— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
If you plan on kicking off your summer with a plane ride to a new locale, then you might be in for a bit of a wait. Continuing from earlier in the year with many curtailed spring break plans, several airlines are still seeing widespread flight delays and cancellations due to severe weather and staffing shortages. Last weekend, travel issues topped 10,000 in what is now being called a “travel Armageddon.”
Flight delays and cancellations can happen any time, anywhere, to anyone. They can lead to schedule disruptions, costly solutions and inconvenient baggage mix-ups. With the recent uptick in flight cancellations, it’s better to be prepared in the scenario that a canceled or delayed flight leaves you stranded with nothing but your carry-on.
Get deals and shopping advice delivered straight to your phone. Sign up for text message alerts from the experts at Reviewed.
Whether you miss a connecting flight that carries your bag to the next destination or you’re stranded in an airport for a while without your checked luggage, you should get in the habit of keeping certain essentials readily available in your carry-on bag or personal item. Here are 10 items you should always have on hand in the event of a delay, cancellation or a misplaced bag.
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, and underwear. Even if you’re stuck at the airport due to delays, you can at least feel refreshed with a change of clothes.
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 keeping 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.
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 chlorine that you can find in tap water. For kids, we tested and love the CamelBak Eddy+ Kids’ Bottle. It’s spill-proof, insulated and has many cool designs to choose from.
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
While mask requirements have been lifted by all major domestic airlines, COVID cases are still prevalent and masks are still recommended by many health officials. It’s a good idea to pack them for your next flight, especially as airport terminals are filled with passengers coming from all over, including areas with high case counts. Additionally, make sure you know the mask requirements for your specific destination, whether it be domestic or international.
If you’re waiting overnight for a new flight, you’ll want to have plenty of extra, clean face masks, especially as wet masks can be less effective in providing protection. The CDC recommends storing reusable masks in something like a sealed plastic bag until you can wash them. And the sooner you wash your dirty masks, the better, as it can help avoid them from becoming moldy.
For a reusable mask that’s as comfortable and breathable as it is protective, we recommend using the Athleta Everyday Non Medical Face Mask, which we found to be the best of all the reusable masks we’ve ever tested.
8. A sleep mask
The bright, sterile lights in the airport aren’t so forgiving on the eyes, especially after a long day there. Give your eyes some relief, especially if you’re trying to catch some Zs, by packing a sleep mask.
We’ve tested plenty of sleep masks, including silk masks and contoured masks. If you like silk masks, the Alaska Bear Eye Mask is cozy, comfortable, and blocks out light at a decent price point. For a contoured eye mask, which rests just above your eyes instead of on top of your eyes, we like the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask which we found no cons for—it features a comfortable fit and blocks out light well.
9. A cozy blanket or pillow
Much like a sleep mask, you’ll appreciate having cozy accessories on you when you’re waiting around for your flight. If you can fit it into your carry-on—or if you’re willing to carry it separately—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 chatter.
The best pair of wireless earbuds we’ve tested, the Jabra Elite 85t Earbuds, feature outstanding audio quality and a comfortable design for the ear that’s easy to wear all day long. And, although it’s not our top pair, the Apple AirPods Pro are another solid option that any Apple-lover would enjoy using while on the go or just killing time.
For headphones, which rest over the ear, we love the Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones—they provide top-notch audio quality, feature a high-quality noise-canceling effect, and are comfortable to wear all day long.
There’s a lot more where this came from. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get all our reviews, expert advice, deals and more
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.