No matter where in the world I travel, my carry-on packing routine is nearly always the same. I almost always bring a personal item and a carry-on suitcase to ensure I have everything I need for a comfortable flight.
Wondering what to pack in a carry-on bag for a flight? Or, what to pack in a carry-on for an international flight?
At a glance, here are my top things to pack in a carry-on:
- Personal Item (Backpack or Tote)
- Carry-On Luggage (Duffel or Suitcase)
- Liquid Pouches
- In-Flight Sleep Essentials
- Travel-Friendly Shoes & Outfit
- Travel-Friendly Snacks
- Items to Hydrate
- Items to Cleanse
- Items to Brighten
- Items to Refresh
- Important Documents
Keep scrolling for a complete breakdown of my favorite travel bags, plus everything else to put in your carry-on!
Most airlines offer passengers a personal bag and carry-on luggage. Here are my recommendations for the best “personal item” backpacks & totes and carry-on luggage!
Backpack (Personal Item)
Because I have a ton of camera equipment (and computer stuff), my go-to carry-on for every trip is a backpack that can fit all the gear. I love this backpack by Brevite because it is a functional, compact, and lightweight camera backpack that can also be an everyday backpack for commuting, work, travel, and anything in between.
My other favorite is the Metro backpack from Monos. It’s chic, water-resistant, made of ultra-microfibre vegan leather. You can “build” what you need with their QuickSnap™ Modular Kit System and use them interchangeably with the Metro Backpack and Metro Duffel!
Tote (Personal Item)
These are some of my favorite totes (instead of a backpack) to carry on as a personal item. Be mindful that while the most common personal item size limit is 18 x 14 x 8 inches, not every airline is the same, so be sure to confirm!
I love a tote so that I can easily access my laptop, Kindle, and more. Look for a tote that can fit all your essentials, laptop, water bottle, snacks, and more—and that you will want to use along your trip!
Both are lightweight, have cross-body straps, and have “a place for everything.” They also both have laptop compartments and suitcase sleeves to attach them to your larger luggage easily.
Weekender (Carry-On Luggage)
If you prefer soft luggage to a carry-on suitcase, these are some of my favorite duffels and weekenders for travel! Regardless of the brand you pick, always look for a spacious interior with plenty of room for all your essentials.
Both offer separate zippered lower storage areas, which I love for separating shoes and toiletries from the main compartment. They both also have built-in suitcase sleeves to fit around the handle of your checked suitcase.
Suitcase (Carry-On Luggage)
If you’re bringing a carry-on suitcase, these are some of my favorites! Regardless of the suitcase you pick, always look for pieces that have spinner wheels—having four wheels and the ability to roll your carry-on upright is a game changer.
My partner’s favorite bag is the Monos Carry-On Pro Plus because of the padded external pocket. This is a great option for light packers who want to combine their personal item with a carry-on and only travel with one bag. The only downside for me is that it’s not expandable. So, in the case your airline allows a larger bag as a carry-on, you’re limited to one size.
My favorite suitcase is The Carry-On by Beis because it is expandable and has a convenient retractable bag-attach-strap that I often use to carry my hats with a hat clip. It also has a built-in weight indicator on the side handle, so you know if you’ve overpacked.
Both brands make some of the highest-quality and most beautiful luggage on the market, so you really can’t go wrong with either!
I love TRUFFLE TSA-approved cases and pouches for my carry-on liquids. They’re beautiful and made from high-quality materials so they’ll last for years to come.
I think I’ve had mine for 6 years now and they still look brand-new!
In-Flight Sleep Essentials
Nowadays, most airlines don’t offer pillows, blankets, or any amenities to passengers unless they’re in business or first class. It’s always best to be prepared with your own comforts to make the journey as smooth as possible!
Never underestimate the joy of traveling with a good set of earplugs! They will not only make your flight more enjoyable but could save your sanity on your trip. As a light sleeper and someone who is sensitive to loud noises, I always travel with my CURVD earplugs. Grab the case clip to easily attach your CURVD earplugs to your purse or bag. They’re sustainable, stylish, comfortable and offer up to -30dB noise reduction.Shop Now
3D Eye Mask
The most important features of a good eye mask are that it blocks out all light and isn’t too tight around your head or eyes. This Manta Sleep Eye Mask is my favorite! It is contoured for comfort and creates a complete seal around your eyes to block out the light. I swear by it.Shop Now
Travel-Friendly Shoes & Outfit
My flight outfits change depending on my destination, but I always make sure I have the essentials that make me feel clean and refreshed (even if I’m not that well-rested). These items will keep you comfy and looking your best once you touch down!
It might sound funny to have a preferred shoes for flying, but Kizik runners and sneakers slip on and off “hands-free,” making them my go-to shoes for travel days.
You can literally step in and out of them without your hands, which is a dream for traveling and TSA lines—especially now that I have a toddler in tow!
I have the Lima and Vegas styles and highly recommend them for ANY occasion. You can use my coupon ‘THEBLONDEABROAD10’ here.Shop Now
Finding the perfect travel layer is like finding the perfect partner. I’m not kidding. Once you find “the one,” you’ll never leave home without it. I’ve found that a long cardigan or wrap is perfect for flights.
I recommend investing in a high-quality cashmere wrap — that way you can wear it while traveling as well as at home and between trips.Shop Now
I don’t often pack my hats in my luggage because they usually get squished. Plus, an easy way to look your best after a long flight is to have a stylish piece of headwear on hand, whether it’s a baseball cap or even a beanie.
You can opt for “packable” hats meaning they can be rolled and still retain their shape!
When traveling with wide-brimmed hats, I always travel with a TOPTOTE hat clip to easily secure my hats to my bag.Shop Now
I always pack a pair of knee-high compression socks to stay safe and comfortable on long flights. On a serious note, long flights can wreak havoc on leg health. Travel-related deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition which causes blood clots following long-haul air travel.
Studies have concluded that airline passengers who wear compression stockings during flights of four hours or more can significantly reduce their risk of DVT as well as leg swelling. Aim or socks with a level of 8-20 mmHg.Shop Now
Most airlines serve up a couple of options for snacks or meals on board, but it can vary by distance and flight time—and the quality of food is typically quite poor. I like to think of meal options as “cardboard” or “indigestion.” Always pack some snacks that you know make you feel good and satisfied, especially on long-haul flights!
I’ll typically bring a piece of fruit, a healthy snack bar, and some raw nuts to snack on during the flight. I try to avoid high-allergen nuts like peanuts for the safety of other passengers.
Here are more TSA-Approved Snacks to Pack for Your Next Flight!
Items to Hydrate
Commercial airplanes have very low humidity, so keeping your skin and body hydrated is important. I know it’s annoying to get up and use the restroom, but trust me, your body will thank you. And your jet lag will be less severe if you stay well-hydrated!
I highly recommend getting a reusable and collapsible water bottle for your travels. As much as I STAN a Stanley, traveling with them is a nightmare.
I always travel with a Vapur anti-bottle. It rolls up small enough to fit in your pocket when empty, and it is leakproof. Most airports have water bottle filling stations, and flight attendants will usually fill up your bottle if you ask.
Eye Patches & Cream
For me, one of the worst effects of travel is tired eyes. I’m obsessed with Patchology eye patches—they don’t slide around, and I can even sleep with them during long-haul flights! And, between using the patches, I recommend applying a hydrating eye cream throughout the flight.
My favorite travel lip product is Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm—made with organic, all-natural ingredients and no nasties. It’s super hydrating with the best, smooth texture! For a more intensive lip treatment, I love Patchology Lip Service Gloss-to-Balm and their Hydrating Lip Gels.
A good tinted moisturizer has the coverage benefits of a foundation and the moisturizing qualities of face lotion. My favorite, affordable option is the Tarte BB blur-tinted moisturizer with SPF 30!
I always pack a luxurious hand creme—your skin dries out so much on flights, so I use this everywhere for extra moisture!
Long travel days can leave you feeling unclean and uncomfortable. These items will keep you feeling fresh!
It’s not new news that airplanes are blanketed in bacteria. Do your best to keep clear of germs and do your part not to spread them. I love this plant-based sanitizer spray and these disinfectant hand wipes for keeping bacteria at bay.
I love traveling biodegradable body wipes to freshen up, as they’re perfect for an array of uses while traveling. I typically pack oil-free facial cleansing wipes and organic feminine hygiene wipes on every flight. Checking out my Tips for Traveling with ‘Aunt Flo’ before your next trip.
I recently became obsessed with these essential oil towelettes for a little pick-me-up too!
It may sound like a whole lotta wipe, but you’ll thank me on that 24-hour travel day with no shower!
With limited carry-on space and limitations on liquids, it’s best to bring less makeup onboard. Here are my fav products to bring that moneymaker back to life!
A little mascara can go a long way and can help brighten your eyes after a flight. This is a great travel-sized mascara option!
Under Eye Concealer
A good under-eye concealer should be hydrating and shouldn’t dry out and crease. I love this ILIA True Skin Serum Concealer because it helps hide imperfections, it hydrates, and it’s from one of the top clean beauty brands.
A little freshness is a life-saver on a travel day. These items will keep you feeling refreshed both on and off your flight!
Sometimes, a couple of eye drops are all you need to feel refreshed after a long flight. Don’t forget to pack a bottle!
I typically always pack my toothbrush on a flight, but I like single-use mini brushes for a quick brush-up. I leave them in my purse no matter where I go so I can keep my breath and smile fresh after a meal.
It never hurts to pack a spare pair of undies and an extra top on long travel days.
A long-haul flight can seem daunting, so be prepared with plenty of things to entertain yourself. Here are some ideas to keep clear of boredom!
I love the feel of a physical book more than anything, but they can be bulky, which is why I travel with a tablet or a Kindle E-Reader. A tablet keeps all of your apps, music, games, and eBooks stored in one compact device.
Make sure your apps and software are updated and downloaded before you board. Look into the hundreds of travel apps before your flight to help you plan your trip and keep you busy on the flight.
If you are traveling out of the country, be sure to turn off your cellular data to avoid roaming fees. Smartphones also offer the same features as a tablet with plenty of games, books, and apps to make time go by faster. If you want to stay connected to WiFi, check out the Skyroam wireless device.
A good pair of headphones is a wise investment for frequent travelers. I find bulky noise-canceling headsets to be more of a fashion statement than practicality, so I sometimes opt for powerful yet compact wireless earbuds.
And if you prefer using your AirPods instead of traditional headphones that you have to plugin the in-flight entertainment screens, you have to check out the AirFly Pro! It wirelessly transmits audio from in-flight entertainment, gym equipment, gaming devices, TVs, etc., to your Bluetooth headphones.
Electronic Chargers & Adapters
Don’t forget to pack any chargers for devices that you bring in your carry-on! Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need a universal adapter for your plugs.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is replaceable and can be purchased in most places around the world. So, don’t sweat about forgetting the small stuff.
These are the most important things to remember:
Passport and/or Identification
Credit Cards and/or Cash
Never pack expensive items in your checked baggage, or you may never see them again. I always carry-on my camera equipment, electronics, jewelry, etc.
I always recommend travel insurance for every trip. I prefer World Nomads Travel Insurance because it’s completely affordable and gives me peace of mind. It covers not only my flights and baggage but also medical emergencies and trip cancellation. Read Ten Reasons to Get Travel Insurance for your Next Trip for more info!
Copies of Important Documents
It’s always wise to bring physical copies of your passport and any other travel documents in case of loss or theft.
Of course, you should always bring any medication you require in your carry-on. Keep in mind that you may be required to show proof of prescription for some medications. I usually bring a small pill case for general ailments such as a headache, nausea, and allergies.
Don’t forget the 3-1-1 rule when packing your liquids. Liquids must be under 3.4 ounces, fit in 1 quart-sized plastic bag and you are allowed 1 bag per passenger.
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