Flying to and from work is a big part of being a food and wine journalist. As many of you would pack a briefcase or a purse, those of us who commute via plane to work pack our carry-ons with tactical precision. After many years of hopping and off flights, I’ve curated my “must- have list.” In fact, I travel so often I keep most of these items packed and on stand-by, which is a huge time saver for frequent fliers. Many of these are items that can be procured on the road, but I find starting out with all my gear packed let’s me sleep a little better the night before a flight. It’s one, or in this case 15, less things you’ll have to worry about.
Here’s what to pack in your carry-on:
Regular, unscented, original Chapstick. Use this often before, during, and after a flight.
You will need one for something, believe me.
Change in cabin pressure can cause sinus pressure and headaches, come prepared and you can get ahead of it before it’s to late to tackle.
If you’re traveling in the spring or summer and your shoe of choice is open-toe, sandal, or flip- flop, these are essential once you’re in-flight. I usually kick off my shoes and even in cooler months, when I’m already wearing a pair, find long flights can get chilly and the second pair come in handy.
Slips on shoes a half size bigger than you normally wear
On flights longer than 4 hours your feet can swell. Keeping a slim pair of slip-ons that are a half size bigger make for much more enjoyable transition when you touchdown at your destination.
Big bottle of water
This is to be procured after you go through security, and the bigger the better. Once you’ve boarded the plane you could be stuck on the tarmac or runway for hours, or if there is turbulence once airborne, drink service can be suspended. Being prepared with your own water is a must.
For the same reason as you need water, pack your own snacks. Your travel time can be extended for numerous reasons including air traffic and weather but that won’t keep your stomach from grumbling once meal time rolls around. I keep Kind bars on hand, typically 2 or 3 per trip.
While headsets are offered on planes, it’s not until they decide when to start in-flight entertainment. Having your own set assures much better sound quality and you can slide them on to drown out a chatty seat mate or crying baby at your discretion.
Hand cream and face moisturizer
I read once that flight attendants age eight times faster because of cabin conditions. Along with the water and chapstick these moisturizers will keep your skin hydrated, helping keep you look more refreshed as you travel and hopefully preventing a little of that accelerated aging.
If you are landing and headed straight into a meeting this comes in handy and allows you to brush on board or once you land before you leave the airport. It makes you feel more refreshed after being cooped up in the cabin.
You might not realize it but even a 2 hour flight can give you some serious hair issues. So keep a comb or brush on hand to keep you looking presentable.
Something to read that isn’t electronic
A phone or iPad aren’t even on this list because that would be like me telling you to pack your ID. It’s a given we all travel with these electronics. However, there’s a period of time when electronics are not allowed on. Keeping a magazine or a real, tangible book on hand keeps you busy during any electronic down times and it mixes up your in- flight entertainment options.
Do not pack your chargers in your checked bag. Keep them handy, you’ll need them en route, or better yet invest in a battery juice pack and you won’t be vying for outlets at the airport.
Face mask and earplugs
It doesn’t matter if your flight is and hour or 12 hours. You should snooze when the feeling hits you. Keeping an eye mask and earplugs on hand takes up little space and guarantees better quality z’s.
Sweater or scarf
There is an art to layering. There is also an art to covering up spills. It’s weird to eat and drink in a cramped space. Add some turbulence or an unwanted elbow from your neighbor and your well- thought out outfit can become a mess in minutes. Scarfs or an extra sweater can cover up any spills and come in handy on an extra chilly flight.
*My carry-on items vary when traveling with kids. This list is meant for travel sans small people in tow.