This is not your first trip down the jetway. You’ve got your eye mask, your noise-canceling headphones, your laptop or tablet, your multi-item charger for the airport, your backup power source, and even your actual paper book in case all your technology runs out of battery. But what did you not think to put in your carry-on that could make your flight better? Here are a few I never fly without, and a few more I can’t wait to try.
Maybe you’re only going to be stuck in that hamster cage they call a seat for a few hours, but that doesn’t mean you should show up without any provisions for your comfort.
1. A pencil and notebook
Unlike a laptop, which will run out of power, or a pen, which might refuse to write at altitude, this little piece of technology won’t let you down when you are bored enough to write poetry or fill in the in-flight magazine’s crossword puzzle.
2. A headphone splitter
While it’s obvious you’ll be bringing headphones, do you really want to sit there, laughing at the movie on your laptop, while your companion sits there and seethes? Share!
3. A medicine bag
Include painkillers, because, ouch: altitude. Antihistamines and decongestants are also good calls. Some of us like to carry something that will make us sleepy or calm our nerves. If you need an inhaler or insulin, it’s obviously important to bring plenty for your own safety, but also because if you ever ask a flight attendant if they have a spare inhaler, you’ll probably be denied boarding for medical reasons. They don’t want to take the risk of anyone having a health emergency in the sky.
4. A change of clothes
Because you never know if or when your checked bag will make it to your destination, and what if the person next to you spills his coffee all over you?
5. A tennis ball
Huh? Travel & Leisure swears you should bring this piece of sports equipment on board, and use it to massage your back, legs, and feet to keep the blood flowing during the flight.
6. Business cards, or a copy of your manuscript
Because you never know when you’ll be seated next to the one business contact you always dreamed of meeting.
7. Sanitizing wipes
Because did you know people change their babies’ diapers on those tray tables? Wipe it down the moment you take your seat.
8. Another bag, like one of those shopping bags that pack down tiny
Because you might not be able to quickly stuff everything you used on the flight back into your carry-on when it’s time to go.
9. A pacifier
Not traveling with a baby? Imagine what a hero you might become to the whole flight if you whip out a new, in-the-package bippy for a family that has lost theirs. Back when I traveled with infants in tow, I once had another mom offer me $10 for a single pacifier. (I gave it to her for free.)
10. Slipper socks
Because if you’re like me, you wore slip-on sandals through security, and now your feet are cold.
11. An empty water bottle
Because you can fill it up after you go through security. You don’t want to drink the airplane water. (See also: The 5 Best Aluminum and Stainless Steel Water Bottles)
12. A USB or Apple lightning cable
Some planes now have ports in the seat, so you can charge your phone! Make sure you buy the rapid charging kind.
13. Your rights
Print out the US Department of Transportation’s rules on delays, bumping passengers, and compensation. Why? Because crews may take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know off the top of their heads that they’re entitled to 400% of the original fare, up to $1,350, in cash, if they’re bumped and arrive at their destination more than two hours late on a domestic flight, or four hours on an international flight. Having these guidelines on hand will allow you to make an informed decision if you’re asked to get off the plane, and to ask for what you’re owed while you’re still at the airport.
14. A comfort item or hypnotherapy recording
Do you get scared, especially during takeoff? Don’t be ashamed to bring a stuffy from home that you can squeeze until its eyes bug out. Personally, I like to use self-hypnosis to talk myself down, and if you’re new to that type of thing, you could download a recorded hypnosis session to your phone. The side benefit of using hypnosis to fight fear of flying is that it might actually help you fall asleep.