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Whether I’m preparing for a long-term international trip or short-term domestic one, I often put just as much thought into what I pack in my carry-on items as I do my checked luggage.
What do I carry on when I’ve already checked a bag?
For the last couple of years, I’ve brought a digital SLR camera bag that doubles as a purse and a small, school-sized backpack that has a special section to store a laptop.
If you’re planning for a trip, you’ve probably researched dozens of packing lists to make sure you bring everything you need (and leave behind the things you don’t). At Her Packing List, our aim is to help make your job a little easier!
>>Be sure to read the first timer’s guide to traveling carry-on only.
Check out my “essential items to pack in the carry-on bags” list below. With the exception of one or two things, which are noted, I have packed every single one of these on a previous trip.
- Bag of liquids meeting carry-on size requirements
- Any liquids mentioned below are in this bag
- Boarding pass
- Copy of complete flight itinerary
- Copy of any transportation or accommodation plans I have made for arrival
- Physical address of where I am staying: You will need this to complete immigration forms and it may be helpful to share with cab drivers as well so they can easily look up directions.
- Printout confirming I paid for an electronic visa: When my sister and I paid for our electronic tourist visas to Australia, we printed a copy to bring with us just in case.
Being the organizer that I am, I usually place the documents in the order in which I (may) need them and put them in a sturdy folder.
>>Check out our tips for staying organized on the road.
Bath & Body
- Hand lotion
- Contact solution (when I wore them)
- Toothbrush and mini-toothpaste
- Bath wipes to help you freshen up
- Face wipes or mini bottle of face wash and wash cloth
I want to feel as fresh as possible at the end of the flight, so I love touching up deodorant and brushing my teeth and washing my face. Airplanes dry us out, so lotion and chapstick help keep me moisturized.
Food & Drink
- Meal and/or snacks: Including the items below. As a special-needs eater who also likes to eat healthfully, I tend to pack food in case the food on the plane just doesn’t cut it. Natural peanut butter on gluten free bread is my go-to. Fellow travelers love granola/muesli bars or protein bars.
- Fruit: Usually an apple as they travel well.
- Water bottle: Buy one after passing through security, or if you can wait, bring an empty bottle from home (you can bring this through security) and fill up on the plane.
- Vitamin + electrolytes packet: I don’t go anywhere without Emergen-C packets.
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- Long haul: oral sleep aid, your own pillow and blanket (I’ve brought my own pillow but never a blanket, though a friend gave me a small travel blanket just for carry-on purposes!)
Instead of a travel blanket, invest in a Turkish towel, which can be used as a towel, blanket, scarf, etc. Click here to browse Turkish towels on Amazon.
- iPod (or your music player of choice)
- Kindle (or similar) to read books without weighing down your bag: I don’t own one, but I may add it to my next wish list. I tend to leave books at home as I don’t have room to pack them!
- Music, books, movies
- 1-2 shirts (change of clothes)
- Your favorite “I would HATE to lose this” article of clothing
- Something new
- Outfit for special occasion
Ever since an airline lost my bag in 2008, I’ve been mindful of the clothing I pack in my checked bag. It’s all replaceable, of course, but I now pack with the thought that I may not see my bag again. At the very least, I pack an extra pair of underwear and one shirt. If I am packing a new or favorite article of clothing, I roll them as small as possible and make room in the bag.
- Wallet with credit cards and other important cards
- Camera equipment
- Phone and car keys
Always pack valuables in your carry-on bags. If you plan to sleep or find that your bag is stowed far away from your seat (due to a full flight), you may wish to bring your valuable items closer to you.
Best of the rest
- Guidebook to destination: Haven’t planned what you’ll do the first day or two yet? There’s plenty of time to do so on the plane.
- Paper and pen: Creative brainstorming sessions often happen in transit. And, you’ll probably want a pen to fill out immigration papers on board.
- Medication or supplements
What’s an essential item on YOUR carry-on packing list?
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