Even if you can claim insurance for any additional spending, you’ll still have to trudge around the shops (wasting valuable relaxation time), and you might not be able to find everything you need overseas.

That’s why it’s important to take essential items on board as part of your carry-on allowance – just in case. Here’s what you should always think about including in your hand luggage…

Important documents

Saving documents such as travel insurance policies, vaccination records and booking references on your phone or tablet is the easiest way to take them on board – and it’s wise to keep digital copies accessible in your email inbox, too.

But for anything that has to be a hard copy, such as tickets or visas that can’t easily be replaced (even if you don’t need them until later in your trip), keep them in a folder in your hand baggage.


Depending on where you’re travelling, medicines can be tricky to replace – even with a prescription. Take at least a week’s worth of any medications you rely on, and make sure to check before you travel, as restrictions on drugs such as painkillers can vary between countries.


As well as your phone and tablet or laptop, be sure to pack your chargers, cables and an adapter if necessary. A universal adapter with multiple USB ports is a great space saver.

Sentimental items

If the loss of an item would result in tears, don’t risk putting it in your checked bag. Jewellery gifted by a loved one, for instance, or a child’s favourite blanket/cuddly toy they can’t sleep without, should stay close at hand.

Spare clothes

Including a few items of clothing will save you from having to shop for replacements if your bag is delayed after your flight.

Top of the list should be underwear and swimwear (if you’re going on a beach holiday), plus a hat, sunglasses, and versatile items like shorts and tops.

Wear your most useful shoes on the plane – meaning trainers if you’re going to be doing lots of walking, or sandals if it’s a relaxed itinerary.


Unless you’re staying in a fancy hotel with mini toiletries, a small set of essentials (in bottles no larger than 100ml) is a good idea – and don’t forget sunscreen, which can be hugely overpriced in some holiday destinations.

You may also want to pack your make-up (because replacing a whole kit could be very costly) and a small bottle of travel wash – so you can launder and rewear your clothes.