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7 Items You Need in Your Travel Carry-On If You're Over 50, Experts Say

You'll want to keep these items close by when you fly.

Over the years, flying with a travel carry-on has become more and more popular. Maybe it's because carry-ons are cute; maybe it's because they're convenient. Or maybe it's because, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of bags mishandled by U.S. air carriers regularly exceeds 1 million (and some years even surpasses 4 million). Given the odds of losing your luggage, it makes perfect sense to pack as many needful things as you can in a carry-on. And the chances are, what you define as necessary will change as you age.

"Traveling can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be stressful, especially for those over 50," notes Liam Lee, travel writer and the creator of Thailand Travel Diaries. "As we age, our bodies may become more sensitive to changes in temperature, altitude, and time zones, and we may require additional medications and personal care items." For these reasons, we spoke to Lee and other travel experts about the items you need in your carry-on if you're over 50. Read on to learn about their must-haves.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security.

Sun protection

Young woman by a pool wearing swimsuit applying sunscreen lotion.

"Don't forget to pack your favorite sunscreen and sunglasses, as well as a wide-brimmed hat that will protect you from the sun's harsh rays," says Justin Crabbe, world traveler and the CEO of Jettly. If your larger suitcase gets lost, you don't want to get stuck in a sunny destination without these necessities. Keeping a swimsuit in your carry-on isn't a bad idea, either.

In addition, some experts think you should apply sunscreen before a flight. "The sun's rays are much more harmful at the in-flight level, and we should all be wearing sun cream when flying," Enrizza P. Factor, MD, clinical dermatologist and medical and health writer with MyEczemaTeam, previously told Best Life. She explained that most plane windows block UVB rays but not all UVA rays.

Medications and copies of prescriptions

Prescription pills spilling out of a container.

The only thing more stressful than not having the medication you need is being without it when you're in an unfamiliar place. "Make sure to bring enough medication to last your entire trip, as well as copies of your prescriptions in case you need to refill them while you're away," Lee advises.

First-aid supplies

Basic home first-aid kit on a table.

While your carry-on first-aid kit doesn't have to be elaborate, you may want to pack some emergency items that can help make your trip more comfortable. "Pain can strike at any time, so it's important to have a few pain relief options ready in your bag," says Crabbe. "Pack some ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter medications that can help with aches and pains you may experience during your travels." After all, layovers can be a headache!

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Clothing Items to Never Wear Through Airport Security, Experts Say.


Closeup of granola energy bars.
4kodiak / iStock

There are times during a trip when healthy snacks and hydration aren't easy to find—think about being stuck in traffic on the way to your hotel, or even just waiting in line to board and feeling your energy start to flag. Nutritionist Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, founder of Real Nutrition NYC, suggests nuts and energy bars made from whole food ingredients and fruits as well as good old H2O. "Staying hydrated is so important when you are traveling and 50+," she says.

Travel pillow

Man traveling and using a neck pillow.
andresr / iStock

Delays, missed flights, or annoying seatmates can all make travel a pain in the neck, but you don't want your trip to give you an actual pain in the neck. "Invest in an inflatable travel pillow or neck support cushion to help make your journey more comfortable," Crabbe advises. "If space is at a premium, look for pillows that can be rolled up or collapsed into compact sizes."

You might want to bring a blanket, too, if you tend to get chilly. And whatever you do, do not use the complimentary pillow and blanket you're offered on a plane, as they're not always washed between flights.

Alternate footwear

Person tying the laces on their hiking shoes.

The footwear you wear for a flight may be ideal for traveling six miles off the ground, but perhaps not so much when you arrive at your destination ready to walk, hike, or paddle a canoe. "Bring along a pair of walking shoes that provide support and cushion your feet," says Crabbe. Or, if you're wearing your comfiest sneakers for flying, pack another necessary style such as sandals for around the pool.

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Up-to-date knowledge of what you can bring in your carry-on

Gloved hands of an airport security person examining the contents of a bin with a traveler's belongings.
leezsnow / iStock

Knowledge may not be a tangible item you can put in your carry-on, but it sure can help you pack wisely (and prevent the frustration that comes with having to relinquish your nail scissors to a TSA employee). Check with your airline about what's allowed and what's not, as well as how they want you to transport things like medication, toiletries, and other items. Many people consider the MyTSA app to be essential for travel; it gives you up-to-date information about airports, airlines, and your specific flight.

Luisa Colón
Luisa Colón is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, Latina, and many more. Read more
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