This piece originally appeared on Quora: What are some unusual but nice-to-have items one should bring in a carry-on bag on a flight?
I agree with‘s advice about a fresh set of clothes and basic toiletries, although I would put those in the rolling bag that goes in the overhead bin. I also keep a clean pair of pajamas and an second extra set of base layer apparel in the rolling bag, because if I get stuck overnight at the O’Hare Hilton or elsewhere I want to be able to take a hot shower and sleep in comfort.
In the second, smaller bag at my feet I would consider bringing the following for their in-flight utility:
- A fully charged, good capacity USB backup battery to keep my iPhone and iPad mini going if necessary, and the power cable(s) I need.
- One or two great magazine(s), just in case.
- A small purse mirror (these are great for distracting a crying baby if you end up sitting next to one).
- A bottle of water and whatever OTC painkiller and/or allergy medicine you favor, and of course any prescription meds you might be on.
- A clean handkerchief and/or full package of tissues (I usually carry a few tissues or a hanky in my pocket)—each has its advantages but tissues are obviously better if you need to offer one to someone sitting near you, and you can grab some from the lavatory if you’ve run out or forgotten them.
- Eyeglass cleaning cloth.
- Business cards (you never know when you will sit next to a really interesting person).
- A not-too-perishable and not-easily-crushable snack.
- A couple of bags of your favorite bagged tea or tisane.
- Lip balm and a small tube of hand cream (this I carry in my pocket or in an easily accessible external pocket of the bag).
- On a domestic flight within the US, in economy class, one credit card in an easily accessible pocket of the bag so that I can conveniently buy a drink or some onboard food.
- On an international flight, my passport and a ballpoint pen, also in an easily accessible external pocket of the bag (for those Customs and Immigration forms). The copy of your passport can be in the rolling bag.
- On an international flight, a credit card in that easily accessible pocket of the bag, in case I decide to get into the Duty Free catalog.
- A small notebook (and pen if you would not otherwise have one).
- Sugarless gum (also in an accessible outer pocket).
- A pashmina, lightweight lap blanket, or other warm wrap you can use if the cabin is very cold (this saved my life once on a FRIGID flight from Paris to San Francisco).
These items are all in addition to the standard in-flight comforts like music and headphones, sleeping mask, earplugs if you like them, and reading material of your choosing. Obviously each traveler should decide what is necessary for them. I tend not to use my laptop in economy class at all (there is so little space for it), so I leave it in the wheelie bag stashed overhead.