The Ultimate Carry-on Packing List (What I Never Leave Home Leave Without!)
When you’re traveling by plane, it’s essential to make sure all of your essentials are in your carry-on.
You only need to deal with losing your luggage once for you to realize how important it is to keep those must-haves with you at all times! Going a day (or longer) without a change of clothes, your camera, or items you need for work is not fun (speaking from experience!).
After many years of traveling in my country and abroad, solo, with friends, or for work, I’ve curated a general packing list of items I’ve decided MUST be in my carry-on bag.
For the past couple of years, I’ve also traveled “carry-on only” for most trips, meaning I just bring a roller bag for the overhead bin and a large bag that fits under the seat to make things easier, pack lighter, and not deal with checked bag fees.
This post will focus on the must-haves you should bring in your carry-on, especially if you are checking a bag.
These items are on this list based on convenience for making a flight feel more comfortable, and also for the off-chance your checked bag gets lost or delayed.
The Ultimate Carry-on Packing List (What I Never Home Leave Without!)
Main bag (under-the-seat):
Documents for international travel in an envelope: printed passport copies, travel insurance printout, vaccine records (if necessary)
Wallet with cash in local currency
Luggage tag on the bag with your name, address, and contact information
MacBook and charger
iPhone, earbuds or headphones, and phone charger
Lip balm (so helpful since planes can be dehydrating!)
Bottle of water (again - planes are dehydrating! I either fill a reusable bottle or buy one at the airport)
Essential oils (soothing and relaxing)
DSLR camera: I always keep my main electronics with me at all times. My work and business relies on my camera (and laptop) so I don’t risk putting these in a checked bag or my bag in the overhead bin if they’re not well-packed and protected.
Travel adapters if needed
Eye mask (if you’re on an overnight or long-haul flight)
Extra light jacket or scarf: a light jacket or scarf is really nice to have, especially if it is cold and draft and the flight doesn’t provide a blanket!
Pen: random but so helpful, especially if you get the custom form to fill out on the plane before you land!
Any medication you need to take regularly
Any jewelry you would be devastated if it got lost
Carry-on sized roller bag essentials (if you are checking a bag and most of your clothes/shoes are not with you):
Two pairs of clean underwear, socks, and one set of pajamas
One fresh outfit
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Face wash and lotion
Makeup (if you wear it)
Comb (this is much more compact than a big brush, saving you space)
Travel-sized toiletries like shampoo and body wash (if you’re not staying at a hotel or somewhere else this is typically provided)
Some cash and one of your lesser-used credit cards hidden somewhere in the off-chance your main bag gets lost or stolen. (I typically hide extra cash, around $20 USD and another $20 USD-worth of cash in the currency of the country I’m going to inside a toiletry bag)
Packing hacks for clothes and shoes:
Roll your clothes to save space
Air compression bags: a carry-on-sized air-tight compression bag fits inside my smallAway small carry-on (they have larger sizes for checked bags as well)
Bringing a big hat? Stuff it with pajamas, socks, or scarves to keep the shape of the center of the hat. Then place the hat flat on the very bottom of the luggage, and pack other items around it to keep the shape of the brim. Have multiple big hats? Stack them first!
Packing cubes are so helpful for keeping things organized and easy to find.
Lint roller to get rid of lint/fuzz/sand. (If you’re traveling somewhere with a beach you may notice that sand is like glitter - you think you got rid of it yet it somehow keeps showing up…on your shoes, clean clothes, inside your luggage…!)
Wear heavier shoes on plane, like sneakers or boots, to save space and weight
Want to bring your yoga mat? I fold my yoga mat and place it inside my carry-on bag! This may be controversial, but my Lululemon yoga mat has never been ruined! It shows the fold creases for maybe the first use and then it goes back to normal when you roll it back up. I only bring my own yoga mat for long trips, and always am happy I did.
Febreze To-go is my savior for luggage. I’ve noticed that after using my carry-on sized space bags for multiple trips, having all my clothes jammed in there can leave them smelling a little stuff when I take them out. Travel-sized Febreze is so helpful for this! Anti-wrinkle spray is nice, too.
Use this list and refer back to it the next time you’re traveling via plane.