Whether packing for Colorado or the Caribbean, here is a list of my favorite carry on packing essentials to make the flight smooth and enjoyable.
I’ve been to 26+ countries this year, and my experience traveling around the world has taught me exactly what to pack in my carry on bag. Whether I’m flying domestic or international, these are the carry on packing essentials I never fly without!
Carry On Packing
These are your fundamental storage items that will house all of your carry on packing essentials, so they need to be durable, lightweight and optimized for functionality. Bonus points for these items because they are also stylish!
Let’s start with the VIP: carry on luggage. I personally love a hard shell carry on luggage as it holds up longer and prevents items inside from getting damaged or crushed in transit. Be sure to check with your airline about exact carry on luggage dimensions.
- International Flights: TUMI is an industry leader when it comes to travel luggage and accessories. The V3 hard shell carry-on is perfect for international trips as it has a security TSA lock and extra space to expand if you buy souvenirs.
- Domestic Flights: the CHESTER Minima Carry On is affordable, lightweight, durable and stylish, with internal organization and compartments to stow all of your cargo.
A carry on backpack is where you’ll store all of your entertainment items, tech accessories, and important items that need protection and are easily accessible from your seat. To me, the best travel items combine functionality and style, which is why I love the TUMI Voyager Travel Backpack. This sleek carry on backpack has an internal compartment for my laptop, organizational pockets, and has a pocket sleeve to slide on top of your carry-on luggage handle. Did I mention it’s oh-so-stylish?
Totes are perfect for keeping your beauty products, snacks, a sweater or blanket, and all your in-flight essentials in one bag to store under the seat. This vegan leather tote is slouchy, flexible and large to carry everything you need in the air.
If you are not checking a bag, you’ll have to carry on all your beauty products and toiletries. That’s why you’ll need a solid toiletry bag that holds all your travel-sized products. This gorgeous marble travel makeup bag is waterproof and has adjustable dividers to store all of your beauty and hygiene products.
Carry on liquids all have to meet TSA requirements, which means 3-oz bottles for all of your toiletry liquids. Keep all of your liquids in a TSA approved, BPA-free, leak-proof travel bottle set.
Now that we’ve covered the carry-on storage logistics, let’s get to my favorite carry on packing essentials for total comfort.
A Multi-Purpose Turkish Towel
Carry on packing requires strategic minimalism, meaning one item needs to have multi-functionality. One of my top travel hacks for carry-on packing is to always bring a stylish, oversized shawl that doubles as a blanket and towel. It seems like no matter where you travel or with what airline, airplanes are always cold. Plus, once you get to your destination, you can use this travel shawl as a beach or pool towel. Mabien Turkish travel towel for the win!
This Turkish beach, bath and blanket shawl is made from 100% cotton and is the perfect travel companion. Wear it as a blanket on the plane, a shawl or sarong, and sunbathe on it as a beach towel.
Silk Eye Mask
Whether you’re taking a red-eye flight or traveling mid-day, a cozy eye mask is crucial. It’s always a great idea to catch some zzz’s on a plane before you land and head off on your adventure. I always pack a Slip Sleep Mask because it’s so silky soft, and is perfect for getting beauty sleep and eliminating any harsh blue light from the plane.
People either love or hate travel pillows, which is why it’s important to find the best one available. Of course, it is subjective but I love this no-fuss inflatable travel pillow because it’s lightweight, easy to inflate and made of soft micro-velvet.
This one’s a no-brainer, you can’t get on a plane without a solid pair of headphones. There are two great options for air travel: wireless Bluetooth earbuds that function as earplugs and headphones, and Beats noise-canceling headphones because you never know when there will be a screaming baby on board.
Of course, you can always choose noise reduction earplugs instead, but I like the option of headphones to listen to meditation music and tap into my in-flight zen.
In-flight entertainment is crucial because, let’s face it, there’s not much to do on a long flight aside from sleep, read or watch movies. Here’s what I always pack for carry-on entertainment.
Kindle or Tablet
Whether you’re a book worm or love in-flight entertainment, packing a kindle or tablet is going to save a lot of space in your carry-on luggage. Keep all your favorite apps, books, games and entertainment in a small tablet and download items before flying.
If you have a long transatlantic flight, you’ll need to pack a power bank for extra juice to prevent your electronics from dying. The Anker PowerCore 10000 is a tiny, powerful power bank compatible with iPhones and Androids.
Sometimes you have to slow down and journal out your thoughts, especially if you’re going on an exciting trip. I love the You Are Here travel journal because it’s a great opportunity to mindfully focus on your travels, and your journey of self-discovery.
Refresh and Hydrate
When you are flying 31,000+ feet in the air, there’s no natural air circulation and on a long flight, you need some items to stay fresh and hydrated. All of the beauty and hygeine products I recommend are organic, vegan, eco-friendly or fair-trade to minimize environmental impact and use pure, ethical ingredients.
Packing deoderant in your carry on is a must, especially for long flights. If you’re flying for 10-20 hours, there’s no shower, and deodorant is a life-saver. I personally use Lavilin Bio Balance, which lasts for 72 hours and is free of aluminum, alcohol and parabens.
Chapped lips are no-bueno, and up in the air without circulation, dryness creeps in. That’s why I always stock up on Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm.
Speaking of dryness, one of my carry on packing essentials that I never travel without is coconut oil. I throw some in a TSA approved travel bottle, and it’s absolutely perfect for moisturizing hands, elbows and dry areas on long flights. Plus, when you get to your destination, you can use it as body lotion. Bonus: it smells delightful. 🙂
This is a big one! Many people don’t pack water bottles because you can’t bring water through TSA security. However, this is a big mistake. Bringing your own water bottle means you can always fill up on water, won’t have to rely on flight attendants to hydrate you, and you’ll minimize plastic waste. I always bring a trusty water bottle with me, dump out the water before security and fill up after that way I never go without water while flying.
The Tree Tribe Stainless Steel Water Bottle is insulated to keep your water cold, and what I love about this brand is that for every purchase, they plant 10 trees! Not only are you eliminating plastic pollution, but you are helping restore our precious planet. Plus, how cute is this eco-friendly water bottle?
Bonus item: Something I bring with me everywhere I go, not just in my carry-on luggage, is a travel sized reusible collapsible straw.
As a veteran traveler, I’ve realized how crucial it is to pack snacks for flights. If you have food allergies, dietary restrictions or are vegan or vegetarian, packing your own snacks is a life-saver and will prevent you from getting hangry or going without food.
Here are some of my favorite travel snacks, aka a carry on essential!
- Tate’s Gluten-Free cookies are my favorite, they’re so delicious, healthy and satisfy my sweet tooth.
- Some flights aren’t long enough to provide an airline meal, but are timed right in the middle of breakfast, lunch or dinner. That’s why I always pack protein bars. Rise Bars are Non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free and have no additives or chemicals. They are loaded with nutrients and minerals, and have a whopping 20 grams of protein, making them the perfect meal substitute in a jam.
All of these items are life-savers on both short and long, international flights. Wherever your travels take you, be sure to pack your go-to carry on items to make flying enjoyable, comfortable, and exciting!
Stay tuned for lists of my favorite travel toiletries, eco-friendly beauty products, natural and organic beauty products, favorite travel tech gadgets and more! Want to know what’s in my closet, pantry or cosmetic bag? Drop me a comment below letting me know what you’d like to see next on the blog!
Disclosure: Please be aware that some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. At zero cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. However, I only recommend products I trust and love, and all opinions are my own.