I travel a lot and so far I’ve been extremely lucky that I’ve never had to sleep in an airport terminal though I came very close once. Almost ten years ago I’d gotten very ill on the plane ride that led to our connecting city because of the turbulence caused by the bad weather. Though I was glad to be on the ground, I got no relief from the nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, our connecting flight was cancelled, so to rebook, I had to get in the customer service line where I stood behind people who were yelling and screaming at the agents. I guess they somehow believed that they could convince these poor reps that they had to be at their destination on time though no flights were leaving out of the airport until at least daylight.
When I finally got to the front of the line at the airline counter, I’d resigned myself to sleeping in the terminal with my 70-year old mother. We were in a strange city; I had no idea about where to even start to look for a place to stay, or what transportation was available to get us there. I was so sick at that point I didn’t care, I just wanted to lay down, anywhere.
The airline’s customer service representative took one look at my pale skin, profuse sweating, and the handful of full air sickness bags in my hand and asked if the turbulence had made me ill. I said yes, as it had several people on the plane, but I also have a neurological disorder that affects my equilibrium so I’d continue to feel this way for some time. With the information about my disability, she kindly offered to send my mother and me to a hotel for the night. I could have kissed her. She explained to me that when weather causes a flight delay or cancellation, the airline is not responsible. It’s considered an act of nature that is beyond their control. Because of this, passengers are own for alternative arrangements, but since I had a disability, they could make an exception.
It was after that incident that I started paying more attention to what I was packing in my carry-on bag and what happens when I experience a delay or cancellation when travelling by air. The cancellation and delay policies are available when you book, but so many of us don’t read the details. We check the dates, time, and price and little else. Now I read the airline’s policies so I know my rights and what to expect.
I also pack for the exception instead of the rule. Instead of worrying if I have enough entertainment to get me through the flight, I now make sure I have all the basics for an emergency. I am more concerned about my safety, and the chance of a cancellation or delay, and my carry-on bag’s content reflects that. I suppose being married to a firefighter for 32-years has made me more aware of what can happen in an emergency and how people react when faced with one. I’d rather be prepared and save a small portion of my carry-on for things that will help keep me safe and travel more comfortably in the end.
Winter Travel: 10 Must Have Carry On Items for Airport Delays
- Toiletry Bag and Change of Clothing – I’ve pared it down to just to the basics of a travel-size deodorant, disposable toothbrush, underwear, socks, and t-shirt. It takes up very little room in my suitcase, but it keeps me comfortable should my luggage get lost or I get delayed overnight without my checked bag. I also include my over-the-counter and prescription medicine should my checked bag get lost or stolen, I have what I need to get through my trip.
- Money – One of those things people never seem to have with them. You may need to change your flight, buy food, or rent a car. Have a credit card with an available balance as well as cash on hand in case of emergencies. It seems like common sense, but it amazes me every time I hear someone say they can’t eat because they didn’t bring food, their flight was delayed, and they’re hungry.
- Travel Documents – Having a small notebook and pen with all of my travel information in it is priceless. I use electronic tickets and hotel reservations; they’re convenient no doubt, but when my phone stopped working on a recent trip, I found out how invaluable a paper backup is.
- Packing Cubes – These ingenious little bags keep all of my must-have items from becoming a jumbled mess. I’ve found this Planet TOR 4-piece set of lightweight bags with a mesh insert is perfect. I can see in an instant what’s in them, but the items are contained safely. I use the smallest two cubes in my carry-on bag and the larger ones in my checked bag. They keep my cables, chargers, and emergency supplies packed and ready at all times and my clothes neat and wrinkle-free. Plus I can use one to store all of my dirty clothes for the trip home, so they don’t soil my clean clothes. I chose packing cubes with handles so they could be carried from location to location and substitute as a day bag if necessary or even a carry-on if I’ve purchased too many souvenirs.
- Water Bottle with Water Filter – Just carry it through security empty and then fill it up on the other side. It’s perfect for hotel rooms as well and is a great way to get filtered water while you’re on the go. The one I’m carrying right now is the Gobie H2O BPA Free Filtered Water Bottle.
- Protein Snacks – I always pack protein snacks when I travel. First because I’m a vegetarian, and it’s hard to find organic and vegetarian food when I travel. Also, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting on a plane that’s delayed on the tarmac and listened to people complain that they were starving. I’ve shared my organic peanut butter crackers with so many parents who brought nothing with them to feed the kids. It’s frustrating. I’m prepared for my meals and snacks, and if I don’t need them on the plane, I eat them in my hotel. I also pack bags of natural or raw almonds, Kind Bars, and other small protein-packed treats that will get me through a few hours or an overnight delay.
- Organic Hand Sanitizing Wipes – individually wrapped, I don’t have to worry about them drying out or spilling in my bag. I choose a scent that’s refreshing, like peppermint, so they can also work as a skin refresher on a hot day or when I’ve been travelling for 12 hours or more. I also use them to wipe the germy places on the plane – the fold-down tray, the seat belt buckle, the armrest, and any other place that germs could be hiding. Because they’re organic, the fragrance is very light and not overwhelming or likely to cause any allergy issues with anyone I’m sitting nearby. My goal is always to get off the plane without picking up a bug.
- Microfibre Travel Towel – It’s important that this be a quick dry towel that can dry overnight. It also needs to be large enough to be useful, but fold up small enough not to take up much room in my carry-on bag. A travel towel is a must-have for travelling, especially in winter when weather delays and cancellations can leave you stranded in an airport. It can be used as a makeshift cover or wrap to keep you warm, folded into a scarf and pulled up over your eyes for some privacy and darkness if you find yourself sleeping in a terminal, or as a blanket on the plane. You can also use it as a pool towel once you reach your destination.
- Flashlight – I know everyone has smartphones with flashlight apps, but in a real emergency, that’s not likely to last long. A true flashlight is a must. I carry a battery-powered flashlight in my purse for everyday use and a larger LED crank light when I travel – imagine trying to climb down from your hotel room when the power is out. You can’t always count on backup generators. The crank light doesn’t require batteries to work, just turn the crank and the light charges itself. I have one in my home emergency kit as well.
- USB Charger – When it comes to keeping that smartphone charged, there are a few tricks. First invest a few dollars in a Dual Universal USB Charger. This little plug lets you charge two devices from the same wall plug. You won’t look like a power hog if you have your phone and tablet plugged in and you’ll make instant friends if you walk up to a full power station and ask to split with someone so you don’t have to wait in line. This works great for everyday travel, but I always pack back-up power for the plane and emergencies. I have several to choose from, but my favorite for the last year has been the Duracell Powermat (read my Duracell Powermat review ). I carry the mat and three batteries so I’m covered.
Take these 10 Must Have Carry On Items during your winter travels and you’ll be ready for anything, including spending the night in a cold airport terminal.
What’s in your carry-on bag?