What to Carry On: Ten Things to Take With You on the Plane

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Airlines have always had carry on luggage size restrictions, but it seems like they're actually enforcing those rules for the first time ever as of late. If your bags are over the limit, you'll probably be asked to check them, so it's important to stay within the size guidelines when you plan what to carry on. Here are ten essential items that should go with you on the plane -- and that all fit nicely in a small carry on bag.

1. Laptop computer: If you are someone who can travel without a computer, more power to you, but most of us take our laptops everywhere. And those laptops belong with you in your carry on luggage. If you check your computer, you might as well drop it from the roof of a tall building – it is unlikely to survive the rough ride in the cargo hold. If the airline forces you to check your carry on because it won't fit in the overhead bins, take your computer out before you hand over your bag.

2. Sleep aid: Unwind's Bulldozer is my go-to relaxation aid. It's a low-calorie, berry-flavored 3oz drink. It's small enough to bring through security with you, and once your plane is in the air, drink the shot and feel yourself slip into a peaceful rest. When you sleep soundly on your flight, jet lag won't interfere with the rest of your plans.

3. Ear plugs: Is it just me, or are you always seated next to the crankiest baby on the plane, too? You can't shut the kid up, but you can block him out – earplugs are a cheap and easy solution.

4. Sudoku: Every time I fly, I inevitably get bored with whatever diversions I've brought with me and turn to the games section of the in-flight magazine. The sudoku and crossword puzzles are enough to assuage my boredom for a few minutes, but when I'm done with the two pages in the back of the magazine, I always wish I had more. A pocket-sized sudoku book is a great way to keep the boredom at bay.

5. Snack: Airlines are so stingy these days, you might get a bag of six peanuts to munch on between New York and LA, but if you want anything substantial to eat, you're going to have to bring it with you in your carry on bag. Your only option on board is to pay a fortune for something that tastes like a tire. I always pack a few small, filling snack bars like Special K, Fiber One, or NutriGrain.

6. Spare clothes: Hopefully you won't need them, but if your checked luggage is lost or your flight is delayed overnight, it will be nice to have a fresh set of clothes to wear.

what to carry on7. Train Reaction: This handy tool is a lifesaver if you're flying with multiple bags (especially when you're traveling with kids who can't handle their own luggage). It can link any two rolling bags together so that they roll smoothly in a train, making it much easier to navigate the terminal.

8. Pen/pencil: Your crosswords won't be any fun if you don't have something to write with. I also like to write letters and postcards when I fly.

9. Music player: Time always goes by a little faster when you've got your favorite music playing. It's also a great way to drown out the other noises around you, but take the headphones out for a moment when the flight attendant comes by to offer you a drink. They really hate repeating everything five times because you can't be bothered to pause your music for three seconds.

10. Book:E-readers are great for flying -- you can pack hundreds of books in one thin tablet. The only downside is that you're not allowed to have them on below 10,000 feet. Whether you prefer e-books or the real thing, it's always a good idea to have something to read while you fly.

These ten essential carry on items will all fit nicely in a small roller bag, so you can easily pack everything you need for the plane in a carry on that meets airline size requirements. What are your can't-live-without carry on items? Tell us in the comments.
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