Never Travel Without This Item, Flight Attendant Says

Hitting the road without this could be a huge mistake.

Everyone has their own travel checklists and packing styles. Some people prefer to stuff their suitcase with every piece of clothing, grooming product, and gear they could possibly need on their trip. Others have mastered the art of traveling light and only pack the bare necessities. But whichever method you prefer, there are always some things that are unquestionably going in your suitcase—and a few others that you may not even realize you need until it's too late. And according to flight attendants, there's one item in particular that you should never travel without. Read on to see what should be on the top of your packing checklist.

READ THIS NEXT: Never Forget to Do This After Your Flight Lands, Flight Attendant Warns.

Experts say how you pack can be just as important as what you pack.

A woman boarding a commercial plane.
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There's nothing worse than getting ready to board a flight and realizing that you forgot an essential item back at home. But according to experts, how you arrange your items in your luggage can also be important, especially when full flights require passengers to check their bags at the gate due to a lack of overhead bin space. And unfortunately, this can create huge problems when you land, even if your bag isn't lost.

"We always tell them if they have important documents, passport, medication, or lithium batteries, to take them out and keep these with them in the cabin," Miguel Muñoz, a flight attendant and cabin chief who has been flying the skies for over 10 years, told The Daily Express. "People always say, 'No, no, I don't have any of these in my luggage,' but it happened many times when we land, those people come back to you saying, 'Oh yeah, my passport was actually in my other bag.'"

Muñoz explains that keeping vital items on-hand is especially important for older travelers who may not be able to get a medication replacement at their destination without a prescription or any traveler who can't quickly replace a passport or essential travel document while abroad.

Flight attendants warn against forgetting this one item.

man in thought looking out airplane window
michaeljung / Shutterstock

When it comes to absolute travel essentials on your packing list, your toothbrush, phone charger, and clean underwear likely are the first items that come to mind. But no matter where they're heading, flight attendants say there's one item they'll never take off without.

"Cash is king," Sydney Key, a flight attendant for Delta, says on the airline's website.

Even though the pandemic made credit card and phone payments much more common, even at small establishments, the technology still hasn't been perfected. If you ever find yourself in a situation where a terminal stops working or in an area that doesn't accept tap payments yet, having some spare cash could save you some serious grief—especially if you're not sure when you'll have access to an ATM after landing.

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It's important to make sure you're not pulling cash from the wrong place.

hand holding hundred dollar bills of US currency
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Traveling domestically can make it easy to plan ahead for a quick trip to the bank before your flight. But if you're leaving the country and want some cash on hand, experts warn that some of the seemingly most accessible options to get some foreign currency can be the worst.

"Currency exchanges at airports and in tourist areas offer less competitive rates and higher fees," Sara Rathner, a travel expert for personal finance website NerdWallet, told Mic in 2019. "These should only be used as a last resort."

Instead, grab your bank card and head to a familiar site as soon as you arrive in your destination country. "ATMs generally offer the lowest fees," Rathner explains. "You're likely to pay a foreign transaction fee around one to three percent of the amount you withdraw and an out-of-network ATM fee of $1 to $5. You can save more money if your bank has in-network ATMs at your destination; even more if it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees."

Worried about paying too much in fees on the road? Whether you're going someplace domestic or international, find a bank that offers low or no out-of-network fees for travelers if you're planning on regularly being out of town.

Some other items can make your trip even easier or more comfortable.

A young couple packing a suitcase for a trip while sitting on a bed
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In addition to the essential of having cash on hand, other items can help make your trip more enjoyable or comfortable.

"I always carry a comfortable and easy on/off pair of shoes," Heidi Ferguson, a flight attendant with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry, tells Best Life. "They're perfect for the airport—including TSA checkpoints—and also if you have to do a lot of walking. You never know what streets are like around the world, or how far the exit is in an airport. I also always carry thick socks, a sweater, and a small portable blanket for the plane because temperatures vary widely."

And it's not always about what you might what on hand during your flight but after as well. "I always bring a small snack like granola or almonds," Ferguson says. "I've gotten into hotels super late and missed the snack cart too many times on the plane to count, so it's good to always have a little something in your bag as you never know where and when you can get food in a pinch or late at night."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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