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9 Must-Have Items You Should Always Bring to the Airport

Don't forget to pack these necessities if you're flying the friendly skies.

There are three types of travelers: the one who packs weeks in advance, the meticulous packer, and the last-minute scrambler. No matter which category you fall into, it's possible that you've been stuck buying something overpriced at the airport because you absolutely needed it. Even those throw-everything-into-the-suitcase folks should pay attention here though! There are some items that you should simply always have on hand at the airport.

These packable and tote-able items guarantee that you'll have a happier and healthier flight, pro travelers say. So before you head out, make sure you have these things handy when you arrive at your terminal.

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Your phone charger (and all necessary accessories for it).

iphone charger on an orange background
inspire finder / Shutterstock

If you've ever forgotten a phone charger and needed one at the airport, you'll never make that mistake again. (You'll pay a pretty penny!)

And having a working phone is essential for air travel. Just ask Phil Dengler, co-owner of The Vacationer. "Unless you print your boarding pass, your phone is essentially your boarding pass," he says. "Additionally, it's important to have a fully charged phone to access in-flight entertainment, call rideshare or a taxi after landing, and easily check into your hotel or Airbnb. Having a fully charged phone is also important in the event of an emergency after landing."

Don't forget the cables or plugs you'll need to juice up that charger, too. Your best bet is to keep some spares in your go-to luggage.

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A foldable water bottle.

foldable water bottle

By now, you know that bottled water is bad for the environment, but it's also bad for your wallet if you purchase it at the airport. While reusable water bottles are often a suggested travel item, you may want to opt for a more compact version like Green Van Go travel blogger Hilary Bird. One of Bird's airport must-haves is a foldable bottle. "Minimal Water Bottle (MWB) is made of silicone so I can roll it up to take up less space when I'm not using it (and dump it before I go through security)," she says. "After security, I fill it up at a free water station. Then, once I'm on the plane, I don't bother getting a free drink because I don't like having to keep my tray table down and  I can do my little part of wasting one less plastic cup!"

The Priority Pass app.

redheaded woman on laptop in airport lounge
Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

Did you know that there's a way to hang out in airport lounges without being a member? Yep, you can live your very best luxe life at airports all over the world by paying for the Priority Pass app. For Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler, it's a must-have at the airport since it gives you access to over 1,000 lounges worldwide.

"Almost all of the lounges provide complimentary snacks and beverages and there are many lounges with their own unique perks and benefits—like showers, virtual golf, or even a pool!" she says. "Relaxing in an airport lounge—a glass of champagne in hand—is inarguably a better experience than fighting for a seat at your crowded gate whilst holding an overpriced Starbucks." A hot tip: A Priority Pass membership is included with Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards, although you can purchase the pass outright as well.

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The MyTSA app.

apps on an Android cellphone

For Sophia Herrera of Sophie Uncharted, having the MyTSA app handy is essential to hassle-free airport adventures.

"After flying about once a month (pre-COVID), usually fitting everything into a carry-on, I've learned I must have the MyTSA app," she says. "The app provides up to date information about specific airports, like how busy the airport is, items you can bring through the checkpoint via the "Can I bring?" feature, any delay information, and you can even get connected to an agent if you have any questions. While at the airport, you can let others know if there's anything they need to know, similar to the Waze app. But just know that the wait times for the checkpoint are usually data from crowdsourced information, so the results can vary depending on user updates."

A small, closeable bag for essentials.


One of the worst things about traveling is misplacing something important.  Trying to remember which pocket something is in can make even the most well-traveled of us anxious. The solution? Put your most important essentials (like your passport) in a small bag that can zip or otherwise close up securely.

"For me, an airport essential is a small, zip-up bag that you can keep on you at all times that will keep all your essentials safe," says Struan Baird, co-founder and director of Luxury Scotland Tours. "Keep your passport, boarding pass, wallet, phone, and other essentials safe, and save time and energy trying to keep track of everything. International and even national travel can be stressful, and the goal is to simplify your life and not add even more stress to it."


Hands touching paper money

This one doesn't come as second nature to most of us anymore. Still, not having at least a little bit of emergency cash on you during travel might prove to be a poor decision. At least, that's what Delta flight attendant Sydney Key says is her most important suggestion. You don't know if a card machine will go down or you just get stuck somewhere without a way to pay for what you need. Having cash with you when you travel can mitigate those tricky situations, she says.

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A travel pillow.

memory foam travel pillow

We can all probably agree that travel pillows are silly accessories, though you'll miss them if you don't have one on a flight. You can only get so comfortable curled up with a sweatshirt or leaning against the window side of the airplane. Jonathan Smith, the founder of CamperGuide, agrees that having a travel pillow makes sleeping on the go a much more pleasant experience. "Airline pillows are too small," he says. "Something bigger is required to acquire a sufficient amount of sleep."

The Safe Travels Kit.

safe travels kit
Instagram / @SafeTravelsKit

Even before the pandemic, I was wary of plane cleanliness. I would always bring sanitizer and hand wipes and use them in the airport, on the plane, and anywhere I was traveling. Safe Travels Kit is a reusable, washable, and functional cover for airline seats that's designed to resist germs, allergens, and even bed bugs. The kit also includes a pillowcase, wipes, a face mask, and a carrying pouch. When it comes to airport must-haves as a travel writer, this little kit is at the top of mine.

Comfortable shoes.

chunky sneakers

Dan Meyer, founder and director of BACK&PACK, suggests always having comfortable shoes for those unpredictable air travel moments. "Comfortable walking shoes make terminal transfers a breeze," he says. "Plus, having the right shoes makes you better prepared for unexpected travel complications. For example, I've had longer than expected layovers where—thanks to wearing the proper footwear—I would just leave the airport and take the time to explore more of the city. There's no better way to pass the time!  None of this is possible if your checked bag has all your essentials, especially your best walking shoes."

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Amanda Finn
Amanda Finn is an award-winning theater, travel, and lifestyle writer. Read more
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