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10 items to keep in your carry-on in case of a holiday flight cancellation or delay

It’s never fun to have your flight delayed or cancelled, but it’s especially aggravating during the holiday season. It’s stressful enough for gifts to arrive after Christmas, but being late for Christmas is a whole other level of aggravation.

Despite your best efforts, delays and cancellations can occur at any time, anywhere, and to anyone. You can only hope for the best while bracing yourself for the worst. Make it a habit to keep certain essentials readily available in your carry-on bag or personal item so that you can still access them if the worst happens. Here are ten items to keep on hand in case of a delay, cancellation, or misplaced bag. They won’t stop the delay, but they will make a bad situation bearable.

A toothbrush, for starters.

Whether you beat your luggage to your final destination or you’re unexpectedly sleeping at a hotel (or airport), make sure you have the bare necessities in your carry-on or personal item, rather than tucked away in a checked bag somewhere. You’ll be glad you have a toothbrush on hand, especially if you’ve been munching on airport food and plane food all day. While any standard toothbrush is easy to pack away, this Amazon-sold set of folding toothbrushes is especially portable and on-the-go-friendly.

  1. An extra set of clothes

Sitting in the same clothes (and, ahem, undergarments) for more than 12 hours is not a pleasant experience. Don’t be caught short on fresh clothes because they’re all packed in your checked bag. Bring a complete change of clothes in your carry-on or personal item, including a clean shirt, pants, socks, and underwear. It may seem ridiculous, but if you’re stuck at the airport due to delays, you’ll appreciate having a change of clothes to feel refreshed.

If you want to wear underwear all day, the best women’s underwear we’ve tested is anything from the Aerie brand—they’re the most comfortable to wear, with soft material and a waistband that never digs in (which is key for long days at the airport).

  1. a mobile charger

Although it is safe to assume that all airports have outlets, whether you will be able to use one is a gamble. When there are a lot of other passengers waiting, these outlets become valuable real estate. It’s best to travel with a fully charged portable battery pack, whether your flight is on time, delayed, or cancelled until further notice. You can charge your phone, tablet, and other electronics, allowing you to stay in touch with others, change your travel plans, and stay entertained. Just make sure you charge it before you start your journey.

We found the Mophie PowerStation PD to be the best overall choice out of all the portable battery packs we tested—ultra-compact, it’s making it easy to keep in a backpack or purse, and charges quickly thanks to Power Delivery technology.

  1. Your entire medication regimen

The first rule of travelling is to keep any medication you’ll need in your personal bag or carry-on. You never know when a sudden delay or cancellation will occur, separating you from your checked bag for an unknown amount of time. The TSA states that medication can be stored in both carry-on and checked bags, but the agency strongly advises keeping it in your carry-on to be safe.

Consider bringing a portable pill organiser to make it easier to travel with vitamins and other medications. This one is popular due to its small size and moisture-proof case.

  1. A water bottle that can be reused

It’s critical to stay hydrated throughout the day, whether you’re flying at 30,000 feet or just sitting in an airport. While you can purchase an overpriced plastic bottle at your terminal, you can also bring in an empty reusable water bottle and fill it up once you’ve cleared security. It can also keep your water cold for hours.

We tested a variety of water bottles and found the Brita Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle to be the best option available. It has a filtering straw that helps to reduce the taste and odour of tap water and keeps water extra cold. We tested and recommend the Hydroflask Kids Wide Mouth bottle for children. It’s portable, insulated, and dishwasher-safe.

  1. Portable cleaning supplies

If your flight is delayed all day or you end up spending the night at the airport, nothing beats a hot shower. Showering is probably not an option in those situations, but there are ways to stay clean and refreshed without one.

Pack dry shampoo to keep your hair grease-free—this TSA-friendly powder dry shampoo from Bumble and bumble has rave reviews for being effective and better for the environment than an aerosol can.

While regular-sized cleansing wipes are adequate, the Epic Wipe is a must-have that Amazon reviewers adore—and may be the next best thing to a shower. It is 16 times larger than other wipes, as well as lightweight and biodegradable. Not to mention how gentle it is on your skin and how well it reduces sweat and odour.

  1. Additional face masks

With COVID-19 cases on the rise once again, it’s a good idea to pack a mask in your carry-on, even though mask mandates have long since been repealed. If you are delayed, you will need to bring multiple masks because your mask will get dirty or sweaty if you wear it for an extended period of time. Masks that are wet or dirty are less effective at filtering germs and should be discarded immediately. We recommend packing a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask because cloth masks are less effective at filtering germs. These masks filter 95% of airborne particles and are the gold standard in protection.

While you’re at it, bring some travel-friendly disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer to keep your area germ-free.

AirTags 8

Do you have an iPhone? Consider purchasing Apple AirTags in advance of your trip. While this may not be something you want to keep in your carry-on, you’ll be glad you did. These electronic trackers can be attached to keys, wallets, and other items to help you keep track of them if they get lost or left behind somewhere. You can do this by using the Find My app or by playing a chime through your tag to assist you in locating an item. Don’t worry if you don’t have an iPhone—you can still use a tracker like this one from Tile.

Consider attaching one to your suitcase before checking it at the airport. It can give you peace of mind if your luggage gets misplaced along your journey during busy travel times with delays and cancellations. Make sure to properly identify your luggage as well.

  1. A comfortable blanket or pillow

You’ll appreciate having warm accessories with you while you wait for your flight. If you have the space, a cosy blanket or pillow can make all the difference in the event that your travel plans are disrupted.

This lightweight fleece blanket has over 78,000 5-star reviews for its plush feel at an affordable price, keeping you warm in the car, plane, or terminal.

If you don’t want to carry a full-sized pillow around with you, a travel pillow is your best bet for providing neck support and comfort while sitting up. The Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow, our favourite travel pillow, is incredibly supportive and has an adjustable clasp for maximum comfort.

  1. An excellent pair of headphones or earbuds

A good pair of headphones or earbuds is essential for any trip. However, when it comes to waiting due to flight delays or cancellations, they become critical for blocking out airport noise and providing entertainment while you wait for your flight.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen), the best pair of wireless earbuds we’ve tested, have outstanding noise cancelling capabilities, a comfortable design, and excellent audio quality.

We recommend the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones for over-ear headphones because they have excellent audio quality, a high-quality noise-cancelling effect, and are comfortable to wear all day.

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