If you’ve never flown on a flight that is an international arrival, you might not think of three very basic things you will need. Most people spend so much time focusing on preparing for their upcoming trips that common things are very easily overlooked. So, if you’re crossing borders anytime soon, here are three things you need in your carry-on bag!

Right now, there is so much focus on wearing masks, tests and records, and bringing hand sanitizer that passengers are overlooking other important items. Over the years we’ve noticed plenty of fellow passengers specifically looking for these three things when it comes time to fill out their arrival card or start that final descent. A familiar look of concern sweeps across their faces. So, If you want to save yourself some hassle, make sure to always have these 3 things within easy reach in your carry-on bag. And by that, we mean underneath the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bin!


This may sound like a no-brainer, but this is the most important thing. Make sure you have your passport with you! I am super OCD when it comes to my passport. I need to know where it is at all times. Keep it nearby. We do not recommend putting this in your bag in the overhead bin.

You will need your passport to complete the required field on your arrivals card. Be sure to fill out the information on your card exactly as it appears on your passport. To move quickly through customs, you will want to print clearly. Use only blue or black ink.

Whatever you do, do not leave your passport in a carry-on bag which is about to be gate checked! Sometimes the airlines stow these bags with the rest of the luggage and make it available for pick up on the baggage carousel. If this ever happens you will be S.O.L! There is no way you will have access to your passport as you try to clear immigration. Play it safe and keep it with you at all times.


It is always surprising to me how many people on any given flight do not have pen on them. It is even more surprising to me how few people have them on international flights. You will need a reliable pen – again, either blue or black ink – to fill out your arrival card. This is more important now than ever!

Most people rely on borrowing pens from flight attendants. Generally speaking, they might have one or two in the galley. But, those are needed to complete their work tasks. Those who don’t ask a flight attendant usually scramble to find a nearby seatmate who will loan theirs out. People are not so willing to share anymore and you really shouldn’t be asking in present times.

Do yourself a favor and grab a cheap, reliable ball-point pen. Just keep it in your carry-on bag and you will always be prepared. I always grab these pens from whatever hotel we might be staying at.

Itinerary Information

Many people who travel outside the country (especially for the first time) do not even think about this one. Depending on your destination, you will have to provide information about your accommodation on your arrivals card. Be sure to keep a copy of this in your bag or have a photo with the information in your phone. You’ll need the accommodation’s name, address, and phone number.

It is also handy to have the number of days you are staying and any other pertinent itinerary information easily available. They will ask this on the form as well as when passing through customs.

We’ve seen countless crowds of people lining the arrivals hallways after deplaning. Unprepared passengers are searching through their bags to try to find this information and complete their arrival card. This can cause crowding and delays. Don’t be one of these people. Properly preparing helps make crowds and lines move faster.

Having these three things with you in your carry-on bag will make preparing for your international arrival so much easier. You can breeze off the plane with everything you need ready for review by customs and immigration.

Being prepared to arrive on your international flight is just one of the many things you can do for a more seamless travel experience. Airports can be super stressful. Learn our tips for getting through them more easily HERE.

Whether it’s your first international flight or you’re a seasoned flyer, the more you prepare, the better you will make your overall travel experience. This means less stress in transit and getting to the fun stuff a bit faster!

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  1. Another great post with experience behind the ideas contained in this post. Cannot imagine being in any airport struggling to “go through” bags, purses, wallets, etc., to find things which could easily be at one’s fingertips. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have managed to forget my passport twice (well, once arrived with my husbands passport!), the last trip my pen exploded on me, so still had no pen for immigration papers and more than once I’ve forgotten to make a note of my itinerary somewhere handy!

  3. You’d think the passport would be super obvious, but you get very comfortable with the routine. This caused my family and me to realize at the very last minute that mine and my brother’s passports were expired! We had to completely change our trip.

  4. Having your itinerary information is a really good tip – it can be chaotic having to scramble for it right when they ask, especially if the internet connection isn’t great. Thanks for sharing!

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