What to Pack in your Carry-On


There is a science to packing, as I’m sure you are aware. But there is an art to packing carry-on bags in a way that allows ease of access to your belongings whilst maximizing how much you can bring. Let’s talk about what you should bring on the plane with you.

Why is your Carry-On so important?

We tend to think about our carry-on as the place to stash all our entertainment for the flight. And while that is true, it should also be considered your backup in case your checked bag doesn’t make it to your destination (this obviously only applies to those who are checking a bag in the first place). In addition to the dreaded lost bag scenario, your carry-on is where you should keep your most valuable belongings. This can help prevent theft or damage to those items you can’t easily replace.

Packing the Absolute Essentials

First things first, you’ll need all required documents for your flight. This includes your ID (don’t forget that passport if you’re going international), plane ticket, and wallet. Make sure you have a physical copy of your itinerary in case you can’t access it on a digital device when you arrive. Having the address and phone number of your destination written down can be a lifesaver. There have been multiple occasions when a taxi driver has called my destination to verify the address and get me there quickly. 

Your Health

Compression socks! Go out and get yourself some compression socks! These are essential for longer flights, which I consider to be anything over three hours. If you don’t know why you need these, go read this article.  I have a college friend that died from deep vein thrombosis (DVT)  after a flight to Hawaii, and another friend that developed DVT on a trip to Greece. I am not playing around with this one, and neither should you.

And of course, pack any prescription medication you are on. If you wear contact lenses on your flight, pack solution in your carry-on to avoid irritation. 

Protect Your Valuables

I almost always travel with my DSLR camera and my laptop. I started to freak out in 2016 when there was talk of banning laptops in the cabin of some international flights. The idea of thousands of dollars worth of electronics being thrown around (or worse, stolen) by bag handlers was not a pleasant one, to say the least. While these items take up the most room in your carry-on, they are also the hardest to replace. I don’t make any exceptions: If my laptop and/or camera are going on the trip, they are flying in the cabin with me. 

But electronics may not be the only objects of value that you have with you. Expensive jewelry or makeup should go on board as well. Irreplaceable jewelry especially, such as family heirlooms. Makeup may not seem as obvious. But girl, if you’re spending $60 on foundation, you do not want it to burst because of a holding cabin with limited climate/pressure control. Use your own judgment on this one. My foundation comes in two different forms, one in a glass container and the other in a tube. The tube is what has exploded in the past, but of course the glass container is fine in my checked baggage. 

Insurance policy

No, I don’t mean to actually take out insurance and bring it with you (although you should probably consider travel insurance if you don’t have it already). What I mean is, what are you going to do if your bag gets lost en route? At the very least, have a change of underwear and a stick of deodorant in your carry-on. If you can fit a bit more, an entire change of clothes is optimal. This should get you by until you bag is found or you have time to buy new clothes. 

Flight Entertainment

This is all the stuff we want on the flight with us. Once you’ve taken care of the items above you can figure out how much room you have left for the fun stuff. Many airlines have in-flight entertainment, so this may not be something you even need to consider. Now’s the time to pack your book, headphones (noise-cancelling ones if you have them!), neck pillow, and snacks. 

Grab a bottle of water before your flight! If you can, bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on, and fill it up after you get through security. And maybe pack a few toiletry conveniences if there’s a smidge more space. A travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrush can do wonders during an 8-hour flight.

Last but not least, a sweater. Flights get cold, especially long ones. This is an easy one to remember if your destination is going to have cooler temperatures. And you don’t really have to pack it at all, you can wear it on to the plane! 

Are there any items I missed that you find essential to your carry-on? Tell me about it below! And if you want a carry-on checklist to use while you get packed, download our PDF!