The things you pack in your personal item have the power to make or break your flight. Pack the travel essentials on this list to arrive at your destination, entertained, rested, and comfortable. And if worst comes to worst and your checked bag gets lost or delayed, you’ve got everything you need in your personal item to make it a little more bearable.
Packing a personal item is honestly kind of a learn-by-doing craft that can take years to perfect, as each person will have a few personal tweaks to their packing list filled with essentials unique to their preferences. That said, there are obvious things you should always bring with you on the plane (like your passport and wallet). Here are a few must-have items to throw into your waist pack or small bag that will make any flight a whole lot more comfortable.
What to Pack in Your Personal Item
1. Sleep Stuff
I’m talking comfort items like a travel pillow, sleep mask, earplugs, and a blanket. Some airlines tend to provide these products in complimentary amenities kits on longer international flights, but it’s not guaranteed. Plus, I really enjoy having my own stuff, just so I know it will be clean and that I will be cozy and can get a better sleep on the plane. That way, I can rest up and arrive ready to jump right in to the local culture!
2. Wear Layers
To ensure the highest level of comfort, wear layers and definitely bring a jacket and socks. There is nothing worse than being unable to sleep because you feel like you’re in the frozen foods aisle. That said, you also don’t want to land in Hawaii wearing jeans and a wool sweater with no tank top underneath.
Bring a great travel book on a Kindle/iPad, or a paperback—memoirs about your destination are a great choice to get in the travel spirit. If you plan to watch movies or listen to a podcast, plan ahead and make sure you download the content you need before you get in the air. And don’t forget to pack your headphones or charging cords in a handy electronics organizer inside of your personal item!
Pro travel tip: This is the time to leave your fancy Bluetooth headphones at home and pack a durable, reliable pair that will work with the in-flight entertainment system and your phone or tablet. There’s nothing worse than boarding a transcontinental flight only to realize you’ll have to watch every movie with subtitles because your headphones aren’t compatible with the input in the armrest. And don’t forget to pack a pen in your personal item! Better yet, pack two. Pens are crucial for crosswords and Sudoku, journaling, planning your itinerary (the old-fashioned way), and filling out custom forms!
4. Hunger and Thirst Prevention
AC and recycled air lead to serious dehydration. That’s why I always bring a refillable water bottle with me most places. So, drink up before going through airport security, and then fill up as soon as you’re through. You’ll love having the “extra” water with you on your flight. Dehydration is pretty lame, and asking the flight attendant for four waters is not going to earn you any brownie points.
Once you’ve taken care of thirst prep, stash some healthy snacks! Make sure you pack food that will make it through security (sorry, no hummus) and survive being trapped at the bottom of your backpack. Packing healthy, simple snacks will keep hunger pangs at bay and you save money, so you can save up on the plane and then overspend on local cuisine. To keep those snacks in one spot, throw your snacks into a packing sac so you don't find a week-old cheese stick wandering around the bottom of your backpack.
5. Personal Essentials
Thirst isn’t the only result of dehydration—dehydration can impact how the rest of your body feels as well. Because of this, I typically travel in my glasses and always keep eye drops and my contacts with me. Having other essential toiletries like lotions and lip balm is also key to sanity. Believe me.
6. Destination Preparation
Staying comfortable during your flight is crucial, but your arrival is important too! There’s just something about having freshly brushed teeth that makes you feel ready to tackle whatever is ahead of you, whether it’s a tuk-tuk ride through Bangkok or an Uber during rush hour. Fill a lightweight toiletry bag with a toothbrush, stick of deodorant, make-up, and any daily medications you may need (in case of a delay). This way you can freshen up mid-flight or before landing.
7. Change of Clothes
I hate to say it, but sometimes your checked bag doesn’t make it. And when it comes to traveling, it’s always best to prepare for the worst. Whether your bag gets lost or the flip-flops you boarded the plane with aren’t going to cut it once you arrive at your snowy destination, you will be thankful for a change of clothes upon landing. So pack a fresh shirt, extra pair of socks, and some clean underwear into a packing cube.
8. Backpack it Up!
You could carry a large tote, but my “personal item” of choice is a backpack. I love all the pockets and organization, plus I’m hands-free as I’m traveling through the airport … which means I can scroll through my Instagram feed and sip my Starbucks without any issues.
So, there you have it—a foolproof packing list for your bag that’ll make any flight a breeze when paired with a solid packing organization strategy. With a perfectly packed personal item, getting to your destination will seem like part of the vacation.
By Jessica Dodson
Jessica was in-house with Eagle Creek for more than nine years and loves sharing her passion for travel with others. She’s been all over Europe, to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, Russia, Argentina, Uruguay and so many more places. She is a legit world travel and loves connecting with people and places through authentic experiences. You’ll see Jessica hosting Eagle Creek’s packing and product videos… and she remains a close friend of the brand. Give her a follow on Instagram (@jdodsonian) to follow her adventures hiking the Camino del Santiago and living her best life in Europe and South America.