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6 Must-Haves for Your Carry-on Bag

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    Medications and Basic Toiletries

    En español | Always keep prescription medications in your carry-on. As for liquid medications, as long as you declare them to the TSA security checkpoint agent, they're permitted in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces, and they don't have to be placed in the zip-top plastic bag with other liquids, aerosols and gels. I also pack some aspirin, a few basic toiletries (toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste and the like) and, to combat the dry-as-the-Sahara cabin air, lip balm and saline nasal spray.

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    Reading Material

    Be it the morning paper, magazines, a guidebook for where I'm headed, a novel I've been waiting to dig into or all of the above, I always make sure my carry-on has reading material. Some of it might be in paper format, but increasingly I rely on my e-reader, which under a recent FAA rule change no longer has to be switched off during takeoff and landing. But whether you're a reader or a player of cards or games, the point is to include some easily packed entertainment in your carry-on.

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    Something to Keep You Warm

    Have you ever sat under an air conditioning vent on an airplane? I have, enough times that I now bring aboard a light jacket or sweater for shorter flights and a travel blanket for longer ones. But if you opt to take up valuable space in your carry-on with an extra garment to keep warm during the flight, make sure it's also something you'll wear during the trip.

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    Food

    Unless you enjoy the overpriced boxes of processed food that pass for a meal these days in coach cabins, pack your own edibles in your carry-on. I always bring at least a little something to snack on during the in-flight beverage service, or in the boarding lounge during long delays. And I bump that up to a nice, fat sandwich, with fruit and cookies if I'm flying during mealtimes. One frequent flier I know brings a beautifully composed bento box from her favorite Japanese restaurant, which always prompts looks of longing from other passengers.

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    Print Out Travel Documents

    Even in this era of making online travel arrangements and loading boarding passes onto smartphones, there's still a place for paper. In my carry-on, I always take printouts of my air itinerary (showing reservation or locator number), hotel confirmation, car rental reservation and other important travel documents. If there's a problem, it's often a lot easier to consult a piece of paper — or to show one to an airline, hotel or rental car employee — than to pull up a document on an electronic device.

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  • Dana Hoff

    Chargers for Electronics

    Don't make the mistake I did a number of years ago when I packed my laptop charger in checked luggage so I wouldn't have to lug it around. Three hours into a long delay, still sitting in the boarding area, I was already losing valuable work time because I had to ration battery use. And it's not just laptops. Stash charging cords in your carry-on for phones, tablets and any other electronic device you might conceivably need, either at the airport waiting for a flight or after arriving at your destination.

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