Carry On Essentials

Pre-trip jitters? You know, when you’re so excited to go see a new place, see the sights, stay in a great hotel! Pre-trip packing jitters? If you’re like me, you get those, too. When you are rattling off things you can’t forget to bring, outfits you plan to wear, and checking to make sure all of your travel-size toiletries are in order.

With the amount of traveling I’ve been lucky enough to do over the past few years, I started to streamline one part of my packing process: the carry on. I’ll admit, my checked bag might be another story. I outfit plan, but usually end up throwing in a few extras at last minute. Then add in accessories like jewelry, hats, shoes, swimsuits…it can get a little crazy :)

But my carry on is pretty easy to pack these days because I always have a short list of things I KNOW I will bring (and use). Then I add a few more things based on the weather and type of trip we are taking. So here is my carry on packing list, followed by the travel essentials you need if you don’t have them already.



  • Headphones / Earbuds / Noise Cancelling - If it’s a big trip, I actually take my regular headphones for taking calls or the gym. And I also pack my noise cancelling headphones for the plane. I got the Bose noise cancelling headphones a few years back and they changed my life - for travelling especially.

  • Phone Charger w/ Extra Long Cord - You don’t know how far away an outlet might be. Always have this in your carry on (not your checked bag) for obvious reasons.

  • Laptop / iPad - This one is subjective. You know if you will actually use it. And you know if you won’t. Be honest with yourself and save the hassle of lugging around one more item (that can sometimes be quite heavy, as well). If I know I need to work, I’ll bring my laptop. But if it’s simply for pleasure, I know I can send work emails from my phone if needed.


  • Under Eye Patches - My favorite treat after a long flight.

  • Chap stick - Those dang planes get so dry!

  • Face Lotion w/ SPF - Again, with the dry planes and SPF because, duh.

  • Makeup Bag - I always streamline my makeup bag before a trip. I take out any non-essentials and lighten my load. I like to freshen up my makeup if I have time once I arrive!

  • Deodorant / Perfume - In the spirit of freshening up upon arrival, I like to have either deodorant or a bit of perfume handy. I use a travel perfume spray bottle that is refillable, like the one I’ve linked below. It works great!

  • Toothbrush / Toothpaste - Freshening up, part 3.

  • Dry Shampoo - Travel size, of course.


These are the obvious things and I usually don’t pack these until I am heading out the door. But knowing I have a spot in my bag where they all belong helps me feel prepared. I also take time to sort through my wallet ahead of time, so I am not bringing unnecessary bulk.

  • Phone - Obviously fully charged.

  • Keys - I end up putting these in a zipper pocket so I don’t misplace them throughout the trip.

  • Wallet - This is something else I streamline before I go on a trip. You only really need your ID, credit cards, maybe an insurance card just in case. I keep my wallet pretty slim.

  • Passport / Passport Holder - I got a cute passport holder a few years back and it makes international travel infinitely easier because I am keeping all of my important documents in one place. I have stashed everything in the holder, from my Global Entry card to train tickets.

  • Sunglasses - I find I always need them, no matter where I am headed.

Just In Case

I started to pack a few things “just in case” after I experienced a TON of delays, cancellations, and missed layovers…I finally got a bit wiser. I pack these things just in case and then a travel woe never completely stops me from having fun.

  • A Pair of Underwear - For obvious reasons, this has been a lifesaver after certain travel delays. You will always feel more fresh if you have a clean change of underwear.

  • An Extra Outfit - This can be something super simple like a tank top and leggings. Or a t-shirt and shorts. Just put something in your bag (especially if you are traveling far) so you have something else to wear if you end up stranded without your bag. This has SAVED me a few times.

  • A Swimsuit - If you’re going somewhere warm, of course.

  • A Snack (or Two) - Ever had to run to your gate with no time to get food only to realize they are “out of sandwiches” on the plane? Yea. That has happened to me one too many times. Now I bring a few things in my bag just in case. Granola bar. Banana. Some trail mix. Small things that could tide me over if that predicament occurs.

Other Carry On Tips

Change your carry on bag based on your trip:

  • Going to the beach? I like to use my beach tote as my carry on. Especially if I know I won’t be needing a large purse. Just pack your beach bag with your carry on items and then throw a little clutch in your checked bag for the evenings. Done! Something with a zipper, like the one below, will work best so items don’t get lost or fall out in transit.

  • Going sightseeing? Use a backpack as your carry on. That way, when you are out and about, you are hands-free to take pictures, hold an ice cream, whatever! I have a similar backpack to what I linked below. I used it all over Greece, Ireland, Scotland, and London!

Clean out your bag before the trip:

  • Take everything out and repack. Old gum wrappers? Toss. A huge key chain with a ton of keys - streamline those to be just the car key & house key before you go.

  • The less you bring, the less you have to carry AND the less you are likely to misplace.

Bring a hat:

  • I always end up bringing a hat in my carry on. Whether it’s a ball cap for the airport. Or a beach hat that can’t get squished in my checked bag. I find a hat is one of those things that ultimately ends up with me on a trip.

  • If you need to, incorporate it into your outfit and WEAR it - then you have even less to carry.

Happy packing!