sleep on an airport floor. Just don’t forget to wash it the pillow cover as soon as you can. Airport floors aren’t exactly famous for their cleanliness.
  • Sleep sack – less substantial than a sleeping bag, and significantly better than a travel blanket, a sleep sack (or sleeping bag liner) doesn’t take up that much space and provides a bit of extra warmth while keeping you slightly separated from the dirty airport floor (um…by the way, the carpeting at gate C80 in Newark Airport? Atrocious. Y’all need to do something about that. Just sayin’).
  • Eye mask – again, for some people an in-flight essential, but comes in really handy with all of those harsh overhead fluorescent lights to help you get a halfway decent night’s sleep. Just want be careful about cutting off one of your senses if you’re in an area that’s not patrolled by airport security.
  • Ear plugs – A must. The last thing you want to hear all night every fifteen minutes is that awful recording about not leaving your bags unattended. Yes. We get it. P.S. Ditto on the security.
  • Toothpaste and a travel toothbrush -Those Colgate Wisp thingies my mom gave me in my Christmas stocking last year are okay, but I prefer the real deal.  Because, when you finally do get on a flight, please refrain from baptizing the flight attendants and your fellow passengers in the stench of your morning breath. That’s just not right.
  • A “CCK” – This one’s just for the ladies.  What’s a CCK? Well, it’s a feminine care kit, to put it bluntly (except I call it something different, but I hesitate to spell it out for you). What’s in it? A few panty liners, feminine cleansing cloths, and at least one clean pair of underwear–anything to help you feel fresh during an extended inconvenience.

So there you have it–the six things I’m always going to pack in my carry on bag. Did I forget anything that’s on your list? Here’s your chance to set me straight.


4 Responses to What To Pack In Your Carry On Bag

  1. Ana says:

    During long distance flights I usually carry toothpaste and brush, eye mask and neck pillow, a CCK 🙂 , a pair of extra socks, deodorant and personally I need extra contact lenses (just in case). (a book + a sudoku kit to keep me busy).

  2. Rhona says:

    Good list. Good thing you had the foresight to pack these things. CCK is hilarious but oh, so spot on. For me I think I would also need my kindle, socks (I am constantly cold) and ipod.

  3. Ann says:

    I have a few guesses but you have to tell me what CCK stands for. I always keep a clean tee shirt and something lightweight like yoga pants in my carry on just in case I need a change of clothes. Also, I always have a swimsuit on hand… If the luggage gets lost … I’m still heading to the beach!

  4. I’m not positive, but I can take a wild guess at what CCK stands for (tee-hee…). Great list, and spot on. I always take a change of clothes, flip-flops, a book and my journal along with everything you listed. But instead of a neck pillow I take my bear, because My head usually ends up flopping forward when I sleep on planes and hugging the bear so that my chin rests on him prevents stiff necks afterward.