11 Essential (Mostly Low-Tech) Things to Pack in Your Travel Go-Bag

These simple items can mean the difference between a pleasant flight and hours of discomfort.

Having the right mix of simple, mainly low-tech items in your carryon can mean the difference between a frustrating flight and a smooth — even enjoyable — one. Here are a few of the things I always have ready to stash in my carryon before I head out.

1.  Baby wipes

I never carried baby wipes until I had babies — but now I realize how very much better they are to have around than hand-sanitizer gel or spray. It’s a much closer approximation to proper hand washing in a pinch, and cleans up mini messes or spills on the plane in the way no sanitizer can.

2.  Lip balm

If you’ve ever felt your lips stinging from sunburn or dehydration, you know that a simple tube of lip balm can alleviate the first-world discomfort on a long flight in a few seconds flat.

3.  Extra Ziplock bags

These are light to carry, and have infinite uses you won’t even consider until you need one. Repack your plane snacks, or keep trash contained in between flight-attendant pickup, so it doesn’t turn your seat into a gross garage pile while you wait.

4.  Empty water bottle

No, you can’t bring liquids over three ounces through security. But you can bring an empty water bottle so you have it to refill on the other side. Ask an airport restaurant for a fill-up so you don’t have to get it on the plane — a very dubious source for water indeed.

5.  A pen

How old school and quaint, right? Well, it’s the only thing you can use to fill out customs documents if you’re traveling abroad. Stashing a pen in your carryon means you’ll have your paperwork ready when it’s time to deplane, and you won’t be one of the suckers forced to fill in your data in the airport instead of getting out into your destination — stat.

6.  Tooth brush and travel toothpaste

Nothing makes you feel less fresh than a sour mouth from sleeping on the plane. Pop into the lav to brush your teeth before you get to your destination for a quick pick-me-up. Use the clean water from that bottle you brought on board to rinse.

7.  Prescription glasses

If you depend on contact lenses like I do, you’re probably familiar with a scenario like this: You depart LAX clean and fresh faced, and arrive 15 hours later in Istanbul with desert-dry eyes, and contacts plastered to eyeballs as if with glue. It’s not a good feeling. Bring your glasses on board instead of checking them so you can give your eyes a rest.

8.  Tech-charging tools

When your Kindle or iPhone dies, a piece of you dies with it. Don’t let that happen: Make sure you bring whatever charging tools you need. Your seat may have a USB port, and you can find a place to charge at least somewhere in the airport — so make sure you stash your power cable in your carryon. Also consider a backup battery — and make sure it too is charged.

9.  Healthy or specialized diet snacks

I’ll never forget that years ago, when I was traveling to Jamaica, I inquired with the flight attendant about the vegetarian option for purchase. She deadpanned: “Cookies.” Especially if your diet has limitations due to preference or allergies, make sure you board with the snacks you’ll need to stay fueled until you reach your destination.

10.  Noise-cancelling headphones

Don’t travel without a set of headphones that will keep you engrossed in your podcasts, music, or other entertainment — especially if you’re facing a long-haul flight.

11.  Passport

Duh! It would seem obvious to any seasoned traveler that you must have your documents in order before you head to the airport. But consider this your reminder to double and triple checkthat yours is properly in your bag where you need it: When returning from Mexico last week, I handed a stack of my family’s passports to the ticketing agent at the Puerto Vallarta airport. She informed me that one of the four was missing — mine. How could that be possible? A frantic, flailing and unpacking of luggage ensued while the line built behind us… until someone noticed that my passport had quietly fallen unnoticed behind the agent’s computer when I’d handed over the stack. The point is, take it from me: You don’t want to experience the feeling of being without your passport when you need it. Check, check, and check again.

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