There’s no place like home for the holidays. (Unless that place is a beach, somewhere warm and faraway.) But whether you’re traveling to see family this December, or just trying to get far, far away from them, flying at this time of year isn’t always fun. On top of the usual stressors (security lines, checked-bag fees), there are bigger crowds, longer delays, and the nagging feeling that you forgot to pack someone’s Christmas present. No wonder the duty-free shops sell those massive bottles of whiskey.
But travel doesn’t have to be a total nightmare. In fact, if you pack the right essentials, you’ll not only feel prepared, but maybe even relaxed. While the best-packed carry-on can’t guarantee your flight won’t get delayed, it will help you stay calm (and even cosy) in the most chaotic airport. Scroll our gallery for nine essentials that pay off big time — without taking up too much space.