Top Carryon Items For A Plane Flight

Every time I get ready to fly I make sure I have a few necessities for the flight. There are some things every travel blogger tells you they need on the flight:

  • Something to keep you warm when the AC is set to “refrigerator level”.  It’s more common in Latin America and Florida than anywhere else, especially buses.
  • Entertainment like a book, an ebook, a music player with ear buds.  Sleep is sometimes elusive. And for goodness sake, put you phone on mute!  Nobody wants to hear your candy crush or the keys tick as you type your latest blog entry.
  • Cough drops to keep from annoying your fellow passengers.
  • Tissue paper.  What if the toilet runs out?

Here’s what you don’t hear from a lot of others.  Bella taught me the first two and I can’t tell you how much easier it makes the trip.

  • A pen is an absolute must.  Any international flight requires immigration paperwork and I bet you a dollar there will be a mooch in your row who asks you if he can borrow yours.  Hotels often have them for advertising purposes so they won’t miss them if the one in your room finds its way into your bag.
  • A clamp like this or a paper clip for holding paperwork in your passport.  Many countries like Mexico have two part immigration forms and require you to hold on to one piece for your trip and surrender it upon departure.  Woe be unto you if you misplace it.  Where better to keep it than attached inside the back of your passport?  Just be sure to take it off and hold it when you give it to any official.  For some reason they act like it’s contaminated with fecal matter for if you leave it attached.
  • I’m a firm believer in the old military adage “be kind to everybody but have a plan to kill everyone you meet”.  Now, I don’t mean that literally but I always have an improvised weapon or three on hand.  The pen above is one.  My flashlight from Canadian Tire is two.  And my heavy leather belt with a substantial metal buckle is another.  Just in case.  I’d rather have them and not need them than wish I had been more prepared.  I’ve never had security question any of them.
Impromptu Weapons
  • A credit card, preferably Visa or MasterCard.  Budget airlines don’t hand out snacks and drinks any longer but they’re happy to swipe your card for a $7 can of crappy beer.
Budget Airline Snacks
  • Snacks are often useful.  Sometimes when arriving in Europe the timing is such that the restaurants are closed.  A bag of chips can make all the difference in the world.
  • A battery charger.  The more we’ve become dependent on our iPhones the more we monitor the charge level.  Airports and planes are beginning to provide outlets but not all have kept up with the times.  I always have a battery (and obviously a cable) that can charge my phone at least three times over.  And a plug.
Battery Charger
  • Plugs.  Often planes offer charging at every row.  Sometimes it is a simply USB plug, but other times all you get is a European outlet with the two round holes.  One of my best investments is a simple Euro standard plug I can plug my phone cable into.  We used to try to adapt our US plugs into European like the photo below but the outlets in places like France are recessed just about the same depth as the black converter plug.  I found myself struggling to dig the thing out one too many times and looked for a solution on Amazon.
Recessed Euro Wall Socket


Plugs for Europe – The one on the right was worth the purchase
  • Long Cables.  A long cable comes in handy more often than you’d expect.  Some hotels have wall plugs in extremely inconvenient locations.  They don’t always last very long, but you get what you pay for.  Just pack a spare in case.  Remember too, there’s a correlation between charge time and length of cable.
The top one is 10′. Whip that out in the airport and you’ll create a buzz.

Things I find distracting and not worth the effort:

  • A pillow.  While in the military I spent too much time sleeping on a wood slat in the back of a deuce and a half wearing a steel pot to need an encumbrance like that.
  • Over the ear headphones.  The noise canceling is a luxury on long flights but the space they take up isn’t a trade I like to make.  I spend more time out of the plane not listening to music than I do on, so why carry the bulky things around?  The stock ear plugs work just fine.  A couple more pairs of clean underwear have more utility.
  • A laptop or iPad.  Our whirlwind style of travel, trademarked “Look and Leave Tours”, doesn’t lend itself to needing to use either.  We can do everything we need on our iPhones with either wifi or the spectacularly useful Sprint or T-Mobile international roaming plans, right down to writing blog entries and booking hotels.  The only thing we can’t do is download photos from our DSLRs, but that can wait a couple days until we get home.  There’s no way we can fill a 32GB card with photos from a single trip.  Leaving it at home saves the hassle at security, as well as the space and weight of the charging block, too.

Did I miss anything?  What can’t you live without on a plane?





I'm an engineer, a veteran, and an avid traveler. I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson - "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

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