Sitting at the airport hotel in Casablanca, Morocco, and I realized I have made rookie mistakes when packing my carry-on (backpack) for my flight from Paris, France, to Niamey, Niger. Usually I am prepared and have the essentials in my carry-on, or at the very least, my purse. You don’t think it will ever happen to you, I mean why wouldn’t all of your luggage make it to your destination? What are the chances you miss your connecting flight and have to spend a day with only your carry-on? Well it happens to the best of us, I can attest to that right now. Our flight from Paris left late, almost an hour late, and our layover in Casablanca (to connect to our flight to Niamey, Niger) was only 50 minutes. It was a worry throughout the flight that we didn’t make it, but we reassured ourselves that if the plane we were on had left late in order to wait for the loads of people who boarded after we already scheduled to take off, then why wouldn’t our connecting flight leave late too.
Well we got to the Casablanca airport at about 10:25pm our connecting flight scheduled to take off at 10:50pm, only to get off the plane, not at a gate but in a lot, where we had to then take a shuttle to the gate. By the time we got the shuttle, went through the gate, rocked up to the transfer desk, told the lady what flight we were supposed to be on, and she rushed us through security and up to our gate. We arrived to the gate at 10:51pm, one minute after take-off, and the plane was clearly already gone. Thankfully Royal Air Maroc was very accommodating, and booked us on the next flight (24 hours later) and into accommodations for the night at a nearby airport hotel, with free shuttle. But as we got to the hotel I realized I made the rookie mistake, my carry-on had barely any essentials.
Here are what I consider the essentials to consider, when packing your carry-on for long trips, or moving to new countries in my case…
- A change of underwear. Seriously though, I don’t know about anyone else, but for some reason that is the first thing I want to do when getting to my destination, change my underwear. I mean, granted I usually wait until I get a shower in, but it is essential. Best to pack two or more if you can, you never know, you may need a spare if your luggage doesn’t arrive with you. I packed no spare, and I am going commando until I get there.
- A change of clothes in general. I always carry a sweater, as airplanes tend to be cold, or I use it to bunch up as a pillow. But a change of clothes, for me a dress, is usually a good idea. I always feel like I need a shower after flying, and no one really wants to shower and get right back into the clothes you were just wearing. It’s not a fashion show, just pick something easy and quick to throw on.
- Socks. Some people tend to wear their running shoes on the plane (less space taken in their luggage, compared to flip flops). I don’t. I wear my flip flops, easier to take off, as I always take off my shoes on my flights. But as I said with the above, airplanes can be cold. I bring a pair of socks to throw on my feet to make sure they stay warm. Airplane blankets never reach all the areas you want to keep warm on a plane.
- Food. Always have snacks in your carry-on. I usually do this in case the on-meal is awful, or there is no on-board meal at all. Royal Air Maroc had a delicious chicken meal, and this wasn’t a problem. But by the time we got to our airport after missing our flight, snacks were needed and it was midnight. Thankfully I packed some macaroons to tide us over. You don’t need to pack a meal but enough to tide you over until you can get a meal.
- Water. Buy a bottle of water once you get through security while waiting to board your plane. Or better yet, bring an empty bottle and go fill it once you are through security. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared to not have a drink of water for awhile .We got to our hotel in Casablanca and assumed water would be in the room. We assumed wrong. Hotel bar sold us some though.
- Bathing suit. Some people may think I am crazy, but think about this. We have 24 hours here at the airport hotel, we are too far out to really go do anything touristy today, that won’t cost a fortune for so little time actually spent. But there is a pool at many of these airport hotels. It is a good way to spend the day and pass the time. Towels are usually at these hotels already. It may seem silly if you are traveling somewhere cold, but sometimes even hotels in cold places have indoor pools, or hot tubs.
- Entertainment. Headphones are an essential, as I prefer my own to the ones they give you (or sell you) on your flights. If you are traveling with a laptop, chances are you have that in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. Make sure you are aware what kind of outlet is used in the country, which can be different from the country you fly out of, to your layover, to your destination. I carry around a universal plug with me, now with USB plugs on it too. For someone like me, I need a book as well. Laptops, internet, all that stuff is good to pass some time, but sometimes it’s hard to find a outlet to charge and keep it working. Books don’t need to be plugged in (not real ones) and you never know how much time you may need to fill up.
- Patience. Okay so this isn’t something you can pck in your carry-on, but it is something you need to carry with you during travels. Shit happens. No travel plans go perfectly. You need to be flexible, be prepared for things to go wrong and deal with them as they come. Airlines will more than likely help you when your luggage didn’t arrive with you, or you missed your connecting flight. Be patient with the people at the counter, none of this is their fault and they are there to help you figure it out from there.
I forgot some of these things will traveling. I was prepared for onboard my flight, but unprepared for 24 hour layover with only my carry-on and for this I am shaking my head at myself. So here I sit, at the airport hotel, writing my blog on my laptop, wishing I had a bikini to take a dip in the pool, without underwear on, hoping my luggage at least gets on the flight with me tonight so that I am not living in the thai pants and t-shirt, that is my go-to flying outfit as of late, or sometimes a maxi dress, for the next few days. Thank god for continental breakfasts in hotels, more coffee please!