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Having your flight delayed or canceled is never fun, but the experience is particularly frustrating during the holiday season. It’s stressful enough for gifts to arrive after Christmas, but you being late for Christmas is a new realm of annoyance.
Try as you might to avoid them, delays and cancellations can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. All you can do is hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Get in the habit of keeping certain essentials readily available in your carry-on bag or personal item so that you can still have access to them if the worst should come to pass. Here are 10 items you should always have on hand in the event of a delay, cancellation or a misplaced bag. They might not stop the delay, but they’ll make a bad situation much more bearable.
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1. A toothbrush
Whether you’ve beat your luggage to your final destination or you’re unexpectedly sleeping at a hotel (or airport), you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the bare necessities in your carry-on or personal item, rather than tucked away in a checked bag somewhere. You’ll be thankful you have a toothbrush handy—especially if you’ve been snacking on airport meals and plane food all day. While any standard toothbrush will be easy to pack away, this set of folding toothbrushes sold at Amazon is especially portable and on-the-go-friendly.
2. An extra change of clothes
Sitting in the same clothes (and, ahem, undergarments) for more than 12 hours doesn’t feel too comfortable. Don’t be stuck without any fresh clothes to change into because they’re all stowed in your checked bag. Make sure to bring a full change of clothes in your carry-on or personal item, including a clean shirt, pants, socks and underwear. It may seem silly, but if you’re stuck at the airport due to delays, you’ll be happy to have a change of clothes to feel refreshed.
If you’re looking for underwear that’ll be comfortable all day long, the best women’s underwear we’ve tested is anything from the Aerie brand—they’re the most comfortable to wear with a soft material and waistband that never digs in (which is key for long days at the airport).
3. A portable charger
It may be safe to assume that all airports have outlets, however, whether you’ll be able to actually use one is a gamble. When there are many other passengers waiting around, these outlets become hot real estate. It’s best to travel with a fully charged portable battery pack—whether your flight is on time, delayed or canceled until further notice, a portable charger is a must. You can keep your phone, tablet and other electronics charged, allowing you to stay connected with others, modify your travel schedule and stay entertained. Just make sure you, ehem, charge it before you begin your travels.
Out of all the portable battery packs we’ve tested, we found the Mophie PowerStation PD to be the best choice overall—it’s ultra-compact, making it easy to keep in a backpack or purse and charges extra fast thanks to Power Delivery technology.
4. All of your medication
A number one rule when traveling is to keep any medication you’ll need for the trip in your personal bag or carry-on. You never know when a sudden delay or cancellation could happen, leaving you separated from your checked bag for undetermined amounts of time. TSA says medication can be stored in both carry-on and checked bags, but the agency highly recommends keeping it in your carry-on to err on the safe side.
Consider bringing a portable pill organizer to make traveling with vitamins and other medicine easier. This one is highly-rated for its compact size and moisture-proof case.
5. A reusable water bottle
It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, whether you’re at 30,000 feet in the sky or you’re just sitting around in the airport. While you can buy an overpriced plastic bottle in your terminal, you can also bring in an empty reusable water bottle for free and fill it up once you’ve passed through security. Plus, it can keep your water cold for hours.
We’ve tested plenty of water bottles on the market and found the Brita Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle to be the best option out there. It keeps water extra cold and features a filtering straw that helps to reduce the taste and odor of tap water. For kids, we tested and love the Hydroflask Kids Wide Mouth bottle. It’s lightweight, insulated and dishwasher-safe.
6. Portable cleansing products
If your flight is delayed for the entire day or you end up spending the night at the airport, you’ll want nothing more than a hot shower. In those situations, showering is probably not in the cards, but thankfully there are options for staying clean and refreshed without one.
Make sure to pack dry shampoo to keep your hair grease-free—this powder dry shampoo from Bumble and bumble is TSA-friendly and has rave reviews for being effective and better for the environment than an aerosol can.
While you can rely on regular-sized cleansing wipes, the Epic Wipe is a must-have that Amazon reviewers swear by—and just might be the next best thing to an actual shower. It’s 16 times larger than other wipes, lightweight and biodegradable. Not to mention, it’s gentle on your skin and minimizes sweat and odor like a charm.
7. Extra face masks
With COVID-19 cases on the rise once more, it’s a good idea to bring a mask in your carry-on even though mask mandates have long been dropped. Packing multiple masks will be necessary if you’re delayed, as your mask is bound to become dirty or sweaty if you wear it for an extended period of time. Wet and dirty masks are less effective at filtering germs and should be disposed of immediately. As cloth masks are less effective at filtering germs, we recommend packing a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask. These masks filter 95% of air particles and are the golden standard when it comes to protection.
Got an iPhone? Consider purchasing Apple AirTags ahead of your travels. While this might not be something to keep in your carry-on necessarily, you’ll be happy you did this. These electronic trackers can be attached to keys, wallets and more to help you keep track of your items in the event that they get lost or left behind somewhere. You can do so through the Find My app or by playing a chime through your tag to help you locate an item. If you’re not an iPhone user, don’t worry—you can still use a tracker like this one from Tile.
In this case, consider attaching one to your suitcase before you check it at the airport. During busy travel times with delays and cancellations, it can give you peace of mind in case your luggage gets misplaced along your journey. Make sure to properly tag your luggage with identification, too.
9. A cozy blanket or pillow
You’ll appreciate having cozy accessories on you when you’re waiting around for your flight. If you have room for it, a cozy blanket or pillow can make a world of a difference in the event of disrupted travel plans.
This lightweight fleece blanket has over 78,000 5-star reviewers for its plush feel at an affordable price that’ll keep you warm in the car, on the plane or in the terminal.
If you don’t want to carry around a full-sized pillow, a travel pillow is your best bet for providing neck support and comfort while resting sitting up. Our favorite travel pillow we’ve tested, the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow, is incredibly supportive and features an adjustable clasp for maximum comfort.
10. A good pair of headphones or earbuds
A good pair of headphones or earbuds is key for any travel day. But when it comes to waiting around due to delays or cancellations, they become crucial for tuning out airport noise and providing entertainment while you’re waiting around for your flight.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.