Tightwad Travel Tip #5: Carry-On Essentials

Packing Smart

When it comes to traveling, knowing how and what to pack is essential for long-term success and ease of mind. Well-seasoned travelers know that a streamlined packing list and small bag can be the difference between a nightmare at every turn or a breeze through their trip.

For those who aren't so familiar, it's easy to get carried away with the things you bring. It always starts so innocently. "Well, obviously I need a pair of headphones for music," you say. "And if I'm going to listen to music, I should probably have earbuds for convenience and noise-cancelling headphones for flights and what not." Somehow, some way, it's just 15 minutes later and you're trying to pack the living room's 7.1 Dolby Digital surround sound system into your threadbare backpack. You know, just in case people in the hostel want to listen to your tunes too. 

Knowing how to pack for a trip and what should be accessible in your bag are not only important before you travel, but also during.  That 7.1 channel speaker system from above? Well, even if your packing wizardry accomplished the impossible, you will quickly find that lugging it from hotel to hotel and airport to airport through busy streets and swaying subways isn't the party you thought it would be. 

Pack Simply - Back to the Basics

There are thousands of posts about packing for every kind of trip imaginable, from hiking excursions to beach getaways. Likewise, there are plenty of suggestions on what to keep at your seat during a flight. For both of these, I believe simplicity is key. I'm not looking to be pampered at every turn in my journey; I'm looking for an unforgettable experience in amazing places with great people. That goal doesn't require much except a good attitude, positive thinking, and adaptability. 

Toss these into your plastic carry-on bag (remember?) and your fellow passengers will thank you for not hogging the aisle during boarding!

NOTE: top 5 are for every flight, bottom 5 are for longer flights

  1. Infographic - 10 in-flight essentialsHeadphones
    • No explanation is needed here. Whether you want to listen to music on your phone or watch TV on the in-flight infotainment system, headphones are an indispensible part of any trip. 
  2. Ear plugs
    • Late-night partygoers and crying babies are a sleep-deprived travelers' worst nightmares. Normally tolerable, your bleary eyes might not be able to hide them from view, but you can do your ears a favor and tone it down the noise by a solid 85%.
  3. USB Charger
    • Dashed out the door to catch your flight? Forgot to charge your phone? Not to worry! Many domestic and most international flights these days have USB ports at every seat.
  4.  Book / eReader
    • I'm especially reliant on these during really long flights. Once, when I got booted out of China, I had to take a spontaneous flight back to America. I arrived 40 hours later, and mostly mentally intact. Eye fatigue, boredom, and noise-induced headaches make books and eReaders an entertainment necessity. 
  5. Credit/debit card
    • Cash is not accepted on airlines. Cards are generally the only way to pay for things. I like to keep my wallet stowed in my bag so that it doesn't slip out of my pockets while I'm squirming around in my "economic"-size seat. Though I almost never buy anything during flights, some people may find the regular menu items are not to their liking and be forced to go for something else. 
  6. Snacks 
    • I usually bring a snack or two if I'm taking a long flight. Honestly, it's not because it's needed; they usually provide plenty of satisfactory meals. Rather, it's just because being trapped on an airplane for 17 hours can go by slightly more smoothly when you're accompanied by your favorite bag of chips (Ranch Dipped Hot Wing Doritos!).
  7. Pen
    • The one I always forget! When flying to foreign countries, flight attendants will pass out passport and Customs forms. You don't have to fill them out during your flight, but it saves you time at the airport (where you WILL have to fill them out).
  8. Travel pillow
    • Flights are already uncomfortable. Small seats and inadequate leg room can test the nerves of even the most patient people. There's very little you can do about those things, but what you can do is use pillows for your neck, back, or wherever. I haven't found an excellent travel pillow yet, but something is better than nothing.  
  9. Sleep mask
    • I usually schedule my sleep to occur during any long flight (whether that means going to bed late, getting up early, or not sleeping at all). Sleep masks make this task a LOT easier. 
  10. Computer + charger
    • Have work to do? TV shows saved on your hard drive? Then at some point you may want to bust out your computer, which is likely the largest (and therefore most inconvenient) item in your seat sack. 

Any other in-flight must-haves? Comment below!

Follow the story on:
Posted in Tips, Travel.

Leave a Reply