What to Carry On: Ten Things to Take With You on the Plane

by Meg Massie 
Posted Apr 25th 2011 12:00 PMUpdated Apr 25th 2011 01:12 PM


what to carry on

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Airlines have always had carry on luggage size restrictions, but it seems like they're actually enforcing those rules for the first time ever as of late. If your bags are over the limit, you'll probably be asked to check them, so it's important to stay within the size guidelines when you plan what to carry on. Here are ten essential items that should go with you on the plane -- and that all fit nicely in a small carry on bag.

1. Laptop computer: If you are someone who can travel without a computer, more power to you, but most of us take our laptops everywhere. And those laptops belong with you in your carry on luggage. If you check your computer, you might as well drop it from the roof of a tall building – it is unlikely to survive the rough ride in the cargo hold. If the airline forces you to check your carry on because it won't fit in the overhead bins, take your computer out before you hand over your bag.

2. Sleep aid: Unwind's Bulldozer is my go-to relaxation aid. It's a low-calorie, berry-flavored 3oz drink. It's small enough to bring through security with you, and once your plane is in the air, drink the shot and feel yourself slip into a peaceful rest. When you sleep soundly on your flight, jet lag won't interfere with the rest of your plans.

3. Ear plugs: Is it just me, or are you always seated next to the crankiest baby on the plane, too? You can't shut the kid up, but you can block him out – earplugs are a cheap and easy solution.

4. Sudoku: Every time I fly, I inevitably get bored with whatever diversions I've brought with me and turn to the games section of the in-flight magazine. The sudoku and crossword puzzles are enough to assuage my boredom for a few minutes, but when I'm done with the two pages in the back of the magazine, I always wish I had more. A pocket-sized sudoku book is a great way to keep the boredom at bay.

5. Snack: Airlines are so stingy these days, you might get a bag of six peanuts to munch on between New York and LA, but if you want anything substantial to eat, you're going to have to bring it with you in your carry on bag. Your only option on board is to pay a fortune for something that tastes like a tire. I always pack a few small, filling snack bars like Special K, Fiber One, or NutriGrain.

6. Spare clothes: Hopefully you won't need them, but if your checked luggage is lost or your flight is delayed overnight, it will be nice to have a fresh set of clothes to wear.

what to carry on7. Train Reaction: This handy tool is a lifesaver if you're flying with multiple bags (especially when you're traveling with kids who can't handle their own luggage). It can link any two rolling bags together so that they roll smoothly in a train, making it much easier to navigate the terminal.

8. Pen/pencil: Your crosswords won't be any fun if you don't have something to write with. I also like to write letters and postcards when I fly.

9. Music player: Time always goes by a little faster when you've got your favorite music playing. It's also a great way to drown out the other noises around you, but take the headphones out for a moment when the flight attendant comes by to offer you a drink. They really hate repeating everything five times because you can't be bothered to pause your music for three seconds.

10. Book: E-readers are great for flying -- you can pack hundreds of books in one thin tablet. The only downside is that you're not allowed to have them on below 10,000 feet. Whether you prefer e-books or the real thing, it's always a good idea to have something to read while you fly.

These ten essential carry on items will all fit nicely in a small roller bag, so you can easily pack everything you need for the plane in a carry on that meets airline size requirements. What are your can't-live-without carry on items? Tell us in the comments.
Filed Under: Air Travel, Tips & Tricks

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susie hanigan

i am going to jamaica with my dad

February 06 2016 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lucy Cannon

Since I traveled last, I have had a kidney transplant and take 43 pills a day
do they have to be in the bottles or can I pot then in the weekly case?

September 21 2013 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lucy Cannon's comment
susie hanigan

are you sick

February 06 2016 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At the top of my Top 10 is handiwipes. A travel pack is awesome for getting newsprint off hands, sanitizing before digging into snacks or wiping spilt coffee or soda off, without a trip to the bathroom. I actually prefer Gold Bond Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer. two for 1 in one small tube.

May 22 2011 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to CBronn's comment

Excellent article, yo.

June 14 2012 at 1:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

#1 item is NECK PILLOW!

November 12 2012 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My own #1 Item not to forget . . .
I fly a significant amount each year (200,000 + miles). The single MOST important item you really must bring to ensure a comfortable flight is Water to avoid dehydration. I realize they serve it onboard but it simply isn't enough to have a cup or two. Humidity onboard is typically low and the dry air will take its' toll. Drinking Coffee and/or an alcoholic beverage simply exacerbates the problem . . . I would say a liter bottle per 3-4 hours of flying makes a huge difference during your flight and minimizes any after effects . . .

May 08 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zzsparx's comment

The problem with that is you won't be allowed through security with a bottle of water that's more than 100 mL (3.4 ounces) – scarcely enough to hydrate anyone or anything. If you want a sufficient amount of water you either have to ask the flight attendant to bring you some from their (who knows how pure) water supply, or buy a bottle of overpriced water from one of the ripoff concession places after you've gone through security.

May 14 2011 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bramicus's comment

Easy fix. Take an empty water bottle through security and fill it when you get to the other side.

May 16 2011 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

buy your duty free on arrival and then you don't have to worry about that!

April 27 2011 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bhammids's comment
KK Kua

Unfortunately, in my travels, none of the inbound USA flights allow purchase of duty free upon arrival. Lost opportunity for revenue for the retailers...

June 03 2011 at 2:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeanne Marcarelli Mc

a "music player"? but not a phone? this is a strange list.

April 26 2011 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeanne Marcarelli Mc's comment
Nada Younies

you won't have any signal.

June 16 2011 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sudoku??? So last (5) year! KENKEN! Did I say KENKEN?! KENKEN Has everything sudoku provides with much more depth and richness.

April 25 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I totally blanked on my last flight and forgot to bring my music player. Normally that wouldn't be so bad, since I had a good book and it was an overnight flight anyway so I planned to sleep... but the girl in the row behind me had other ideas. Just as I finished my book and was dozing off, she decided that 1am (or does it count as 4am?) was the perfect time to start a nice loud conversation with her companion. After wrapping my scarf around my head, putting up my hoodie hood, and draping my jacket over my head, and still hearing her yapping, I finally gave up and got out the emergency Readers Digest.

I won't forget again!

April 25 2011 at 9:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply