I love traveling, but I never look forward to that inevitable trip through the airport. From feeling rushed through security to lugging my things to the terminal, I often board planes a little frazzled. However, I’ve found that having a thoughtfully-curated carry-on and some pre-flight rituals can make a huge difference. Since I leave for a trip soon, I thought I’d share the essentials that have earned a spot in my carry-on and a few travel tips.
Snacks: I always try to bring snacks with me because I may be in a rush and not have time to purchase something at the terminal. Plus, airport food can be so pricey! My go-to’s include That’s It bars, Albanese Gummi Bears, Think Thin bars, and/or a few Hi-Chew candies.
A good book: My ideal airplane read is a thriller/mystery novel; it keeps me captivated so that time flies (literally and figuratively). After getting hooked on the HBO series Big Little Lies, I had to get the book it’s based on by Liane Moriarty. I love that this compact paperback doesn’t take up a ton of space in my bag.
Magazine(s): I’m a bit of a magazine addict and often feel compelled to purchase any new issue that hits the newsstands. I don’t buy as many trashy gossip magazines as I used to, but instead opt for more sensible reads like InStyle, Women’s Health, Redbook, and my guilty “mom magazine” pleasure, Good Housekeeping. I also love Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal, which HGTV Fixer Upper fans will enjoy.
Earbuds: Mine don’t take up a ton of room, which is key for me. My airplane playlist generally includes a lot of Eagles, Maren Morris, Bootstraps, and ’70s hits in general. Depending on where I’m traveling to, I also add a few location-appropriate songs into the mix. If it’s Hawaii, some ukulele music. France, some Edith Piaf. Texas, lots of country music.
Laptop: I bring my laptop on most trips. The Mac Book Air is super light and thin, making it a device I don’t mind toting around.
Emergen-C packet: I like to order water during the flight, which I add Emergen-C to. It may not totally protect me against passengers with colds, but it helps me feel a little more proactive.
Tea bags: I also like having a hot tea during my flights, but I’ve found that the in-flight selection is lacking a little. I bring a couple of my favorites: a lavender one to help me relax into the flight and a peppermint one to refresh me towards the end.
Dr. Bronners Hand Sanitizer: I wouldn’t call myself a germaphob, but the film Contagion scared me into being one when I travel. Having hand sanitizer is now an absolute must for me. What I love about this one is its lavender scent; it doesn’t put off that obnoxiously-sterile alcohol smell and is super calming.
Mario Badescu Facial Spray: There’s nothing worse for skin than the dry, recycled air that circulates through the airplane cabin. I like having some sort of hydrating mist with me; this one has ingredients like aloe, herbs, and rosewater to refresh my face.
Makeup bag: Besides carrying my main cosmetics pouch in my handbag, I like to keep one in my carry-on to corral my things; this floral one is from World Market.
Lip Balm(s): I like traveling with lip balms that don’t require me swirling my finger through a tin. These two – Nivea Moisture and Sun Bum SPF 30 – provide a ton of moisture, one having a coconut scent for when I want something different.
Tocca Travel Perfumes: I usually carry a rollerball or some type of travel fragrance in my bag for freshening up before landing. Tocca’s Passport Collection is comprised of eight mini fragrance samples and smell so lovely! My favorites include Stella, Colette, Cleopatra, and Emelia.
Benefit’s Boi-ing Concealer: I’ve been using this concealer forever; it’s a must in my makeup bag and so useful for touching up before landing.
Benefit’s Eye Bright Pencil: So ideal for looking fresh-faced and wide awake after a long flight, I use this pencil on my waterline and in the corners of my eyes.
Tissues: No explanation needed.
Mini Hairbrush: A mini brush is great because it doesn’t take up a bunch of space.
Rohto Eye Drops: These intense drops are like Altoids for your eyeballs, immediately refreshing dryness and/or irritation.
ReNu Contact Solution: Travel-size contact solution is always a must.
Contact case: I always carry a case with me in case I want to take out my contacts for a nap or switch to my eyeglasses.
Advil: Again, self-explanatory. I always regret not packing these, so I’m making more of a conscious effort. You never know when a headache will strike!
Gum: It’s great for eliminating altitude-clogged ears during takeoff and landing, and it also obviously keeps my breath fresh.
Water bottle: While I can’t fill it with water until I’m past TSA screening, having it with me reminds me to hydrate.
Sunglasses: Especially valuable for those early or red-eye flights when I can’t be bothered to put on makeup, I make sure to have a pair of sunglasses with me.
An extra pair of shoes: One of my biggest travel anxieties is my baggage getting lost or left at the last airport. I always pack an extra pair of comfortable shoes, like these blue gingham ones, just in case this happens (fingers crossed it doesn’t).
- Drink a ton of water! I get easily dehydrated, so this prepares me for long flights.
- Go to the ATM for some travel cash.
- Confirm the weather at your destination online and adjust your clothing accordingly.
- Check-in online 24 hrs. or so before the flight; this is crucial because you can find out if your plane is on time or delayed.
- Tidy up your bedroom. I love coming home from a trip to a clean room, so I take the time to straighten up before my flight.
- Make sure to double-check you have the most important essentials packed. By this I mean, passport/I.D., credit/debit cards, electronic devices and their chargers, contact lenses, and any other items that would permit you from travel or be troublesome to buy on a trip. I once left all of my contact lenses on a plane to Italy, which caused a lot of stress. Thankfully, I was able to get lenses over the counter without a prescription in Tuscany. Elsewhere, I wouldn’t have been as lucky!
- Get to the airport early. I used to roll my eyes at how early my mom would make our family get to the airport, but now I thank her for instilling this stress-free routine in me. Nothing is worse than thinking you’re going to miss your flight! I’ve only come close once, but it was stressful enough to make me a timely flyer for good. I usually get the airport two hours before my flight to be on the safe side.
- Have books, magazines, phone, and other in-flight entertainment accessible once I find my seat. Then, I don’t have to bug the passengers around me by getting back into my stowed carry-on.