8 Things You Should Always Pack in Your Carry-On


Every traveler wants their trip to go off without a hitch, but human error can foil those plans. Maybe you forgot to pack your medication, or perhaps the airline sent your bags to the wrong destination. Life happens. Which is why you should keep your vacay on track by keeping your necessities within reach at all times. Here's what you should always pack in your carry-on, no matter what.

1. Second form of ID

Most of us keep our driver's license in our wallets, but it's also a good idea to pack your passport, too — even for domestic trips. Any number of things can happen to your ID while traveling, like accidentally misplacing it in the airport, or neglecting to put it in your wallet before leaving your house. I like to travel with a passport just in case I want to check out a nearby country on my vacation, like when I hopped over to Canada on a recent trip to Detroit.

If you're traveling internationally, you'll obviously need a passport as your main form of ID. This requires extra precautions, like making a copy of your passport photo page in case your passport is lost or stolen during your travels. You'll have an easier time expediting a new passport from the local embassy if you can show proof of ID in a photocopy. This five-second trick can save you hours and hours of unnecessary stress, especially if there's a language barrier. (See also: What to Do If You Don't Have Your ID at the Airport)

2. Empty water bottle

I recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio and while waiting in line for security, I saw a familiar sight: travelers chugging whatever drink they brought with them to the airport because they forgot that you can't take liquids with you through security. Those same people often then end up buying $3 bottles of water at expensive airport shops once they're on the other side.

To avoid the bloat and expense of that experience, I travel with my empty Nalgene bottle that I fill up with water once I've crossed over to the gates. There are water fountains throughout the airport. That water is free, and it's just as tasty as the pricey bottled stuff. (See also: 6 Things That Will Make Your Flight More Comfortable)

3. Medication

To step foot on an airplane, I need at least two glasses of wine with a Xanax chaser. If the captain says there will be turbulence, I up my dosage. This ritual saves me from having a heart attack midflight, and the rest of the passengers can rest easy without all my heavy breathing and cursing.

It's a good idea to have whatever medication you need for your various ailments in case the flight is delayed and/or your bags don't arrive at your destination the same time you do. Outside of your prescriptions, don't forget to bring a decongestant if you have trouble clearing your ears during flights, and a general pain reliever (as long as they're safe to take with your other medications, of course). The chance you'll get a headache increases, like, tenfold as soon as you enter the airport — but you already know this.

4. Chargers for devices

Often I travel by train to the closest airport, and my battery is half depleted by the time I get there 90 minutes later. Seeing as how I verge on having a stroke whenever my juice gets below 10 percent, I always have my chargers in my carry-on. You never know when you'll be in a pinch and need your devices to be all powered up. Nowadays you'll find plugs and USB outlets all over airport terminals and on planes, trains, and even in taxis. (See also: The 5 Best Power Banks)

5. Toothbrush

If you're not able to shower for an extended period of time — maybe you're on a particularly long flight or maybe you've hit a few hiccups in your travel plans — a fresh toothbrush and toothpaste will leave you feeling clean enough to power through until you find a shower.

6. Cash

I rarely use cash because I love the compactness and convenience of my debit and credit cards, but I've been on trips on more than one occasion where they've been flagged after a single swipe for security reasons because of suspect activity. That generally means my banking institutions are trying to protect me from fraud situations, but it's really annoying when I need to pay for something, and downright infuriating when I don't have access to a working phone to call and sort the error out straight away. Now I always travel with $100 in cash in $20 increments in my wallet when I go on a trip so I can at least afford essentials, like food or a cab ride.

7. Multipurpose jacket

Do you know why most modes of public transportation keep their cars and cabins at chilling temperatures? Neither do I. But I always, always travel with a light jacket or hoodie — even if it's 95º F where I'm leaving or where I'm going. If I don't need to wear it, at least now I have something on which to lay my head when the cocktails kick in.

8. Glasses

If you wear contacts, pack your glasses. You may need them. This is especially important if you have to drive anywhere once you reach your destination. Your eyes may be dry from the flight, or you might lose a contact in transit. You may even want to pack a second pair of glasses and contacts in your checked luggage, just in case. If you're headed someplace fantastic like the jungles of Costa Rica, you won't find a Lenscrafters, anywhere. Stay smart, and stay sighted.

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