How To Pack Your Carry-On So You're Prepared For Delays

Even if you're an avid traveler with a knack for grabbing bargains on flights or just boarding the first flight of your life, there is one thing you cannot avoid: unpredictable air travel. Regardless of the time of year, the airport, or the weather, there is never a guarantee that your plane will arrive or depart on time, or sometimes even make it to your destination! The solution is not to stay home but to always be prepared.

Whether you're just taking a short flight across the country or a long-haul trip you absolutely need to be ready for anything. Delays and emergencies happen all the time and you will be so very thankful you brought an extra change of clothes, some face wash, and your favorite toothbrush.

What not to bring? TSA's 3-1-1 is the golden rule of air travel. So don't bring oversized liquids and creams. And while you should definitely bring some snacks to save money on expensive airport food, TSA does consider mayonnaise and peanut butter to be liquids. So be smart and don't get your jar of Hellman's confiscated.

Best items to pack in your carry-on

The big red "delayed" label on your gate's screen is every traveler's worst nightmare. Canceled? A horror we do not even dare think about. There are merits to buying certain items once you arrive rather than packing them. But when you've been delayed there's no substitute for a few essentials. Here's what you should pack to be prepared for any occasion.

A change of clothes (or at least undergarments) will really come in handy should you have an unexpectedly long delay or you've just got a really long flight. Days spent in the same clothes can be incredibly uncomfortable especially if you've been sleeping on the floor of the airport. It's amazing what a fresh pair of pants and a shirt can do for your morale.

Pack a couple of body wipes to freshen up on your long-haul flight or if your overnight stay at the airport doesn't include access to a shower or a hotel. If you're concerned about skincare, absolutely bring a travel-size version of your facewash and be generous with the moisturizer. Airplanes can be incredibly drying on the skin. A travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste are also key to feeling fresh.

Last but not least, snacks. Airport food is overpriced and if you're not on a long-haul flight but you get peckish you definitely aren't going to be held over by a five-dollar pack of "gourmet" pretzels. Consider bringing protein bars. They will keep you full longer than a candy bar and are a bit healthier. Dried fruit and trail mix are also travel snack staples.

What to do if you have a delayed or canceled flight

Here are some things you can do to avoid problematic travel in the first place. Avoid flying in bad weather and book a direct flight whenever possible. This reduces your chances of getting stuck in a sticky situation and missing a flight because of your delay. But let's say you're already at the airport. Your flight has been delayed or canceled entirely and there's nothing you can do. You're officially grounded.

After the initial panic wears off, CNN recommends jumping in line for the gate desk. Do some googling or call your airline's service desk while you wait to find the best flight available. When you get to the desk be as sympathetic as possible and show them the flights you would like to be rebooked on. This helps speed up the process. If you cannot get a flight out that day or night, make sure to ask for hotel and meal vouchers. It's a fairly common policy for airlines to provide the bare minimum to stranded passengers.

If you believe your airline did not properly compensate or help you with the delayed or canceled flight, you may also be entitled to some form of compensation. AirHelp says you could even recoup up to $700! Possibly enough to make all that trouble worth it.