The 3 Things Experienced Travelers Always Take to the Airport

updated Nov 14, 2022
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(Image credit: elwynn/Shutterstock)

Packing for a trip is tough enough. (How many shoes should I pack? How many times can I wear these shorts before they’re considered dirty?) By the time you’re at the bottom of your packing list, your suitcase is full, and you’re not thinking about all of the things you’ll need before you even arrive at your destination.

Tucking away a few tiny luxuries for the road—er… air—will make your airport experience go smoothly and efficiently. And who knows, you might even make a new friend.

An Empty, Reusable Water Bottle

Only fools fall privy to $8 airport water. Thrifty travelers know you can get free water at water fountains located throughout most terminals, but the savviest ones know this air travel tip: You can bring a water bottle through security as long as it’s empty.

The night before your trip, leave your everyday S’well bottle out to dry, then pack it in your tote or carry-on luggage the next morning. Once you’re through airport security, you can fill your bottle up and even carry it full onto the plane with you. If space is an issue, consider a flat flask-style one, or a rollable Vapur bottle. (Or let our writer Shifrah convince you why her $20 Contigo was the best buy ever.)

Check out our Annual Guide → Top Ten Best Water Bottles, From High-Tech to High-Design

An Outlet Splitter

Do you want to make friends at the airport? Because this is how you make friends at the airport. Anyone who’s ever found themselves waiting at a terminal for a Tuesday morning flight knows that empty power outlets are harder to come by than unicorns. But if you carry an outlet splitter or compact power strip with you in your carry on, you have a sure-fire way to weasel yourself into any outlet: Just ask the person using it if they wouldn’t mind sharing the plug with you instead.

You don’t want something with too many outlets, though. If your power strip becomes a charge-up watering hole, you’ll disappoint a crowd with half-full phones when you need to pack up to board your flight. These two travel models from Belkin and Upwade fit the bill, or just grab something really simple and affordable—like this $6 Y-splitter with Amazon Prime shipping.

(Image credit: Flight 001)

Something to ID Your Bag

Unlike the first two items on the list, this last one is about making sure your time at your arrival airport goes smoothly. If you’re among the seemingly millions of people who check the same rolling black luggage, do all of us a favor and give your bag a little chutzpah.

If you have time before your trip, find yourself a brightly colored luggage tag that sturdy enough to stay on through the lengthy journey ahead of your bag (or maybe a lovely leather one that says, distinctly, “This Bag is Not Yours”). If not, scour the house for something secure and colorful—a bright bandana double-knotted tightly around the handle does the trick just fine. Anything to make sure that another less-savvy traveler doesn’t walk off with your luggage.

Anticipating a long layover and want to really be ready? → What Everyone Needs in Their Carry-On Bag for a Long Layover

Re-edited from a post originally published 9.16.2016 – TW