In My Bag: Carry-on Pouch of Essentials

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I’m starting to think about what I’m going to pack for our flight to Florida this weekend, but there’s one thing I never have to think about: my carry-on essentials. I keep a little pouch packed and at the ready to toss into my bag. Actually, in general, the contents of my larger carry-on have varied dramatically over the years: glossy fashion magazines have been traded for childrens’ books and a buffet of finger foods—even if I usually still pack a few in my checked bag. But there’s always a pouch with a few key items that’s waiting to be whisked off at a moment’s notice (and stashed in the seat pocket in front of me).

If you recall, one of our favorite strategies for flying with very small children is staying off the plane as long as possible. Aron usually gets on the plane first and grabs some overhead space, takes care of gate-check, installs the carseat and whatnot. He’s the one who has decide what goes at our feet (or solely in the seat pocket, if we happen to score the bulkhead), which is all the more reason for making sure that what I need at my fingertips is easy to grab when the seatbelt sign goes on.

Here’s what I like to keep at the ready:

First, any zippered pouch will do. Baggu makes some great, inexpensive nylon ones that you could use for every family member. They also have a more luxurious leather clutch that would work and which could do double duty as an elegant dress pairing once you arrive. As could those colorful ones (pictured) from West Elm. I like to look for something that can expand if you need it to, but which keeps a generally trim profile (those seat-back pockets can be tight).

Be optimistic and assume that you might get a chance to nap or sleep on the flight—especially on a red-eye. Toss in an eye mask

travel The best gifts for a traveler
 (the kind that lets you blink during REM sleep), an inflating neck pillow
travel The best gifts for a traveler
 (I like this Muji one because it’s soft and washable and folds way down, but this
is intriguing), and a pair of earplugs

Headphones are an essential and I’m obsessed with these new Bose Noise Cancelling  earbuds

. They don’t take up all the space that the larger Bose headphones do; they stay out of the way if I want to fall asleep while wearing them; and they have a microphone for talking on the phone or face-timing on the iPad. I also carry a splitter
for watching things with Hudson, or sharing an in-flight movie with Aron without paying for two screens.

I always include a pair of socks—cashmere

 feels like a treat, but these surprisingly cute compression socks by Soxxy are great for long-haul flights and flying when you’re pregnant.

Finally, I usually keep a pen, some lip balm

, a few mints, and a hair tie in mine at all times. You might be more of the gum and Ambien sort.

And once we’re traveling, I might use this as a safe place for my passport or my phone, rather than risk stowing too valuable.

Happy travels!

P.S. Tips for flying with a baby or toddler. Favorite things to pack for traveling with kids. And a host of detailed Travelogues.

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