The Essentials of a Well-Used GoBag

How to survive travel delays like a pro no matter how long you’re stuck anywhere in the world.

Chelle Honiker
Aug 9 · 7 min read

I’m on day 3 of an epic journey home to Austin from 3 weeks in Scotland. It’s involved washed out train tracks, bus trips around hairpin turns, missed connections, bad weather, and now ultimately a two-day delay in New York.

Yep. Two days. I can’t get out of America's gateway to the rest of the world and I’m only trying to get to the biggest state in the contiguous US.

After an 8-hour flight, I cleared customs and then spent 12 hours in Newark airport schlepping 4 gate changes in 6 hours. When we finally boarded we were told that our crew timed out and they deplaned us about 40 minutes later. My bags ostensibly continued on to Austin while my tired self travel hacked her way to a hotel in the heart of Times Square to await my rescheduled flight two days later, choosing to divert to San Antonio since flights to Austin, Houston, and Dallas — from all 3 NYC airports — are completely booked until Monday. I’m in the middle of one of the most epic airline meltdowns I’ve ever seen — and I was a travel agent for 20 years so that’s saying something.

My saving grace is my go-bag. It’s what I’m never without that lets me roll with the punches no matter what country or circumstance. I’m repacking this morning to ship some stuff home (I had two laptops this trip due to some complex client work) so I snapped a quick pic of what goes where I go. I highlighted the method to my madness for those interested.

  • Moisturing Makeup wipes — great for the end of day makeup removal but also a “military shower” when you don’t have access to a proper facility. Doubles as bum wipes and bonus that they’re moisturized.
  • Headphones — I love my Bluetooth headphones that wrap around my neck. I can pop them in and out without worrying about keeping track of getting them in and out of my bag. I usually keep one earbud in and one out if I need to keep track of announcements. They’re noise canceling with a mic so I can take calls. I also carry two backup corded headphones. One for the plane’s aux jack and one for my iPhone/iPad in case Bluetooth dies and I need time to charge them.
  • Notebook with ballpoint pen and felt tip pen — I used to carry these for customs forms but now I use Mobile Passport to speed through reentry into the USA. So now it’s just for story ideas or to dramatically write down names of people that I need to remember for strongly worded missives later.
  • Eye mask & Chin strap — I basically knock myself out on flights so together with my headphones and music downloaded to Spotify that I can sleep to I have a nice little sensory deprivation thing going on. The chin strap forces me to breathe through my nose for better oxygen utilization. I wake feeling refreshed instead of jet lagged.
  • Heated inflatable neck pillow — It’s got a cute little USB connection that heats it to a very comfy temp. Great for cold planes and stiff necks.
  • Thermal spring water spritz and skin serum — Flights are very dehydrating. I spritz water periodically on long flights and use it to wake my face up before landing. The skin serum is a travel size I get from Amazon that sails through TSA and lasts about 3 weeks. I usually have one with me and one in my rollerboard.
  • Lume Deodorant — I hate strong odors and don’t really wear perfume but I love this vegan natural deodorant that they advertise as great for your pits and private parts. I won’t elaborate but it works. I have both the tube and the stick.
  • Roll on citrus and vanilla scent — I found these in a cute shop in Boerne, Texas. I like that they are natural scents and long lasting without being overbearing. I like to use the citrus as an aromatherapy wake up in the morning and the vanilla as an evening scent.
  • Travel meds — I don’t take prescriptions regularly but I do have a couple I carry for crazy aches or pains mostly related to old ligament tears. I layer them into one bottle along with some OTC Benedryl I take to sleep. I also have a bunch of packets I pulled from a first aid kit that includes ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin plus alcohol wipes, burn cream (blisters are real, y’all) and some sting pads. Very helpful if you back up on some stinging nettles walking around Scotland. I also carry Salonpas pads for minor aches and pains when I’m on my feet for too many hours and the back starts to complain. I carry bandaids in all sizes and shapes and a pair of disposable gloves in a sterile plastic bag. I take a multi-vitamin and a fish oil supplement. They come in large bottles so I carry only enough for 4 days with me in my go-bag.
  • Cash in various currency — I have a layered cash plan. I carry small amounts of cash in a couple of currencies. Basically enough to grab a taxi or bus and maybe buy some lunch. I have two cards attached to Apple Pay for bigger purchases. I only carry two cards physically. One is a prepaid mileage plus GO card, which I also use to pay my primary bills every month at home to accumulate miles. Those miles post to my United Mileage Plus account every month and I get 2 miles for every dollar. In some airports, I can order food and drinks using miles, and I usually have enough to get WiFi on flights and occasionally upgrade, although it’s harder and harder to navigate upgrades. The other card I carry is a proper credit card that I leave deactivated until I want to use it. I can open the app, authenticate with my thumb, switch the card on, pay and switch it back off so nothing gets by me. If I’m going to be in a place with weird or spotty cell service then I’ll leave it on, but that’s rare.
  • Gum, Water Bottle, electrolytes, and instant coffee sticks — I don’t drink soda but I drink a lot of water and I look for hydration stations to fill up as much as possible. I carry Ultima raspberry electrolyte powder sticks to help replenish and keep me balanced. They’re sugar-free and keto-friendly. The Nescafé sticks are perfect for keeping me awake or when I just need something warm.
  • Toothbrush and paste — Enough to last a couple of days. I also carry Colgate wisps that are waterless toothbrushes.
  • Minimal makeup — I use a BB cream that’s a primer and tint and evens my skin out. I have a blush/lip tint combo for sheer day color and a darker tint for the evening that lasts 18 hours. Eyeliner and mascara for that perfect cat eye and you can rock any event.
  • Backup iPhone — my T-Mobile iPhone is pretty much all I need but I also carry an unlocked iPhone 5 with a Google Fi SIM card. It’s my primary number and lets me make and receive unlimited calls globally for about $20/month with unlimited data so it doubles as a hotspot.
  • Clothes — this trip I had two laptops so backpack space was limited. Normally I have two outfits rolled up together. This trip I had one with a light hoodie and some undergarments and some laundry soap in case I need to hand wash. You’d be amazed at how long you can go by mixing and matching a couple of black yoga pants with some jersey knit tops. No wrinkles and it wicks away sweat. Layered with a lightweight hoodie and you’ve got every climate covered.

Not in my bag, but can’t live without: compression socks and Thursday boots.

No swelling on flights and definitely reduces the possibility of throwing a blood clot. I researched boots for a month before choosing these boots. I love the look — they’re a bit of a chameleon. I can pair with a dress for a steampunk look, or with bootleg yoga pants for a walking day. They aren’t delightful to go through TSA with, but I can manage well enough and it makes me appreciate the rest of the world’s airports that don’t require removing shoes.

I was once told I could overthrow a small country with my bag of tricks and while I don’t want to test that theory I don’t disagree either. Now I’m off to walk around Central Park and catch a Broadway Show before I head back to the airport in the morning and hopefully make it home.

Chelle Honiker

Written by

Caffeinated ☕️ Writer ✏️ Mama 💫 Founder 👸 Foo Fighter 🎸 Speaker 🔊 Trainer 👩‍🏫 Traveler — Building a Vagabond Empire one byte and flight at a time.

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