5 Essential Items To Always Pack In Your Airplane Hand Luggage

Whether you’re flying for business or for pleasure, you should always apply some strategy packing your carry-on bag.

Your checked luggage could go missing, (happens more often than you’d think) or your plane could get delayed on the tarmac for hours (also happens more than you realize). Then there are situations where your plane has to be diverted to a random airport and gets stuck there for hours with no food or drink available, and very limited access to phone charging stations.

As a professional traveler racking up multiple international and domestic flights every year, I always follow these rules:

1. Pack 3 Days Worth of Clothes

image via ABC.com

When airlines lose your luggage they typically have it back to you within three days. But that doesn’t help you when you arrive to your destination, especially if there are no shops around to buy emergency clothing. If you are heading out on a tour or a cruise your missing luggage could be disastrous, so you should always pack 3 days worth of clothing and underwear, something to sleep in, travel sized beauty products and a mini makeup kit. Think of everything you would need for 3 days, and pack that.

2. Always Have A Fully Charged External Phone Charger

You should always board your flight with a fully charged phone as well as a fully charged external power bank. Quite apart from not arriving to your destination with a dead phone, should your flight get re-routed to a random airport (like when there are mechanical or medical problems) you can find yourself stuck for hours with no way to charge your phone.

Your plane can be stuck on the tarmac for hours – recently passengers were stuck on a plane on the tarmac for 13 hours. (See this article)

Although some planes have USB charging ports in the setback in front of you, half the time they don’t work, or are very slow to charge. You can’t rely on being able to charge your phone in the plane.


3. Snacks

Sometimes your flight will run out of food that you can eat, only having options not suitable for your palette or digestive system. Other times there’s just not enough food – a few years ago a 12 hour flight from Europe to Los Angeles only served economy passengers the equivalent of a lunchables snack pack! Then of course you have situations where your plane is stuck on the ground for hours on end and no-one is allowed off (see previous linked article). No food is served and no drink is available.

Always, always pack snacks in your carry-on bag. I recommend protein bars, packets of nuts, candy if you eat it, packaged muffins – anything that will tide you over if something goes wrong. If you don’t need it, it’s no big deal. But should you be stuck in an unplanned situation you will be glad you have supplies on hand.

I always buy a large bottle of water before boarding my flight too. (Or fill up a water bottle) Again, you may not need it, but you don’t want to be stuck on a plane or anywhere else with nothing to drink.

**Sliced fruit and unsealed foods can be problematic when flying into some countries, like Australia and New Zealand. Check ahead what the laws are for the country you are flying into.

4. All Prescription Medicines You’re Traveling With

Always pack all prescription medicines in your hand luggage. If your suitcase doesn’t arrive with you you may not be able to get replacement prescriptions at your destination.


5. Something Warm

It can get really cold on planes, so it’s a good idea to have either a warm top/sweater/hoodie to wear when the temps drop, or to have a pashmina to wrap up in. International flights typically have blankets, but you’ll often find they’re not clean or have moth holes in them.

Other Carry On Tips:

  • Get a carry-on bag that has wheels. Some airports require very long walks to get to your gate. For example Rome Fiumicino takes 20 minutes from security to international departure gates for direct flights to the U.S.

New Zealand’s Auckland airport took 25 minutes walk from security to the gate when I was en route back to the U.S.

Los Angeles LAX airport can take more than a half hour walk from a domestic terminal through security and on to your gate.

When you have a long walk to get to your gate you’ll be wishing your bag was on wheels, especially if it is heavy or unwieldy. Get a rollaway back that can sit on top of your suitcase so you’re not trying to wrangle two wheelie bags.


  • Keep all cash and credit cards with you, ideally in your handbag at your feet. Once you land, split your cash and cards between your handbag and your carry-on bag.
  • Put your carry-on bag in the overhead bin opposite your seat rather than above it. If anyone is rifling through bags during your flight you’ll be able to see if they’re messing with your bag. This happens on planes more than you’d expect, especially on long flights when passengers are sleeping.

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  1. Denise Hueth
    January 26, 2023 / 3:13 pm

    Can u suggest how to hire a guide that will help us see Cinque Terra. We will be staying i Lucca end of September

  2. Denise Hueth
    January 26, 2023 / 3:17 pm

    Hi. I am looking for a guide to take us around Cingue Terra. We r 4 women staying in Lucca the end of September. Also which towns to see or Not!

    • Corinna B
      February 16, 2023 / 12:35 pm

      Hi Denise,
      The towns are really tiny and very easy to get around. I would advise just taking the train or a ferry amongst them, and exploring on your own.
      I often take the ferry to Riomaggiore – arriving by boat is just the greatest! From there the little local train can move you amongst the other towns. It’s all much easier than it seems!

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