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Ever since I started traveling full time, I rarely unpack my carry-on baggage. Trip after trip, it sits contently in a corner full of my carry-on travel essentials eagerly awaiting our next departure date.
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 that fit perfectly between my carry-on backpack and personal item.
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, liquids and aerosols sprays, gear with lithium ion batteries and any forbidden items including sharp objects and oversized toiletries.
Make sure all toiletries are 3.4 oz (100 ml) or less in size and that they all fit into a quart size plastic bag. Some TSA checkpoints are very strict with this while others are more relaxed and miss certain things.
Sharp objects such as mini scissors and nail clippers should be removed just in case. 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. It so frustrating when that happens!
There are many items that can be placed in a checked bag but not in a carry-on bag including, alcohol, some lighters, hatches, axes and other sharp objects. The TSA officer has the final say as to wether 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.
Keep travel documents like a passport or drivers license in a handy location so you can get to them easily. I love my fanny pack for travel days because I can easily secure my ID and phone with out taking off my backpack or digging through my carry-on suitcase.
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 fanny pack or have a shopping bag in addition to carry-on luggage and personal item, flight attendants may ask you to check one of them at the gate.
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 and the cushioned handle, not to mention they are very durable.
My favorite travel backpack is the Wandered PRVKE. It is made as a camera bag with removable inserts. They come in different sizes and even the smaller bag has a 15+ liter pouch for everyday essentials. Depending on the trip, I also bring a day backpack and always a collapsible duffel bag or tote bag.
Tote Bags and pouches
While they do not free up a ton of space, I use compression bags to help save space in my luggage and keep things organized.
I always pack a small tote bag and toiletries bags within my carry-on luggage to help keep items organized.
The Aloha brand bags are fun and vibrant, easy to get into and are water-resistant. They come in many different sizes perfect for storin and organizing. The small and extra small bags work great as a toiletry bag for storing small items like lip balm, prescription medications, hand sanitizer, eye drops or makeup. Their medium bags easily store larger items like chargers, electronics or important travel documents.
One essential item I never pack without are shoe bags. I could never pack dirty shoes in a suitcase without first putting them in a bag first. Some shoe bags are waterproof so double as a dry bag for wet clothes when in a bind. A plastic bag or produce bag also works well for protecting your luggage from dirty shoes.
Bose QuietComfort 45 Bluetooth Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones
Any flight is so much better with noise cancelling headphones. They really do a great job with noise cancellation, are very comfortable to wear and so easy to use when paired with Bluetooth.
Although I love a good book and flipping paper pages when trying to pack light, the Kindle paperwhite E-reader is a game changer when traveling.
I never leave home without one of these. They always come in handy on sightseeing days or long hikes.
I have a few different camera options when I travel. Sometimes I bring my entire camera kit with me and other times I pack light and choose one of my favorite travel cameras. I love how light this Leica V LUX is. It also has a long zoom (400) and many other functions that allow me to take selfies easily.
This is an investment but it is the best tripod for all weather and packs small to fit in a carry-on bag
Whether it be a hat, hairband, or scarf, I never leave home without some kind of head covering. Why? For just one simple reason, I wash my hair much less while traveling -no shame in that game. I have long hair, and it is just something I prefer not to waste my time doing if I can help it. Hats, scarves, and headbands are the easiest way to conceal my unwashed hair, all the while adding some pizzazz in my travel photos!
I swap between brands to try new products but I always bring face wash, a moisturizer and sunscreen on every trip. If it’s a cold-weather trip I bring a hydrating cream or face mask as well. These are the current skincare products I have in my travel bag.
Zo Skincare Exfoliating Cleanser– This one is expensive but I love their line of products.
Super Goop Unseen Sunscreen– This sunscreen is amazing! It goes on clear and feels like a serum.
I stick with a minimalistic beauty routine, using bronzer, brow pencil, and some cream blush and Thrive mascara. I have been using Honest Beauty for makeup and am very happy with everything I tried.
Honest Beauty Tinted SPF moisturizer– I never wear a lot of makeup so this is a great 1st step for those low maintenance days.
Honest Beauty Cream Blush– It triples as cheek, eye, and lip color. I use the shade Peony Pink.
Honest Beauty Bronzer- The one makeup step I don’t skip.
Thrive Mascara– This is the best mascara I have ever used for length and it comes off with water.
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 I usually regretted not bringing my own toiletries.
I have now been traveling with Ethique’s “Conscious & Concentrated” solid beauty bars for a few years. Their line of sustainable beauty products ranges 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!
Eco-Friendly Solid Shampoo & Conditioner Combo Pack
Charcoal, Kaolin and Oatmeal Exfoliating Body Wash
I love the compact size and convenient case for traveling.
Another carry-on must, an Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush. I always brush with an electric toothbrush even when I travel because my dentist told me manual brushing isn’t enough. I’ve never had a cavity so I guess I’m doing something right!
Collapsible water bottle
Stay hydrated, 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. I have a few sizes. This small one fits so easily in a jacket pocket.
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!
Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes -Travel Pack
I bring these on every trip with me. I love the option with the wet lock seal so they do not dry out.
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 wasn’t able to eat as healthy as I wanted to while traveling for work. Initially, I just wanted some protein without the taste of protein throughout the day. 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 snack. You can find me munching on almonds, raisins, granola bars, ginger snap cookies, and protein snack bars on every trip I take.
Clif Bars – I love the way these taste, but I know that is because of added sugar, so I eat these sparingly
RX Nut Butter- I love how clean and natural their products are. these are a great tasting snack on fruit or crackers.
Raw Almonds are always a good idea!
Sometimes I choose to drink my veggies and add the Amazing Grass superfood tablets to my daily water. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous to try them at first, but they really are tasteless and provide a full serving of greens in one dissolvable tablet.
Wether it is a short domestic flight or an international flight, these eye masks come in so handy to help block out light. Used with a travel pillow I can easily fall asleep on most flights.
I have been through so many travel pillows and have found this scarf is the best one for me. Neck pillows and travel pillows can be bulky and a hassle to carry around but I am always glad I bring one because they do come in very handy on long layovers and airline delays.
Additional Essential Items
Don’t forget to bring any important documents like travel insurance, passport, ID, 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 usually use a fanny pack (also called a waist bag or belt bag) as my travel wallet. It is s good idea to use a travel wallet that is secure 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.
Just in case your checked bag gets lost, bring a change of clothes in your carryon, or at least fresh undergarments.
Top 10 Carry-On Essentials
If I had to choose only 10 must have carry on essentials (in addition to all of yourimportant documents) these would be it.
Top 10 Essentials
- Noise Canceling Headphones
- Charging plugs and cords
- Infinity Neck Pillow
- Compression Socks
- Water Bottle
- Be Free water bottle + filter
- Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream
- Airborne tables
I think that covers it! All of these essentials items are a must for short flights or long haul flights. I take a little bit more with me on longer flights but the essentials stay the same. If there is anything you can’t live without in you carry-on bag that is not on this list, let me know in the comments below. You can also download a printable carry-on packing list by clicking the link below. Happy traveling!
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