packing your carry on bag


I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my “carry on packing” days. I used to bring way too many things, and later compensated by not bringing enough. And it was always those trips, where I didn’t pack enough to do, where there was a delay or extra long layover. 

Back in my pre-blogging days (well really, pre-small things blog), I use to write about how annoying it was to deal with other travelers. I really had a cynical, albeit sarcastically funny attitude about it all. My family used to make me read these posts aloud whenever I would arrive home. 

Maybe one day I’ll share one of these archived posts from my other blog.

Maybe not. 

We’ll have to see. . . 

So, I’ve tried to narrow down my carry on essentials to the things that I use most frequently on a plane. 

I always make sure to bring advil, tums and chocolate. Each serves a very important purpose. I pack an extra hair tie incase the inevitable static electricty takes over mid-flight. Hand cream and chapstick are a must, as well as tissues. My nose has been running since 2005, so I always carry tissues.

An ipad full of games like DizzyPad, Temple Run, and Tetris, and my favorite magazine.

Finally, a new beautiful scarf –which was a gift from my client. 

What carry on essentials do you pack? I’d love some new ideas! 

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Comments (56)

  1. Posted December 26, 2012

    We like that ipad cover!

    Sí al sí quiero

  2. Posted December 26, 2012

    good list! i figure my pants/jeans can usually make it an extra day, but i usually bring an extra top (and underwear!) just in case my checked luggage doesn’t make it to the destination.

    really cute pill case, by the way.

  3. Posted December 26, 2012

    i can’t travel anywhere without fuzzy socks and some sort of facial wipe/spray.

    ps. i love that typeface on the photos!

  4. maria says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    We take ipad for kids to keep them busy,wallet, chapstick, mobile,bodyspray or perfume and not to forget a hairbrush.

  5. maria says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    We take ipad for kids to keep them busy,wallet, chapstick, mobile,bodyspray or perfume and not to forget a hairbrush.

  6. Posted December 26, 2012

    I have learned to pack lighter too. Makes my travel through airports more enjoyable. I do tend to pack yoga pants and a tee shirt or jacket (change of undies too)… just in case travel becomes longer than planned.

  7. Carroll says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    Wonderful post! I always end up overpacking my carryon and haul a much too heavy bag all over the airport. This helps a lot! 🙂

  8. Liz P says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    On my last trip, my bag got lost, so I will always bring a change of underwear and top (and shorts and bathing suit if going back to the Caribbean!) in case that happens again–it was miserable. (Funny story, the hotel did have little bags with T-shirts and toothpaste in case your bag didn’t make it, and everyone on staff was like, “Oh, the airline lost your bag?” everywhere I went the day I wore the T-shirt. Haha). Also face wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, because they can go a long way to helping with that grody feeling that comes from traveling on a plane. And definitely my Kindle.

  9. Emily says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    I think you hit it right on the head, Kate! It’s a fine balance between too much and not enough. Just don’t forget your pen! I love the notebook! Is that a moleskine? I’ve been looking for one exactly like it, so I’d love to know where it’s from!


    • Kate says
      Posted December 26, 2012

      it’s from Target actually! Comes in a pack of 3!

  10. Cari says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    Thank you for the tips! I used to fly a lot but haven’t in six years!! I am headed across the country to visit my dad in February so I need all of the tips that I can get 🙂

    I like to bring gum/mints, magazines, a book & a light blanket.

  11. Posted December 26, 2012

    I always pack an extra outfit in my carry-on. My husband lost his luggage once and we were glad we had prepared!

  12. Posted December 26, 2012

    I pack similar things in my carry on but one thing my Grandma always told me I needed to be sure and add to my carry on was a clean pair of underwear. It sounds silly but if you get stuck in an airport overnight, or your luggage is lost it is a great feeling knowing you at least have a clean pair of underwear!

  13. Natalie says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    For me, I must have Hand sanitizer, travel contact solution and sunglasses

  14. Posted December 26, 2012

    gum & neck pillow – my airplane must haves 🙂

    xo – heather

  15. Posted December 26, 2012

    If you’re going to a completely different climate a change of clothes appropriate for your destination. There is absolutely nothing worse than having no weather-appropriate clothes when your luggage is lost.

  16. Posted December 26, 2012

    We’ve had to make plenty of plane trips this year, so I have a pretty solid list of must-haves for myself. Everything here is great, and I also bring:

    lotion wipes – wipes don’t count as liquid, so you don’t have to put them in that silly ziplock!

    Facial cleansing wipes – same deal, you can have all of these you want and they don’t count as liquid. I’ve had good luck using them as a spot treatment for spills, too.

    ball of yarn and crochet hooks – even if I end up pulling everything out, I love how crocheting can keep me busy for hours on end. I learned my lesson with my sister’s baby blanket, though, and will keep these projects small (scarves, hats, amigurumi, etc) from now on!

    Bathing suit – we almost always go somewhere with a pool or hot tub, so even if my luggage gets lost, I want to be able to unwind at the hotel when we get there.

    chewing gum – it can help pop your ears during takeoff and landing, and the right kinds can help clean some of the yuck off your teeth before you can get to your toothbrush.

    On shorter trips, I just bring my purse and my carry-on, so the essentials go in the purse under my seat and everything else gets packed away in the carry-on! It’s so much easier than dealing with checked bags.

  17. A.Prz says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    This is sooo helpful! Thank you! I usually will also pack hand sanitizer, facial wipes (I usually don’t wear makeup on flights). Depending on where I’m going though, I’ll pack a change of clothes, like extra undies, a sports bra, leggings, etc. Clothes that are easy to roll. You just never know! Just in case my flight gets cancelled or I’m stuck at the airport.

  18. Maria says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    Ooh, I love this! I’m going on an international flight later this year and am in great need of packing advice! xo, Maria

  19. Posted December 26, 2012

    Adorable iPad cover!!! Where did you snag it?

    • Kate says
      Posted December 26, 2012

      my mom bought it for me 2 years ago in Park City Utah– I looked up the brand but it is no where to be found online. Sorry!

    • Julie G says
      Posted January 5, 2013

      Just saw this same cover and lots of similar ones at TJ Maxx & Marshalls! Made me wish I had an ipad 🙂

  20. Posted December 26, 2012

    May I add one thing? Change. Of. Clothes. Nothing worse then being stuck in an airport with a flight delay or cancellation, knowing you’ll be in the same outfit for the next 24 hours. A fresh t-shirt and pair of underwear is all it takes to feel like a new woman!

    • Posted December 26, 2012

      I see Liz P. beat me to the punch! You go, hotel t-shirt girl! 🙂

  21. Posted December 26, 2012

    Where is your adorable pill case from??

    • Kate says
      Posted December 26, 2012


  22. Heather says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    I refuse to check luggage so I pack *EVERYTHING* in my carry-on!

  23. Posted December 26, 2012

    For shorter trips I also bring gum, granola bar, iphone/pod with earbuds and Kindle.

    In addition, for longer trips I also bring toothbrush/paste, thick socks, and an eye-mask.

  24. Posted December 26, 2012

    Someone may have already posted this, but I always bring a charger for my ipad/iphone etc. just in case. You never when you might have a layover/delay longer than expected! LOVE the new power towers in the airports for charging electronice. 🙂 OH. and sunglasses!

  25. Posted December 26, 2012

    I bring most of the things you bring plus: gum, phone charger, hand sanitizer, neck pillow, tums, pepto and facial mist

  26. Posted December 26, 2012

    I was on a flight that was a bit cool and I of course was wearing flip flops, I was freezing!! Now I pack a sweater or sweatshirt(preferably zip up so it can easily be put on and off) and a pair of socks…I kick off my shoes and wear socks during my flight, much more comfortable!!!

  27. Posted December 26, 2012

    i love this!!!will use this list in my next travel:)
    have a happy holiday!!
    kisses from milano

  28. Posted December 26, 2012

    I ALWAYS carry an extra pair of underwear. I went on a trip once and they lost my bag for 3 days. I washed out the underwear several times, but there was nothing like putting on that clean, fresh pair after 3 days. haha!

  29. TracyV says
    Posted December 26, 2012

    Great list! I always pack my makeup bag too, important toiletries and one change of clothes. I want that stuff with me, if luggage is lost or delayed, I need to make sure I can still look like myself and feel good.

  30. Posted December 26, 2012

    Where did you get that super cute iPad case?

    • Kate says
      Posted December 26, 2012

      my mom bought it for me 2 years ago in Park City Utah– I looked up the brand but it is no where to be found online. Sorry!

    • Julie G says
      Posted January 5, 2013

      Just saw this same cover and others like it at TJ Maxx & Marshalls in the past few weeks!! Made me wish I had an ipad 🙂

  31. Posted December 27, 2012

    Magazines are heavy! I purchase them on my ipad and lighten the load even more!

  32. Sam says
    Posted December 27, 2012

    I always take socks for longer/overnight flights, plus mints and ALWAYS a saline nasal gel! It doesn’t sound very attractive but if you get that dry, burning feeling in your nostrils from the plane air it is invaluable. I have got my sister hooked.

  33. Posted December 27, 2012

    SOCKS! My feet always get cold on airplanes and also, my toothbrush and tooth paste just in case I get stuck in an airport and my baggage is still checked.

  34. Posted December 27, 2012

    For domestic flights:
    my double walled stainless steel water bottle (filled with ice and water from the nearest coffee shop after clearing security!) from,
    my current book,
    my wallet,
    my keys,
    my lippies and mascara (for touch ups, plus if my bag gets lost, I’ve got my bare bones makeup with me),
    my phone and USB charging cord (some planes have USB in the seatbacks and its great to have on flightmode charging up),
    a snack or at least a sandwich and granola bar,
    a longsleeve shirt and some socks.

    For overseas trips:
    all of the above plus jammies (lightweight pants, slippers and a top) and a fresh shirt/socks/undies,
    toiletries including my toner and some moisturizer, toothbrush/paste, earplugs, headphones for my music, camera/sd cards/batteries, tickets, passport, other travel documents, a small comb or brush.

    When traveling domestic, just before the final trash collection, I like to wash my face and moisturize. (I keep a tiny bottle of biore toner and a second tiny bottle of aloe vera gel in my travel bag.) It wakes me up a bit and gets rid of some of the dryness associated with traveling. For international/longhaul flights, I change into my jammies after dinner, wash my face and brush my teeth before settling in for the trip. Just before breakfast is due to be served, I wash my face and moisturize again. I change into a new shirt/socks/undies and redo my mascara and lippy. It isn’t a full shower but it does help get into the swing of things. I also repack my bag and get my landing documents, wallet, phone and toiletries in prime positions ready for security/customs to check.

    Something else to get into the habit of doing is to fill out that landing card as soon as you get it on your international/longhaul flight. Stick it inside your passport with your tickets and tuck in your bag. One less thing to freak out about when you’re ready to land.

  35. Posted December 27, 2012

    I love your site, very well explained and with those ideas so fantastic ,I invite You to visit my blog,
    Greetings from Spain, Susan

  36. Posted December 27, 2012

    Im 43 (no wait i turned 44 in November) and I’ve never been on a plane,, but if I ever do ill have to remember this. I love your site, its always the first blog I check these days. Hope you had a Merry Christmas.

  37. Posted December 27, 2012

    Brilliant tips! I tend to overpack–the current excuse is that I MIGHT need these things! I shall endeavour to keep my things down to a minimum. I’ve got a really bad back and need to really minimise the things that I carry in my purse (my tendency to overpack carries forward to my daily bag!). Any tips?

  38. Posted December 28, 2012

    Haha, I remember being able to travel like that! These days, if I’m flying alone with two kids, it’s snacks, diapers, toys galore! But all of the adult things still make me happy just to look at them!

  39. Rubiiee says
    Posted December 28, 2012

    Great tips, I recently traveled and packed similar to this – though I had a large camera that I didn’t want to check.

    <3 Rubiiee

  40. Laura says
    Posted December 28, 2012

    My husband and I travel to Phoenix, AZ at least once a year. Here’s what I bring in my carry-on for the 2 1/2 hour flight:

    -iPad with games and movie/ tv shows to watch/magazines
    -noise-cancelling headphones
    -chargers (never know when you will get stuck in an airport; happened to me once and I had packed my charger in my checked bag. DISASTER.)
    -granola bars (so much more filling and healthy than the peanuts they give you on the plane)
    -my lululemon Vinyasa scarf that unsnaps into a nice little blanket
    -fuzzy socks
    -unscented lotion
    -oil blotting papers
    -Wisps to freshen breath before landing
    -hand sanitizer
    -things to keep the husband occupied
    -Airborne (cannot count how many times hubby has gotten sick on a plane from germs from someone else)

  41. Posted December 29, 2012

    Fuzzy cozy socks are a total must 🙂

  42. Posted December 29, 2012

    Hi Kate! When we travel by plane we fly 8+ hours (usually to the States or Canada). I pack a small cosmetic bag with the usual pills/hairtie/tissues, my ziplock bag with chapstick, Bach Rescue Remedie Spray (I am anxious about flying/handcream/moisturizer and a foldable hairbrush with a small mirror inside and my headphone. I pack our hyperjuicer to keep the iPad/iPhones running and I keep my initiary on hand. I also pack a set of clean undies,socks,and shirt. Just in case our suitcase gets lost.

    I also take my ‘jewelery’ with me in the cabin, and the camera. Again, I don’t want my valuables to be lost when they play tricks on my suitcase 😉

    Enjoy your ski trip! Groetjes from Holland!

  43. Posted January 2, 2013

    Normally, in my carry-on bag, I will have:
    – Chap stick/lip treatment
    – Hand cream. I used L’Occitane shea butter hand cream. I noticed that you used Bliss (Is it Bliss? My eyes are a bit fuzzy at the moment). How’s the hand cream so far?
    – iPhone + other important items like wallet, etc.
    – Nook
    – A small bag filled with medicine pills.
    – Sunglasses
    – Gloves and socks –> sometimes, it gets super cold in the airplane
    – a small bag of snacks and a water bottle bought from the food area in the airport.

  44. Micha says
    Posted January 3, 2013

    I like your list, but I find great irony that the day this posted I was doing emergency shopping at the outlets so I could have something to wear until my lost luggage showed up. I’ve never packed an extra outfit in my carry on but I forever will now.

  45. SH says
    Posted January 3, 2013

    Ooh darn! I should have read this before I packed my carry-on for Mexico. I’ll keep this list for next time 🙂

  46. Posted February 6, 2013

    I am a frequent traveler myself (leaving Saturday for the 1st part of what will be a 2-stop trip). I am glad so many people pack one change of clothes for “just in case”, I too have had the lost luggage (it’s always the Denver airport connection! My luggage went to Las Vegas without me, while I went to Columbus – bummer). On Amazon I got a mobile battery pack charger for my iPad/iPhone. Fantastic to keep your portables charged when you watch movies or play games. The one I got also works (with the included attachments) for your camera, or other brand cell phones. Highly recommend! I am also an essential oil user, so some peppermint oil is awesome for a variety of travel ailments (and if there’s a weird smell in the cabin, dab some under your nose…)

  47. Posted June 19, 2013

    Pretty nice article. I like your blog very much. High quality suitcase

  48. Posted July 8, 2013

    i love this!!!will use this list in my next travel:)

  49. Posted July 23, 2013

    Good stuffs used here
    Thanks for giving some idea!!! Top quality delsey luggage