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Don’t Board a Plane Without These Carry-On Essentials

On the left, a woman inserting earplugs; in the middle, a man placing a portable charger in his pocket; and on the right, a woman wearing noise-canceling headphones on a plane.
Alpine Hearing Protection/Anker/TaoTronics

If you’ve ever flown anywhere, you probably know how it feels to get to the airport, only to realize you’re missing an essential item. These must-pack carry-on items will ensure you always have what you need for a comfortable flight.

Ideally, a vacation is relaxing. Unfortunately, the traveling part can be anything but. A dead battery or an overly noisy flight can turn the experience into a nightmare. That’s why packing these essentials can help your trip go more smoothly, from the airport to when you finally land at your destination.

Battery Pack

On the left, a portable Anker charger, and on the right, the charger seen alongside a travel pouch and other accessories.

Relying on available outlets at the airport or on the plane is risky business: not all airplane seats have them, and they’re hot commodities at the airport. Stay calm and keep charged with a handy portable charger instead.

This lightweight, ultra-portable battery pack works fast, and has enough juice to charge up a phone multiple times. It even comes with a travel pouch for easy packing. If the mere thought of a “low battery” warning stresses you out, this charger will bring you peace of mind.

Compact Power Strip

On the left, a hand holding an Anker portable power strip, and on the right, the power strip alone.

Traveling these days often means packing multiple devices. Whether you use them for work or entertainment, it’s worthwhile to be able to charge a few things at once, without taking up multiple outlets.

This easily portable power strip lets you charge everything up in the airport with a single outlet. It’s also great if you like to work in cafes and other public spaces when you travel, or for convenient charging in a hotel. With three USB ports plus three AC outlets, you can charge it all and be ready for anything.

Cord Ties

A bright blue twist tie wrapped around a device charging cord.
Nite Ize

All devices come with cords, and those cords often get tangled when you travel. These rubber ties keep your cords neatly wrapped so they won’t turn into spaghetti in your luggage.

The rubber material keeps the ties in place even when your luggage gets jostled. They’re durable so you can use them again and again. And in addition to securing charger cords, they’re also great for unexpected tasks, like securely tying an open snack bag before you put it back in your carry-on.

In-Seat Organizer

On the left, a closeup of items in the Flight 001 Seat Pak, and on the right, the seat organizer alone.
Flight 001

Battery packs, charger cords, snacks, reading material: there’s a lot you’ll want accessible when you’re in your airplane seat. This in-seat organizer keeps everything in easy reach for a stress-free flight!

The pockets allow you to separate things, so you’re not digging through a big messy bag to find what you’re looking for. You can tuck this bag into the seat pocket in front of you, or hang it from the tray table.

Airplane-Friendly Earplugs

On the left, a package of Alpine FlyFit Ear Plugs, and on the right, a woman wearing the ear plugs.
Alpine Hearing Protection

We all wish for a quiet flight every time, but of course, that’s not the way it is. Whether you’re seated by the engines or have to endure noisy fellow passengers, it pays to have a pair of earplugs.

Not all earplugs are created equal, though. This airplane-friendly set doesn’t just block out noise—they also help relieve the ear pressure caused by altitude changes. Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, they’re inexpensive enough to be a worthwhile “just in case” item you pack for every flight.

Noise-Canceling Headphones


The TaoTronics Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, case, cords, and box, and a woman wearing them while looking at her laptop.

If you’re seriously bothered by noise, or need to focus and work while you travel, you might want to spring for noise-canceling headphones, too. While they can be pricey, they’re not as expensive as you might expect—this pair delivers the goods for around $60.

Whether you want to listen to your own music in peace or just block out random noise, these headphones have you covered. They reduce noise up to 30 dB in even the loudest environments (like a plane). They’re also adjustable for comfort and fold up compactly to fit in their compact case when you’re not using them.

Travel Pillow

On the left, a BCOZZY travel pillow, and on the right, a woman wearing the pillow on a plane.

Napping in airports or on planes is never ideal, but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Don’t be caught pillowless! You know your folded-up jacket isn’t a good substitute. This supportive travel pillow will make that flight nap actually feel refreshing.

Its unique design wraps around your chin, so your head won’t fall forward and wake you up. It supports the neck to reduce stiffness and soreness. Plus, it’s machine washable, and you don’t even have to remove the cover first.

Sleep Mask

On the left, a MZOO sleep mask alongside its packaging and travel bag, and on the right, a sleep mask alone.

For those red-eye and long-haul flights, a sleep mask can be essential. Blocking out light is the last essential step to make sure you can sleep comfortably on a plane.

A flimsy traditional sleep mask is likely to shift around, rendering it ineffective. But this sturdy, contoured sleep mask stays right where you want it to block out maximum light. Plus, the soft memory foam stays comfortable on your eyes, while the strap adjusts for a perfect fit.

Digital Luggage Scale

On the left, a man using a Camry luggage scale, and on the right, a luggage scale alone.

Overweight baggage fees can put a serious dent in your travel budget—not exactly a fun airport surprise. This handheld luggage scale is lightweight, easy to use, and can save you money on countless trips.

No more stressing about what you can buy on your trip, because you’ll always know when your luggage is reaching maximum weight. Just hang your bag from the strap, power the scale on, and get an accurate weight reading in seconds.

Hands-Free Phone Clip

On the left, a SkyClip+ with travel accessories, and on the right, a SkyClip+ in use on a plane.

If you like watching things on your phone or tablet while you travel, this plane-friendly travel clip is a must-have. It fits all mobile phones and tablets, holding them steady while you relax.

The SkyClip is made to attach to the airplane tray table, and you can adjust the angle to whatever’s most comfortable for you. It keeps your device at eye level, minimizing the neck discomfort that comes from looking down at your phone the whole flight. No more paying for in-flight entertainment with this handy gadget on hand!

While flying might throw unexpected stressors your way, it can still be a lot of fun. The key is packing what you need to stay comfortable en route. With these items in your carry-on, you can banish travel stress, relax, and enjoy your trip.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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