Lists are one of my favorite things in the world, including (maybe even especially) my carry-on packing list. No matter where I’m flying off to, my carry-on packing routine remains pretty similar. It could be a quick flight up to Washington DC or a jaunt across the pond to Italy, but my goal remains the same: pack the essentials, stay comfy, and avoid boredom!
This one is obviously going to depend on the length of your trip, but here are a few recommendations:
Purse – For short flights, a tote is totally sufficient. I’d recommend a Longchamp Tote Shoulder Bag, or something similar in size. Store all of your immediate needs in here.
Backpack – If you’re checking a bag, a small backpack should work. I like something like a JanSport Classic Backpack, which fits my electronics (cameras, laptops, etc.)
Large backpack – If you only pack a carry-on, I’d recommend the Osprey Farpoint 55L Travel Backpack. I have one, and it has withstood the test of time, as well as baggage handlers around the world.
Packing cubes – I’m completely obsessed with Packing Cubes! Use them to organize your carry-on (and your main bag!) I like to separate clothes, electronics, and entertainment so I can bring a cube out without rifling through my bag and dropping a spare pair of socks on my seatmate’s head. Try not to be the clumsy girl.
I can safely say I’ve never looked forward to a long flight. However, I have gotten better at entertaining myself, so here are some tips for your carry-on packing list:
Coloring book & pencils – No longer just for kids! Bring an Adult Coloring Book and some colored pencils for entertainment. Trust me—even one picture takes some time. I’ve been coloring the same shark for quite a while now…
Books – Don’t forget a book! If you’re looking to get inspired for your adventure, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed was amazing. She is one kick ass lady, so if she can’t inspire you, hope is probably lost.
Headphones – Rock out (quietly) in your Bose headphones to your music of choice.
Portable Battery Charger – All that rocking out and reading can quickly drain batteries. Ever since I discovered this portable battery charger, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. If your seat doesn’t have a charger, you can just plug your device into the battery pack and bring it back to life!
Food and Drink:
Let’s face it, the cardboard snacks airplane food is usually not terribly delicious. Save yourself the disappointment and stock up beforehand
Snacks – Snack bars, apples, baby carrots, trail mix, and my personal favorite—chocolate covered almonds
Water bottle – Don’t leave home without your Camelbak Water Bottle. Airplanes usually have very low humidity, which easily leads to dehydration. Fill up your handy-dandy bottle after security, and you should be all set!
Emergen-C packets – Emergen-C can be a lifesaver on long flights where literally everyone around you seems to have the flu. (Side note: Does this happen to anyone else or just me?) Just drop it in your water, chug, and avoid all those nasty germs!
Every time I get off a plane, I always think “Oh wow, I feel so fresh and clean”…said no traveler ever. Check out these items to keep you refreshed and looking your best:
A change of clothes – Be prepared in case of lost luggage. It’s no fun to wear your plane outfit for three days straight.
Travel size liquids – Follow the TSA’s 311 rule and come equipped with Travel Size Beauty Products . Make sure to remember face wash, toothpaste, contact solution, eye drops, dry shampoo, hand lotion, etc.
Travel size containers – Another option is to buy Silicone Travel Bottles and fill them with your own face wash, shampoo, and other beauty products. If you have specific beauty preferences that aren’t always available in travel size, this is a great option.
Hand sanitizer – Clean hands = happiness. Needless to say, this is always on my carry-on packing list.
Regular beauty products: Bring along all of your regulars. I always have deodorant, a toothbrush, hairbrush, mascara, and concealer.
Lip balm – Planes wreak havoc on your lips and dry them out. I don’t travel without at least one tube of Burt’s Bees. I usually bring a few for good measure (also because they disappear into the great depths of my purse!)
Face towelettes – I am obsessed with Burt’s Bees Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleansing Towelettes. I’ve used them to stay refreshed on a plane, to remove makeup, and even to “take a bath” on a night train. Not proud of that last one…but it worked well enough.
Plane rides might not be the most fascinating thing in the world. Come prepared for a nap, especially on long haul flights:
Neck pillow – Invest in a cushy Memory Foam Neck Pillow for a decent night’s sleep. Before my neck pillow, my head used to flop all over the place, which is awkward (napping on neighbors is a no-no) and super uncomfortable. Goodbye neck kinks!
Sleep mask – Pop on a silk sleep mask and you will be in heaven, I promise. Feel free to thank me later.
Earplugs – Drown out the crying babies, loud seatmates, etc. with some quality Ear Plugs.
Blanket – Airlines have been pretty stingy on the blanket game recently, especially for economy fliers. Invest in a Turkish Towel, which can be used as a blanket, but also doubles as a cute scarf or towel.
Compression socks – Compression socks are clutch on long flights, which can be absolutely brutal for blood flow in your legs. Avoid any potential blood clots in your legs and discomfort by bringing a pair of compression socks. Side note: most compression socks are not cute, but A-Swift offers everything for polka dots to argyle. Might as well look adorable while keeping your legs healthy!
Everything above is to keep you happy, well-rested and feeling good, which is key to an awesome trip. However, these are several critical things that you cannot forget:
Boarding pass (duh!) – Print it out ahead of time or have it available on your phone.
Passport/ identification/ visa – Pro tip: Make a copy and store somewhere else for safekeeping. I also usually take a photo of my passport and email it to myself for good measure.
Cash and credit cards – If you’re planning to make purchases not in line with your typical spending pattern, alert your credit card company ahead of time.
Health and travel insurance – I always bring my health insurance information in case something happens. If you’re traveling for a longer period of time, consider investing in travel insurance. I’d recommend World Nomads, which covers travel insurance for over 150 countries.
Anything valuable – Always carry on cameras, jewelery, etc
Reservations & itinerary – Print out a paper copy of your first stop. Especially after a long flight, I just want to get to my hotel/ hostel.
Medication or prescriptions – Always pack for the worst case scenario. If your bags are delayed, make sure you can make it a couple of days with just your carry-on.
And there you have it…my ultimate carry-on packing list. What’s on your carry-on packing list?
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