What to Pack in Your Carry On Bag

A few weeks ago I mentioned what to wear and what not to wear on an airplane which got me thinking about what I have to bring in my carry on. If I’m checking a suitcase then I have some things that I can’t live without on the plane. For starters, I like to bring a bag that can fit under the seat in front of me so I don’t have to get stuff out of the overhead compartment. I have this one by Ballard Designs. It’s roomy enough for all my essentials and the straps are the perfect length for toting. Plus it can double as a beach bag, tote bag or shopping bag when I get to my destination. Below is my essentials list of what to pack in your carry on bag.What to Carry On

Reading material and readers.

One great joy I get out of traveling is the large chunks of uninterrupted time just to read. I confess that I am old-school in that I actually carry paper books. I do have a kindle app on my phone but I hardly ever use it. I prefer the feel of an old-fashioned book. If you are curious to see what have I been reading lately you can follow me on GoodReads! I like to use that app to keep track of my To Be Read (TBR) pile and it also helps me remember what I’ve read for my Summer Reading posts. (Looking forward to reading this book!) And since I’m at the age where I need readers, I always carry an extra pair. One pair lives on my head and my spare is in my bag. I once left my favorite pair at Denver’s TSA and I was so glad I had my spare pair!


On really long flights (transcontinental or transatlantic) the airline will usually give you complimentary earphones but I like to have my own as they are of a better quality and are more comfortable. I use them for watching movies, listening to audio books on my Overdrive app or, in rare occasions, for listening to music on my phone. (I like to listen to classical music if I’m trying to drown out a crying baby but still want to read.)

My jewelry.

Not that I usually travel with fancy, expensive, real jewelry, but even the costume jewelry I have I don’t want to lose. I made the mistake of putting a small bag of jewelry in my suitcase on a trip to France. We took a bump in Cincinnati and got upgraded to first class for the transatlantic flight a few hours later. Unfortunately, our luggage never made it. In five days. Ever. We found an H&M in Paris and bought a few necessities for the remainder of our stay. However, when we returned home and our luggage finally showed up, the bag of jewelry was gone. Lesson learned. Do not put ANY jewelry in checked baggage. (I really need to get a jewelry roll like this one rather than throwing everything in the small zipper bag I picked up in the Bahamas. Then I wouldn’t have to untangle all my necklaces! I also really like this one but it’s a bit pricier.)

Neck pillow, eye mask and ear plugs.

On long flights, I bring my neck pillow. If I don’t, I end up with a crick in my neck that won’t go away for days. I prefer a solid one to a blow up one. It can take up a lot of space in my carry-on but in my opinion, it’s worth it! I have one like this, but this one looks really interesting and got great reviews! The eye mask I have is from Delta. They give them away in first class and since my mom always flies first class (she claustrophobic) she gives them to me. But here’s a nice large, inexpensive one if you don’t have a supplier of free ones. Earplugs are important for drowning out crying babies. I like the foam contoured ones like these.

My usual purse stuff minus my big wallet.

I switch to a small wallet that just has my credit cards/debit cards, insurance cards and cash. I leave my library card, BJ’s card, rewards cards, etc at home. But I still carry my other usual purse supplies like tissues, headache meds, sewing kit, lipstick/gloss, band aids, measuring tape, pens, hairbrush. I know. I carry a lot of stuff in my purse but I like being prepared!

Toothbrush and paste.

I  carry my toothbrush and paste with me so I can freshen up when I arrive the next morning at my destination. It helps tremendously with feeling awake and fresh. It doesn’t take up that much room and it’s so worth it!

Bullet journal.

I recently began keeping a bullet journal which doubles as a my travel journal when I’m traveling. This way I have one place to keep all my thoughts! I first learned about the bullet journal from Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy but I read more about it here. I recently compared notes with my friend Michael Ann on how to’s.

Portable phone charger and regular plug charger.

Don’t leave home without your phone charger! (I speak from experience…). On those long flights the plane will usually have a USB port so you can charge during your flight. On shorter flights, I will plug in at my next gate. But in case I don’t have time or can’t find a plug, I like to carry a portable phone charger. I have this one by Anker that I really like.


Be sure you pack your meds in your carry-on, in case your checked bag doesn’t make it. I have a weekly case like this one that I put my meds in. When I go on a two-week trip I just double up on the days. If you have too many meds or go on longer than two weeks then you might need a mac-daddy like this one or this one is handy because you can take the day’s worth of pills with you without having to take the whole she-bang.


I was caught unprepared once without snacks on a flight that got delayed and delayed and since then I’ve learned my lesson.  Either they don’t serve food on the plane or you don’t have time to pick up something in the terminal or what they serve is inedible, I always travel with some sort of snack or meal with me. My preference is nuts or a Quest bar. I tried bringing yogurt with me once but it was confiscated in TSA. Apparently yogurt qualifies as a liquid. The things you learn…

Lightweight cardigan or pashmina.

I am always cold on airplanes. I don’t understand the need to blast the air conditioning so that you can hang meat but since they do, I like to be prepared. I explain what to wear to stay comfortable on a plane in this post. Staying  comfortably warm is essential for me so an outer layer is a must! (I love the pattern on this one!)


For the same reason as above.

Other items to consider.

An empty water bottle. (I really like to drink from glass so I have this one.) Hand sanitizer. Wipes. Chewing gum (helps to valsalva on take off and landing.) Travel documents. Contact solution or eye drops. Feminine products. Undies (in case your suitcase is lost and you need a change when you get there! Hey! It’s happened!).


And there you have it! So glad I wrote it all down so I can refer to my list when packing for my next trip! What would you add to my list of must-haves?

About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

16 thoughts on “What to Pack in Your Carry On Bag

  1. You nailed this list, Sheila! Great post! I can’t think of a single thing to add! Now I’m off to check out those jewelry rolls. I’ve been trying to figure out how to travel with necklaces!

  2. Wow, you nailed it!! These are all the things I carry on as well. Just brushing my teeth between flights is a nice pick me up and protein filled snacks to keep me going…gotta have my nuts, lol!!

  3. I always feel so sorry for people with crying babies on a plane! Been there before! I just read a tip on clasping necklaces through a straw to keep them from tangling – I’m going to try that next time I travel.

  4. A small hand wipe package –kill those germs!! Stamps for postcards if in the US. That’s all I would add! Great list!!

  5. All very good things to bring with you on a plane. I like to bring a big scarf that can always double as a blanket, I always seem to run hot and cold on airplanes. Tucking the take jewelry with you in my back pocket! Thanks for that little tidbit 🙂

  6. Well thought out list. Packing meds would have saved some tears in our family. And maybe a pair or two of clean panties?

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