What's Your Must-Pack Travel Item

My last airplane trip was not without drama…

I arrived at the airport nice and early. I always leave time — like, way too much time — to grab water, find a snack, and peruse the duty-free shops for shades of lipstick not available elsewhere, before strolling to the gate.

On this particular day, I was traveling with my dog in tow, whose carrier fits comfortably under the seat in front of me. Normally, this process goes seamlessly. But this time, the person at the check-in counter seemed like she had never checked in a pet before, and possibly never checked in any people, either. After an hour (!) of computer-related confusion, we made it through security and raced to the gate in the nick of time. No snacks, no perusal, no fun. My stomach grumbled in protest.

The guy seated in front of me had a very different airport experience. He proceeded to unpack the ENTIRE Chick-Fil-A menu over the course of the next few hours. There was a sandwich… there were waffle fries… there were nuggets… The food kept on coming, while he watched movie after movie, laughing with glee.

We all have our must-pack travel item — for him, it was a fragrant buffet.

Nuggets or otherwise, there is usually that one specific snack or beauty product or good-luck talisman we don’t leave home without.

For me, it’s what I like to call bite-sized reading. Whether it’s a book of essays or short stories, I always travel with a book that accommodates the occasional snooze or cookie break or round of digital backgammon. Examples include Lorrie Moore’s short story book Self-Help (which happens to be my favorite book, ever) and Jessi Klein’s hilarious book of essays You’ll Grow Out of It.

Contributing writer Kelsey never travels without the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask. Before she found it, the extreme dryness of airplane air would inevitably cause her to break out. “You know how you see photos of celebrities at the airport and you’re like, ‘How do they not look like jet-lagged garbage?’ That’s what I thought looking at myself in the mirror after using this mask.” She pops into the bathroom as soon as she’s through security, rinses her face, and puts it on. “It dries really quickly, and it’s so light that it feels (and looks) like nothing’s there, but trust me, IT IS.”

Marketing manager Maureen never packs anything “smelly or squishy” except for one thing — dried apricots. “They’re an excellent source of fiber, which helps you feel full for longer periods of time,” she explains. “Plus, apricots help keep things moving and are way more appetizing than Metamucil packets!” Sold.

What’s your must-pack travel item? Would love to hear!

P.S. One thing NOT to wear on planes and why I never wash my hands in an airplane bathroom.

(Photo by William Eggleston.)