The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

No matter where in the world I travel to, my carry-on packing routine is nearly always the same. I ensure I have all the essentials and whatever I need to stay comfortable.

Whether you’re taking a 1-hour commuter flight or a 10-hour transatlantic flight… 

Don’t miss my ultimate carry-on packing guide for a smooth trip!


Depending on your trip, you may require a carry-on suitcase or you may only need a large purse. Here are my recommendations for carry-on bags:

  • Backpack

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 used the Case Logic Camera & Laptop Backpack for a few years and I love that it protected my laptop and camera — it’s a great budget option. Now, I’m obsessed with the ONA Big Sur Backpack because it comfortably fits my SLR camera, 3-4 lenses, cords, batteries, wallet and up to a 15 inch laptop, plus space for all of my other carry-on essentials. It’s an awesome investment for long-term or constant travelers.

  • Tote

Regardless of my carry-on bag, I always pack a large tote bag. The Longchamp Le Pliage nylon tote are a traveler’s dream! They fold up to about the size of a wide wallet and open to a large tote so you can keep it handy as an extra travel bag or use it as your carry-on.

This extra large tote is made of easy-to-clean, waterproof Nylon. The material is lighter than other nylon totes and can hold quite a bit of weight. It contains 1 interior zip pocket and 2 slip pockets, plus fits a 15 inch laptop.

I also recently discovered Lo & Sons’ Overnight & Gym Bag and it’s now my go-to carry-on bag. It’s lightweight, has normal purse style handles, plus a larger cross-body strap which is great if you’re lugging around a lot of stuff.

  • Liquid’s Pouch

I use a these clear pouches for liquids that I carry on. I also love the TRUFFLE clear clutches They’re absolutely beautiful and made from high-quality materials so they’ll last for years to come. Because of their clear design, they’re also TSA approved so you can pack your liquids and small items inside.

They just released new Jetset Cases perfect for stowing cosmetics, travel size liquids, or cables and chargers– adorable!


Nowadays, some airlines no longer offer pillows and blankets to economy passengers. It’s always best to be prepared!

  • Travel Pillow

I’ve tried EVERY type of travel pillow and this inflatable neck pillow is by far the best of the lot. It inflates in a couple of breaths, has an easy air release button so you can customize the firmness and comes with a small pouch for storage.

  • Eye Mask

The most important features in a good eye mask are that it blocks out all light and isn’t too tight around your head. This 3D eye mask is countered for comfort and creates a complete seal around your eyes to block out light.

  • Ear Plugs

Never underestimate the joy of having a good set of ear plugs. They will not only make your flight more enjoyable, but could save your sanity along your travels.

As a light sleeper and someone who lies awake at night if anyone is snoring, I recommend Hearos Xtreme ear plugs. They’re soft, comfortable and offer the highest noise reduction available.


My flight outfits change depending on my destination, but I always make sure I have the essentials. These items will keep you comfy and looking your best:

  • Shoes

Whether I wear them onto the plane or have them packed in my carry-on, I always bring a pair of foldable ballet flats on every flight. They’re comfortable and are easy to slip on and off.

  • Sweater

Finding the perfect travel sweater 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 is perfect for flights. You can wear it as a sweater, lay it over you like a blanket, or bundle it up around your neck like a scarf.

  • Headwear

An easy way to look your best after a long flight is having a stylish piece of headwear on hand, whether it’s a baseball cap or even a beanie.

Head scarves are perfect for tying into your hair and I love Janessa Leone brimmed hats. They’re both chic and perfect for any destination.

  • Compression Socks

On a more serious note, you should always, always travel with compression socks.

Long flights can wreak havoc on leg health. Travel-related deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition dubbed “economy-class syndrome” which causes blog clots following long-haul air travel in cramped conditions.

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.

I always pack a pair of open toe compression socks to stay safe and comfortable on long flights.


Most airlines serve up a couple of options for meals onboard. I like to think of them as cardboard and indigestion. Always pack some snacks, especially on long-haul flights.

  • Snacks

I’ll typically bring a piece of fruit and some raw almonds to snack on during the flight. I also love Perfect Bars. They’re organic, filling and packed with delicious & healthy ingredients so you’ll feel good about what you’re eating!


Commercial airplanes have very low humidity, so keeping your skin and body hydrated is really important.

  • Water Bottle

I highly recommend getting a Vapur water bottle for your travels. It rolls up small enough to fit in your pocket when empty and it holds an entire liter of water.

While it may mean extra trips to the lavatory, drinking lots of water before and during your flight can help with jet lag and fatigue.

  • Eye Cream

For me, one of the worst effects of travel is tired eyes. I’m obsessed with Musely’s Bye Bye Eye Bags — they don’t slide around and I can even sleep with them during long-haul flights! If you’re more of an eye cream person, I recommend applying Benefit’s it’s potent! Brightening Eye Cream under your eyes before and during a flight to help with dark circles.

  • Lip Balm

My favorite travel lip product is Bite Beauty’s travel-friendly, all-natural Agave Kisses Set. The set includes a lip scrub, lip mask, and lip balm to keep your lips hydrated in-flight and while traveling.

  • Tinted Moisturizer

A good tinted moisturizer has the coverage benefits of a foundation and the moisturizing qualities of a face lotion. My favorite is MyChelle Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 50!

  • Coconut Oil

I always pack a small container with coconut oil. It solidifies in cooler temperatures and liquefies when it’s heated. It serves a variety of uses, but is great to use as a hand moisturizer on flights.

It’s fragrance is also nice should you need refuge from any unsavory smells onboard.

Want more travel beauty tips?

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Long travel days can leave you feeling unclean and uncomfortable. These items will keep you feeling fresh:

  • Hand Sanitizer

It’s not new news that airplanes are blanketed in bacteria. Do your best to keep clear of germs and do your part to not spread them. I love this plant-based sanitizer spray and these disinfectant hand wipes for keeping bacteria at bay.

  • Wipes

Cottonelle makes these biodegradable Fresh Care Flushable Wipes, perfect for an array of uses. They’re perfectly travel friendly and come individually wrapped for convenient single-use. I typically pack the oil-free facial cleansing wipes and hygiene wipes on every flight.

I recently became obsessed with these essential oil towelettes for a little pick-me-up too!

It may sound like a whole lotta wipes, 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!

  • Mascara

A little mascara can go a long way and can help brighten your eyes after a flight. I’ve never found a better travel-sized mascara than they’re real! by Benefit.

  • Under Eye Concealer

A good under-eye concealer should be hydrating and shouldn’t dry out and crease. Benefit’s hydrating concealer is perfect for covering dark circles and nourishing skin.

  • Rejuvenating Eye Gels

As I mentioned before, puffy eyes are my biggest concern when traveling. I use Patchology FlashPatch Eye Gels daily to awaken my eyes and give them a kick-start with collagen, caffeine and hyaluronic acid. I love that they come in a convenient 30 pair jar (so you can carry a month’s supply without tons of plastic waste) and that they’re biodegradable.

Read More: Travel-Friendly Beauty Routines for Every Budget


A little freshness is a life-saver on a travel day. These items will keep you feeling refreshed both on and off your flight:

  • Panty Liners

Long travel days usually means no shower. So, I always pack a few panty liners and change throughout my trip.

  • Mints

Try to avoid chewing gum while you’re flying. Swallowing the extra air can sometimes cause tummy aches. Instead, opt for something like YumEarth’s Organic Wild Peppermint Drops.

  • Deodorant

Do everyone a favor a reapply during your flight. I love Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant. It’s under the TSA carry-on ounces limit, all-natural and it actually works!

  • Eye Drops

Sometimes a couple of eyedrops are all you need to feel refreshed after a long flight. Don’t forget to pack a bottle!

  • Toothbrush

I typically always pack my toothbrush on a flight, but I love Colgate single-use Wisps 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.

  • Spare Pair

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:

  • Tablet

I love the feel of a physical book more than anything but they can be bulky, which is why I travel with a tablet. They keep 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.

  • Phone

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 of a tablet with plenty of games, books and apps to make time go by faster. If you want to stay connected, check out the Skyroam wireless device.

  • Headphones

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 a practicality, so I opt for powerful, yet compact, wireless earbuds.

  • 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 an adapter for your plugs.

Don’t Forget

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

  • Valuables

Never pack expensive items in your checked baggage or you may never see them again. I always carry-on my camera equipment and nice jewelry.

  • Travel Insurance

I always recommend travel insurance for every trip. I prefer World Nomads Travel Insurance because it’s completely affordable and gives me piece of mind. It covers not only my flights and baggage, but also medical emergencies and trip cancellation.

Read More

Ten Reasons to Get Travel Insurance for your Next Trip

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  • Copies of Important Documents

It’s always wise to bring physical copies of your passport and any other travel documents in the case of loss or theft.

  • Medications

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 headache, nausea and allergies.

  • Liquid Allowances

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.

liquid carry on

Rest assured, all of the liquids in this packing guide will fit inside a single quart-sized plastic bag.

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.