We’ve all had that sinking feeling – you look into your carry-on bag 60 minutes into a flight for that essential item… and you forgot to pack it. Forgetting one of these items can turn a pleasant journey into an insomnia-fueled jet-lag. On that note, RLB present the top ten carry on items you should always bring on a plane. Don’t make the mistake of packing the below items in your checked luggage.

10. Cash / Credit Card – In these times of airlines charging for extras, it’s essential to have a credit card on you when you fly. And while credit and debit cards are likely to be accepted in your destination country, it doesn’t hurt to have some cash in your wallet (both home and destination currency). In addition to helping you hit the ground running and not having to search for an ATM, cash just makes some transactions quicker and easier. i.e. – Do you really want to go through the hassle of paying for a bottle of water with a credit card?

9. Sunglasses – A surprise addition, sunglasses make the cut, even for night flights. In addition to lowering the glare from an open window blind, sunglasses can help you sleep by blocking that pesky air vent above that never seems to close. This especially holds true for contact lens wearers, whose eyes are more susceptible to drying out on long flights. Besides, they look a lot cooler than those overnight eye patches.

Flying in the sky and the sea of clouds.

8. Pen – It seems quaint, but a pen is an essential item in your travel bag. There are still a surprising number of occasions while traveling – especially internationally – when you need a pen. From filling out immigration forms to landing cards, it’s nice to have so you don’t have to borrow or search for one. Furthermore, there will be times you need to record an important idea or reminder and don’t have access to wifi. You can’t use Evernote, Gmail, or a scheduler. You can’t even upload a note to the cloud. Write an old-fashioned note so you don’t forget.

7. Hand Sanitizer – No one likes to be reminded while traveling, but airplanes are one of the most germ-laden environments in the world. A small bottle of hand sanitizer or packet of hand wipes always comes in handy prior to a meal, and is much easier than waiting in the bathroom line just to wash your hands.

6. Gum / Snacks – Know that painful ear popping sensation when planes take off and land? This can be eliminated easily – simply by chewing gum. Also, on long haul flights it can be a good idea to pack some snacks such as protein bars as the meals can often leave you unsatisfied.

5. Extra Layers of Clothing / Change of Undershirt/Underwear – It may be a balmy 85 degrees when you board the plane in a t-shirt, but planes can get extremely cold in the middle of the night. An extra layer can make all the difference to your ability to sleep. Furthermore, after a long haul flight in cramped conditions, the ability to change into a fresh shirt will definitely be appreciated.

In a worst case scenario such as lost luggage, having a few pieces of clothing in your travel bag can be an absolute lifesaver. Many travelers make the mistake of keeping everything in their checked baggage. This leaves no room for error. Your baggage gets lost, and you have literally nothing but the shirt on your back. A few pieces of clothing won’t take up much room in your carry-on bag, and if you have lounge access on a layover, you can even grab a shower and freshen up for your next flight with a change of clothes.


4. Toiletries (Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Lip Balm, Moisturizers) – A quick brush of your teeth can remove that stale airplane feeling and make an amazing difference to how you feel in general. Alternatively, mouthwash provides a quick way to freshen up before you sleep or hit the ground. Lip balm and skin moisturizers are also useful in helping many travelers guard against the recycled cabin air on planes that can quickly dry out your skin and cause dehydration, which brings us to…

3. Bottle of Water – No one likes paying $5 for a bottle of water, but this is one item where we recommend paying airport prices. After all, you can’t bring your own water through security.

Many theories on jetlag cite dehydration as the primary source, and most passengers simply do not drink enough water in flight to prevent it. As noted above, cabin air is recycled. That means you and your fellow passengers are breathing the same air for hours on end. Staying hydrated not only helps with jetlag, it keeps up your immune system in a germ-filled environment and helps prevent that familiar post-flight cold.

You can continually ask flight attendants to bring you extra water, but a long, overseas flight is easier (and healthier) if you always have an extra bottle on hand.

2. Noise Canceling Headphones – A pair of quality noise cancelling headphones is an absolute essential. Forgetting these on a long-haul flight can be a total trip killer. From the crying infant behind you to the never-ending conversation in front, headphones can stop it all and take you a world away. In our opinion, headphones are one travel purchase where you should not attempt to cut corners and the key here is to invest in a pair of passive noise cancellation headphones. The difference between a pair of active noise cancellation headphones (We recommend Bose) and a discardable pair you receive on an airline isn’t even close. The airline ones are downright laughable, although the bigger joke is the airlines’ attempt to charge for them!

1. Tablet / Smartphone / Chargers – Having your own entertainment (music / movies) on your phone or tablet is pretty self explanatory these days. Obviously, you’ll charge your devices before you travel, but with the short battery life of today’s phones, it’s important to always carry the relevant chargers in your carry-on bag. We suggest purchasing extra chargers and storing them in your travel bag at all times so you don’t forget. In addition, don’t forget to pack the appropriate adapters when on international travel. Universal adapters provide a good all-in one solution wherever you go.

For flights on US airlines, it also helps to keep a DC to USB charger in your carry-on. We’re talking a cigarette lighter-style car charger. It’s hard to believe in 2013, but some planes still have DC outlets as their sole source of plug-in power in economy class, with no conventional outlet.

You may not always be able charge up on a plane but if making a layover, it’s likely you’ll be able to find a power outlet somewhere, either at the gate or in a lounge.


RLB Honorable Mention: Mini-sized liquor and wine bottles

Contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly legal for you to transport miniature-sized bottles of alcoholic beverages in your carry-on. They simply go through the normal screening requirements like any other liquids (clear ziploc bag, 3 oz. or less, etc).

Although not “essential”, it can be nice to have your favorite wine or liquor on hand with your meal, and is also a time-honored favorite of passengers for a sleep aid.

A word of caution – while it is entirely legal for you to bring alcoholic beverages in your carry-on, it is technically illegal for you to serve yourself while on board and is a violation of FAA regulations. Although many flight attendants do not enforce this policy with an iron fist and you’re unlikely to end up in handcuffs, there have been reports of attendants warning passengers and asking them not to serve themselves.

Our advice – If you’re going to enjoy your favorite beverage, use caution and don’t be blatant about it. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be warned by a flight attendant but if so, abide their instructions and save it for another day.


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