2020 Must Have Carry-On Items

After taking multiple long-haul and short-haul flights in 2019, I have decided to make a definitive list of the carry-on items essential to having a good flight in 2020. I have had my fair share of amazing flights and crappy flights over the years and am constantly updating my plane plan. I have found that the more prepared I am for the type of trip I am taking, the better the flight goes. Even so, some things are out of my control, so I try to plan for those as best I can. The 8 essential items on the list below have never failed me before, and have saved me more times than I can count. I hope they can help you too.

Eye Mask

I used to think having an eye mask wasn’t essential even if I was planning to sleep on the flight. Then, on a the overnight flight from Dallas to London, Conor was seated in the middle seat directly below the glaring light of the seatbelt sign. Because it was such a turbulent flight, the seatbelt sign was on for the majority of the flight, making it impossible for him to get any sleep. An absolute nightmare. Since not all planes are built the same, it would be a good idea to pack an eye mask just in case you find yourself in a situation like this. Or if your seat partner decides to read through the night with their light on. Or if you’re trying to adjust to your destination’s time zone and need to sleep while the plane is still lit. There are a variety of reasons why an eye mask is essential. So in 2020, I will be packing one for every trip.

Neck Pillow

Another item that most people pack, but those who don’t really regret. If you are tight on space, there are inflatable neck pillows – my brother gifted my sisters and me Hoodies Pillows for Christmas one year, an inflatable neck pillow with a hood, thank you Shark Tank. When not using it to sleep, I sometimes use it to cushion my back or I’ll sit on it for extra cushion in the not so comfy Economy seats. Either way, I have come to swear by neck pillows.

Layers

Planes are like movie theatres – they are always colder than you think they are going to be. Planes are always boiling when you get on, but within the first hour they are freezing. For this reason, I always wear layers, whether is a sweatshirt or cardigan, there is always something to put on or take off. This could also be important if the destination you are flying to has a different climate from your origin. The worst is flying from San Diego in shorts and a t-shirt to Ohio in the winter. Or vice versa, so be prepared.

4-Wheeled Luggage

I cannot stress this enough, I love my 4-wheel carry-on suitcase. I have never been a duffle bag flyer, my shoulders could not handle it. Two-wheeled luggage is fine, until you’ve experienced 4-wheeled luggage. The difference is in control and movement. 4-wheels allows you to keep your suitcase close, no one tripping over it behind you. And it allows you to move quickly in crowded airports (a must if you’ve ever been in a customs line). It also requires practically no effort to move at all, even better. If you’re in the market for new luggage, definitely go with 4-wheeled luggage.

Reusable Water Bottle

Flying dehydrates you, a lot. This causes worse jet lag symptoms. And yet, airlines only serve you like 4oz of water at a time. And I kind of feel like an asshole asking for the entire litre bottle of water from the flight attendant. So, I always bring a reusable water bottle with me. Obviously it needs to be empty to get through security. After that, you can fill it up at a water fountain or any airport restaurant. Once I’m on the plane, I also order water from the flight attendants whenever I can and make sure to finish my bottle before we land. I refill it at the next airport. This has also saved me from buying large plastic water bottles at the airport – saving money and the environment. Reusable water bottles are essential to offset jet lag and stay hydrated.

Book

I ALWAYS bring a book on flights, even if I think I won’t read it because I’ll be watching movies or sleeping. I felt redeemed in my choice on my last flight from London to San Francisco when my in-flight entertainment system didn’t work for the entire ten-hour flight. I was also landing in the early evening so I didn’t want to sleep in order to start resetting my body clock. Luckily I had my book. Thank God for that book or I would’ve have literally gone crazy. It got me through five hours of the flight (a nap, yoga, and some Sudoku got me through the rest). Thus, having a book is a 2020 carry-on essential.

Dramamine

Personally, I don’t suffer from motion sickness due to turbulence, but I have flown with friends and family that do, or who can’t sleep because of turbulence. I have found that Dramamine (the original kind that makes you drowsy) works best on long flights. Because it causes drowsiness, it not only helps with the turbulence but also with falling asleep. I wouldn’t recommend for flights shorter than 4 hours because you could feel groggy from it (there are non-drowsy options for motion sickness), but for long flights definitely.

Headphones

These are essential to any flight. Most planes will give out headphones that work for their entertainment system, but you should bring your own headphones that work for your entertainment, such as a phone or iPod. Usually I’ll wear headphones while I sleep with no music because they act as a noise blocker (alternatively, you could pack ear plugs). But also, when I’ve run out of things to do, listening to music helps pass the time (back to the London to SFO flight, I passed a couple hours listening to Hamilton). Usually though (and regrettably), headphones are always the first thing I forget to pack, leaving them on the counter before I leave. For this reason, they have made my 2020 carry-on essentials list and my resolution is to not forget them.

Dana’s DO’s:

  1. Plan your carry-on items before packing.
  2. Adapt to how much luggage you’ll be taking.
  3. Better to be prepared than bored for a ten hour flight.

Bonus: Wake Up Essentials Kit

This one is especially for long-haul flights. After spending 8+ hours on a plane, I feel really gross, from my skin to my hair to my clothes. Because of this, I developed my own wake-up essentials kit. In it I pack face wipes, travel size moisturiser (important to keep your skin hydrated), CC cream (to give me color), mascara, a travel-sized toothbrush/toothpaste set, and a comb. I also pack deodorant and an extra pair of undies. I use the kit either on the plane before we land or in the bathroom in baggage claim. It helps me to feel refreshed and off to a good start on any vacation. I usually only need it for long-haul flights, but I pack a version of it for short flights as well. It will continue to be a 2020 travel essential.

After a 10 hour flight, I was greeted by my 70lb lap dog at the airport!

Travel Tips for the Untraveled

If you haven’t traveled by air before, or have and are looking for more tips, you have come to the right place! maybe. I fly at least four times a year, if not more, and most of those are long flights. So, I have a few tips and tricks for you, the untraveled. However, this list is not comprehensive, so see #2.

2. Read travel blogs.

I read a lot of travel blogs, and I travel a lot. There are so many tips and tricks to make flying easier and I am constantly looking. Many times I find things I already do, but then there are the gold mines, things I hadn’t thought of or haven’t tried.

3. Keep it simple.

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there that have you putting cords in sunglass cases, or something similar. I do not own a sunglasses case, and I am not going to go out of my way to buy one to hold cords while I travel. I try my best to keep it simple and work with what I’ve got. So, take all the advice from travel blogs with a grain of salt.

My carry-on contains deodorant, travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste, and make-up remover. I also pack all my electronics and cords in my carry-on. And snacks. That’s about it for me, give or take a few items depending on the flight and destination. I always wear leggings, a loose fitting tank, cardigan, and easy shoes. Today for example, I am wearing Birkenstocks with chinchilla themed socks, because it makes me happy. The little wins are important on long flights. And comfort is KEY.

4. Bring a reusable water bottle.

I just payed $5.59 for a water bottle in one of the airport stores. Do not make my mistakes. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can fill up once you are past security. It will save you a lot of money and keep you well hydrated for the flight.

5. Download the airline app before you get to the airport.

Airlines usually have their own apps that can do a range of things, such as flight status, check-in, and in flight entertainment. Southwest and United apps have the in-flight entertainment option, without which you will be stuck on a long haul flight with just your thoughts– no one wants that.

6. Lay out all the clothes you want to pack, and then rethink it all.

I am a notorious over-packer, it’s just who I am. So once, I have laid out all my clothes, I go back through them asking myself various questions. Do I usually wear this? Will I wear it at the destination? Does it have a specific purpose? How many variations of a white tank top do I really need? I always end up throwing 1/3 of the clothes I thought I would need back in my drawers. This helps clear up space for other essentials, cut down on baggage, and keep the weight under 50 pounds.

7. Window seat for long flights, aisle seat for short ones.

The window seat gives you more room and a built in pillow. This helps on long flights that you may want to sleep on or just have a few extra inches of wiggle room. Aisle seat for shorter flights because its harder to fall asleep, which isn’t something you want to do on a short flight (messing up your sleep schedule sucks for jet lag).

8. Bring a book. Always.

Reading a book on a flight is an easy way to stay occupied and be engrossed in a wonderful and engaging story. This can be a paperback, kindle edition, or audiobook, but it really helps the time pass. Sometimes, reading on a plane is the first book I have read for pleasure in a while. Recently I read Crazy Rich Asians, Sharp Objects, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The first two I picked up in the airport and the last I have on audiobook.

These are my go to tips and tricks for flying. I am sure I could come up with twenty more given more time and space, but I don’t want to bore you with the minor details of my travel life. Good luck and safe travels!