14 Essentials To Pack in your Carry-on For Smooth and Stress-Free Travel

What essentials to pack in your carry-on for smooth and stress-free travel!

Ever been traveling and had that, "Oh, crap, I forgot it" moment?

I'm pretty sure we've all been there.

When you're planning a trip, it's essential to have certain items in your carry-on. You want to avoid those forgetful moments as much as possible!

While you can often purchase any random things you may have forgotten on a trip, it's much more convenient to already have it on you...

...especially since it can be pricey to buy things like new ear buds at the airport, or a toothbrush in the city center.

(Pro Tip: don't go to a pharmacy right next to the Duomo in Florence and spend 4 euros on a toothbrush like I did. LOL. A much less expensive toothbrush could be found pretty much anywhere else.)

Since I'm about to head on a 3-week, 4-country trip for a short-term travel job, I want to share with you what I bring in my carry-on bag.

This roundup of carry-on essentials is what I recommend you bring in your carry-on for your trip! 

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

What bag(s) do I bring for my carry-on?

First, you need to ensure that your bag(s) meet the size requirements for the airlines you're flying with.

US airlines tend to have larger carry-on maximums than international airlines, so keep that in mind. If you have the largest carry-on sized bag possible for domestic US flights, it may be too large for an international flight!

Unless you're flying on a budget airline that charges you for extra bags, you can usually bring one small suitcase, backpack, or duffle and one personal item.

For me, I use a large Tumi weekender bag (it's carry-on sized) with my large Longchamp bag OR the large Tumi weekender with a carry-on-sized roller bag.

It depends on the trip. 

If you're using Space Bags, packing lightly, or have a shorter trip, you might even be able to travel "carry-on only" (traveling with no checked luggage). ;)

TIP: I pack my essentials - passport, wallet, etc. - inside my regular handbag, which I store inside my larger Tumi bag. This keeps it organized and also allows me to take out my Longchamp handbag to use as a "regular" purse if needed. 

If you plan to use a smaller handbag, backpack, or drawstring backpack for the day, I recommend seeing if it will fit inside a larger-sized bag or backpack! 

Now, what should go in the bag? 

Travel Essentials Checklist: 14 things to pack in your carry-on

Absolute Essentials

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

14. Passport

Can't leave without it.

TRIPLE check you have your passport securely in your bag before you leave, and don't leave it in the car/Uber/taxi.

Also, make sure you have a printed copy in your bag as well as an electronic photo or scan of it on your iCloud/email/etc. in case you lose your passport.

Now if you're not traveling internationally, you won't need your passport, but still make sure your ID is on you.

13. Phone and chargers

Another essential that you don't want to leave in the car/Uber/taxi!

Oh, and don't forget your phone charger. Is it still plugged in next to your bed? 

When you unplug your phone in the morning, put your charger in your bag right away.

I've forgotten the charger a couple times...and one time even spent $35 for a USB charger at the Dallas airport. $35 is pretty expensive for a USB charging cable. 😐

I recommend keeping the chargers for your laptop, camera, and any other ones you might need in your carry-on as well. Keep it organized by putting them all in the same compartment or pocket, or in a small toiletry bag.

*** Also, if you take regular medication, make sure you don't forget that as well.

Electronic Essentials

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

12. Adapters

It's nice to have these in your carry-on to charge up at the airport if needed, or if your checked bag gets lost.

11. Portable phone charger

This one is optional, but it is really convenient to have a portable charger on hand when traveling.

If you're using your phone more often for GPS, taking photos/videos, or posting more often on social media, your battery will drain much faster.

However, if you don't plan to use it that much and it's on Airplane Mode, your battery won't drain. So this one is more personal preference.

10. Ear buds/headphones

Ah, how nice it is to hear music playing instead of a crying baby on a flight. 

I also prefer using my personal ear buds on long-haul flights when watching movies on the seat back.

9. Laptop and other expensive items (optional)

If you choose to bring your laptop with you while traveling, it's nice to have it - along with any other valuable items, such as your camera or nice jewelry - in your carry-on in case your checked bag gets lost.

Fresh Essentials For The Flight and Upon Arrival

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

8. Deodorant, mints/gum, toothbrush/toothpaste

Freshen up on connections with deodorant and brush your teeth or at least have a piece of gum.

It seriously feels so good to feel at least somewhat clean when you're traveling for long hours.

7. Change of underwear and socks

This also really helps to feel clean when you don't have access to a shower for a long time.

You may either have long connections in airports or arrive at your destination early in the morning.

If your place of stay can't check you into the room until the afternoon, it is helpful to be able to change at least your socks and underwear, put on some deodorant, brush your teeth, etc.

6. Compression socks

These aren't totally necessary for short flights but are super helpful for long-hauls.

I didn't use compression socks until my flight to China last year, and I could definitely feel a difference with my circulation. Definitely nice to have when you're sitting for long periods of time with minimal opportunities to stretch your legs.

5. Hand sanitizer

Even after washing your hands in airplane bathrooms, there's something about it that still feels a little gross. Or is that just me?

When meal time comes around it's especially nice to be able to have some hand sanitizer, er, on hand. ;)

4. Lotion and chapstick

Being on a flight is dehydrating so a small bottle of lotion helps keep your hands fresh (especially if you've been using a lot of hand sanitizer!)

Same case for the chapstick.

Nice to have

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

3. Book or Kindle

Even though there is a seemingly endless supply of movies, TV shows, and games to play on the seat back screens, sometimes you need to take a break from napping or catching up on Modern Family. 

A book, whether it's a hard copy or pulled up on you Kindle, can help the time pass. 

Plus, a lot of people don't get around to reading, and what better time to catch up on than when you're on a flight?

2. Light jacket, scarf, or travel blanket

It gets coldddd on airplanes.

There is always the overhead AC unit when it gets warm, but not always a blanket when it gets cold.

Most long-haul flights do provide a blanket, but I've usually needed a scarf or jacket in addition to the blanket when it gets chilly.

1. Journal (optional)

You never know where your mind will go!

I like to bring a small hard copy journal with me when I travel.

Personally, I will list out the events of the day in bullet points - the exciting highlights, funny moments, and also the mundane boring things. Keeping a list makes it easy to reference to when I look back on travels. (I wish I did this when I studied abroad five years ago!)

Also, if you're a travel blogger, having a journal to jot down events of the day makes it easier to come up with blog posts when you return from your trip.


This seems like a lot of stuff, but most of it is small and compact and can easily fit into your carry-on.

What do you take in your carry-on when you travel?

Anything I missed?

Share your tips in the comments!

Absolute essentials to put in your carry-on for any international trip >>> these tips are really helpful!

Follow my travels in Europe! I plan to be posting as often as possible on Instagram and Snapchat 😜

Instagram: @allyarcher

Upcoming Travel Itinerary (GUYS, I AM SO EXCITED):

June 19: Departure day

June 20 - June 28: Vienna, Austria

June 29 - July 1: Prague, Czech Republic

July 2 - 4: Berlin, Germany

July 5 - 6: Salzburg, Austria

July 7 - 8: Munich, Germany

July 9 - 10: Reykjavik, Iceland

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