The Best Short Flight Carry-On Travel Essentials

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Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-timer, mastering the art of packing for short flights is essential to ensure a smooth journey. Your choice of carry-on luggage and its contents play a vital role in the world of travel efficiency. The limited time spent in the air on short flights demands a different approach to packing compared to long-haul flights.

This blog post is your guide to mastering the art of packing for short-haul adventures, with a focus on the key essentials for your carry-on. From the must-have items that make your journey more comfortable to the clever packing strategies that maximize your limited space, I’ve got you covered!

Top 10 travel essentials

As a self-proclaimed carry-on lover, I always try my best to pack light and take items I know I will use. After years of traveling, I’ve narrowed down my carry-on packing list and included all my travel essentials in this easy-to-shop post. No matter the destination or duration of the trip, I never leave home without all of these carry-on essentials. They fit perfectly between my carry-on bag and personal item and also come with me on all my long haul flights.

While this post lists more than 10 items, I pulled my must haves into the summary chart below. My “health pack” includes vitamins, Airborne tablets, collagen peptides, lip balm and Wet Ones antibacterial wipes. Of course, don’t forget your identification and any important travel documents-in addition to these top 10 essentials.

The Best 10 Carry-on Must Haves

Top 10 Essentials

The trip type and destination will ultimately guide you into what you need to bring on your short flight. While I am hardcore about my favorite top 10 items, you may find a few more from this list that make it on your top 10 list. I hope this post will help you discover what those items will be!

Best carry-on bags and luggage

Tips for Packing a Carry-on Suitcase

Some things to keep in mind when packing a carry-on for a short flight are the weight limits and size requirements of your luggage and toiletries. Ensure all toiletries are 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller in size and fit into a quart-size plastic bag. Some TSA checkpoints are very strict with this, while others are more relaxed and miss certain things.

Liquids and aerosol sprays over 100 ml (3.4 oz), and any forbidden items, including sharp objects like mini nail scissors and clippers should be left at home. There are many times when I have taken nail clippers through security with no problems and other times, TSA security forces me to leave them behind-ooof I hate it when that happens!

Any gear with lithium-ion batteries should be placed in your carry-on bag as most airlines forbid it to be placed in checked luggage. Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable and used in many personal electronics such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, as well as electric toothbrushes and most digital cameras.

Many items can be placed in a checked bag that can not be carried on board, including alcohol, most lighters, hatches, axes, and other sharp objects. The TSA officer has the final say as to whether an item is allowed through the security checkpoint, and all airports are different. For a complete list of what is not allowed in carry-on baggage, visit the TSA Website.

When packing your items in your luggage, I have found that laying clothing as flat as possible on top of each other is the best way to consolidate space and help prevent wrinkles. I have tried rolling and compression bags, but neither fit as much as when I lay my clothing flat.

Bags and Suitcases

Airport security and airline carriers have specific requirements for carry-on luggage. While some carriers (especially European airlines) have different regulations, the majority agree a carry-on bag should be 22” x 14” x 9” or smaller to fit in an overhead bin. A personal item should measure 7” x 15” x 16′ or less and fit under the seat in front of you.

Airlines only allow two pieces to be carried onto the plane. So, if you are wearing a hip pack (belt bag, fanny pack) or have a shopping bag in addition to carry-on roller luggage and a personal item, airline associates may ask you to check one at the gate-so it is best to consolidate. The only time you can carry-on more than two items is if the third one is food. Some gate agents may still give you a hard time, so plan accordingly.

Hard Luggage

My go-to hard luggage is from the Beis collection. I have been using their hard rollers for checked and carry-on luggage for a few years and have no complaints. I love the extra zips, compression panel, how easy it rolls, the cushioned handle, and the durability of their rollers. They also come in many great colors and four different sizes, two of which are carry-on size.

Weekend Bags

Sometimes, for short trips, you’ll only need a weekend duffle. I love the Tumi Voyager Weekender for several reasons. The Tumi brand is expensive, but it’s the best quality luggage I’ve ever owned. Their zippers are so smooth, and their products last forever. I love this bag for the pockets and separate bottom compartment to store shoes or toiletries, separate from clothes.

Travel Backpack

My favorite travel backpack is the Wandered PRVKE 31 L. It is a camera bag with removable padded inserts. The PRVKE comes in different sizes and has a top compartment for everyday essentials. Depending on the trip, I also bring a smaller day backpack (usually a Fjallraven Kanken backpack; be careful buying on Amazon as some Fjallraven sellers are fake), and I always have a collapsible duffel bag or tote bag just in case I buy a few things along the way.

Tote Bags and Pouches

While I don’t use compression bags for short flights, I do use packing cubes to help keep like items together. If its not laying flat, it ends up in a compression bag which is so helpful when finding items once you arrive at your destination.

I also always have a few pouches to keep toiletries or smaller items in so I can find them easily.

The Aloha brand bags are fun, vibrant, easy to open, and water-resistant. They come in many sizes and are perfect for storing and organizing within larger bags. The small and extra small bags work great as toiletry bags for storing small items like lip balm, prescription medications, hand sanitizer, eye drops, and eye masks or makeup. Their medium bags easily store larger items like chargers, electronics, or important travel documents.  

One essential item I never pack without is shoe bags. I could never pack dirty shoes in a suitcase without first putting them in a bag. Some shoe bags are waterproof and double as dry bags for wet clothes when in a bind. A plastic shopping bag or produce bag protects your luggage from dirty shoes and saves you money!

Electronic Devices

Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones 

Whether it’s a long flight or a short flight, I never fly without them. I honestly don’t know what I did before Noise Canceling Headphones. Bose does a great job with noise cancellation, is very comfortable to wear, and is easy to use when paired with Bluetooth. They also include a cable to plug your headphones into any AUX plug, such as in-flight entertainment.


Although I love a good book and flipping through paper pages, when trying to pack light, the Kindle Paperwhite E-reader is a game changer for short flights. 

Portable Charger

I never leave home without one of these. They always come in handy on sightseeing days or long hikes or on flights that do not have charging plugs.

Don’t forget your charging cords and plugs. You should bring a USB charger on your short flight since most airplanes have not upgraded to the latest plugs.

Travel Camera

I have a few different camera options when I travel. Sometimes I bring my entire camera kit with me and other times I choose just one. I love how lightweight the Leica V LUX 5 is. It also has a long zoom (25-400) and many other functions that allow me to take selfies easily when traveling solo.

Travel Tripod

The Peak Design Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is the best tripod for travel. It is an investment, but this lightweight, durable tripod packs small and fits in a carry-on roller board luggage. I always carry it on because I don’t want to risk losing it in checked luggage.



Super Goop Unseen Sunscreen is my favorite sunscreen. It goes on clear and feels like a serum. The glow screen is also really lovely and adds a bit of a glow to your face! Because these are so expensive, I use them on my face and use a less expensive reef-safe sunscreen on my body.


I stick with a minimalistic beauty routine, using bronzer, brow pencil, cream blush (that doubles as lip color), and Thrive mascara– this stuff is magical!

My first step is usually Honest Beauty Tinted SPF moisturizer. I’ve been using the Honest Beauty brand for makeup for the past year and really like how minimal it feels.


I never used to travel with shampoo, conditioner, soaps, or lotions, thinking I was saving space, avoiding spills, and could easily get what I wanted where I was going. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy to find the brands and sizes I wanted. Now, even on short flights, I bring my own travel-size toiletries and use solid shampoo and conditioner to avoid bringing liquids.

I have now been traveling with Ethique’s “Conscious & Concentrated” solid beauty bars for a few years. Their sustainable beauty products range from lotions and deodorants to shampoos and conditioners formulated for many different hair types. You won’t have to worry about toiletries leaking or polluting the earth with more plastic when choosing Ethique! 


A toothbrush is a must if your short flight turns into a long-haul travel day, to its best to add one to your carry-on bag, just in case. Even when I travel, I always brush with an electric toothbrush because my dentist told me manual brushing isn’t enough. I’ve never had a cavity, so I guess I’m doing something right!


Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes

I bring these with me on every trip. I love the option with the wet lock seal so they do not dry out. I wipe down dirty airplane seats and

Airborne Tablets 

These immune support tablets have saved me from going from run down to miserable on numerous occasions.  The secret is drinking them just as you start to feel sick, if not right before 

Collagen Peptides Packs 

I started traveling with these Collagen Peptides Packs when I couldn’t eat as healthy as I wanted to while traveling for work. Initially, I just wanted some protein throughout the day without the taste of protein. They dissolve easily in water, come in a few flavors, have 8-10g of protein per serving, and support healthy joints, bones, hair, skin, and nails. The blue-colored, unflavored version is my favorite!


I always save room for snacks. You can find me munching on raw almonds, raisins, granola bars, and protein snack bars on every trip I take. I avoid buying food in the airport to save money (and calories), so these snacks come in handy when I get the munchies.

Additional Essential Items

Travel Documents

Don’t forget to bring important documents like travel insurance, passport, driver’s license, medical prescriptions and credit cards. It is always a good idea to have a copy of any important documents placed in a secure area different from the original item just in case something goes missing. 

I use my belt bag (fanny pack, waist bag) as my travel wallet to hold all essential travel documents. It is a good idea to use a secure travel wallet and close to your body. Bring only the credit cards you need rather than lugging around a large wallet that can be easily spotted and stolen. 


Another just in case item. If your checked bag gets lost or delays happen, you’ll want the option to feel fresh, and there is no better way to do that than with a fresh pair of underwear!

Collapsible Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is the #1 travel must-do! I always have a collapsible water bottle in my carry-on luggage because of the space they save. I love the hydrapak reusable bottles for travel and have a few sizes. My two most used ones are this 1-liter Stash Bottle and this 17 oz soft case that fits easily in a jacket pocket.

Neck Pillow

I have been through many travel pillows and found this infinity pillow to be the best one for me. Neck pillows and travel pillows can be bulky and a hassle to carry around, but this neck pillow compresses well and is comfortable to wear, especially with long layovers or delays. 

Compression Socks

Don’t forget a pair of socks in your carry-on luggage (even if it is just for walking through security). On shorter trips, I’m usually wearing sandals and love a warm pair of socks to keep me comfortable. For longer flights, compression socks are best to improve blood flow!

Refreshing Body Wipes

These Allez Outdoors Biodegradable Cleansing Cloths have saved me in a pinch, especially on early morning flights when I needed a litter refresher upon arrival. They are safe to use from head to toe and pack light.


All of these items are my must-haves for short flights (and long-haul flights). I take a little more on longer flights, but the essentials stay the same.

If there is anything you can’t live without in your carry-on bag that is not on this list, let me know in the comments below. Happy traveling!

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