Are you never sure of what to pack in your carry-on? Do you even have a plan when you pack it or do you just throw stuff in as you see fit? I know when I first started traveling, I was always just throwing in random things. I used to use a regular backpack or a big tote as my carry-on for quite some time too, and they were always a mess. With time though, I learned to become super organized with my carry-on and very selective with what I brought with me on-board. After years of perfecting the art of packing my carry-on, I thought I’d share with you all everything that I put in it! So here are my carry-on essentials:
The Bag: Briggs & Riley Kinzie Flapover
I was recently looking into purchasing a better bag for traveling. Traveling with a tote was a pain because it was heavy and weighing down on one shoulder all the time. Traveling with a sport’s backpack was great, but I wanted something a little more stylish for my commutes to work as well. Kill two birds with one stone, right?
After many hours of research and reading reviews of so many (too many) backpacks, I finally settled on the Briggs & Riley Kinzie Street Flapover bag in navy. Briggs & Riley have many backpacks available, but I chose the Kinzie Flapover because of its functionality. My main reasons for buying it were:
- It fits my 15″ MacBook Pro (too many backpacks I looked at are just under the size for the 15″ laptop)
- It has two main compartments: one for the laptop and one for other stuff.
- The second compartment has a couple of pockets and organizational slots & is expandable
- It has a slim design when not expanded, and even when it is expanded, it’s not too bulky
- It has an NFC blocking pocket
- It has a luggage strap so you can just slide it over your suitcase handle and it won’t fall.
- It looks great with everything
I’ve only had it for a couple months, but I’m loving it so far. I’ve already taken to the U.S. as my carry-on and I was very happy with it. It’s made of durable material and seems to have everything I need. On top of all that, I look good in it too! The navy is more of a slate navy, so it literally goes great with every color. It’s comfortable, easy to use and it’s definitely staying as my travel companion.
Laptop, Kindle, Mobile
Since I was looking for a bag to fit my MacBook Pro, it’s obvious that it’s the #1 electronic I bring along on my trips. As a developer, my Mac is my livelihood, so it needs to be with me at all times when traveling on planes and trains.
My kindle is my second electronic companion. I usually have something like 40 books loaded on to it, so there’s always a variety for me to chose from depending on my mood. I usually have a good mix of non-fiction and fantasy fiction books.
I always have my phone with me, which, I feel, is a given in this day and age.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones
I don’t go anywhere without my headphones. Not even for my 1.5 hr commute to Vienna. Aside from being an audiophile and loving to listen to music while I’m traveling, I also like to drown out noises when I’m trying to concentrate or sleep.
My headphones to date were Sennheiser HD1‘s that I’d had for a good 7 years or so. They have a wonderful audio quality while being affordable. These had been my dutiful office headphones. Unfortunately, the more I traveled, the more I realized they lacked in some aspects. Mainly blocking everything out. They were good enough, but sometimes you just need that extra noise canceling. On planes, the hum still came through, as well as the baby cries.
So when my husband came home with a pair of Bose QuietComforts that he bought while on a business trip, I tested them out. Obviously, they were exactly what I wanted, but I left them for him to use since he needed them more. This was before I started commuting 2x a week.
Then, something this summer changed, and I had wanted to try the headphones for a short trip. I instantly fell in love with them, and my husband hasn’t gotten to use them since. These are the best, trusty pair of headphones for traveling. They block out trains, people, babies, airplane hums and they trap you in your music. I sometimes forget that I’m surrounded by other people, they are that awesome.
They are on the expensive side, but I believe it’s a great investment for people who travel often and need to concentrate on their work or sleep in noisy environments and fit easily into a smaller carry-on.
Cables, Chargers & Cords
It’s important that when you’re traveling with gadgets, you bring the corresponding chargers with you. Sometimes, when you travel, you have no control over delays or your bags getting sent to a different destination. Since my work is computer-based, I need to make sure I always have my Mac charger, my phone charger, my USB cords to my kindle and headphones.
Hand Sanitizer, Lotion, Lip Balm, Tissues, Sanitizing wipes
These are travel essentials. You never know if you’re going to be stuck in a bathroom in some remote airport without soap. Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes come in handy to keep those travel germs at bay.
Hand lotion is a life saver for me on flights. I find that my hands get very very dry and scratchy on longer flights. The water & soap combo in the planes just seems to make it worse. So I always apply lotion to my hands after washing them in-flight. It makes for a much smoother touch. My hand lotions are always from Natura Siberica, as I’ve had the best success with them in regards to hydration and keeping my hands smooth. I’m especially in love with their winter hand lotion for the chillier months.
Lip balm is in the same category as the lotion. I apply it after drinking or eating or when I’m just feeling dry. There’s nothing worse than chapped lips on an 8-hour flight. Carmex is the best for these longer, drying flights, otherwise, I generally have some sort of natural lip balm in my bag.
Last but not least, Tissues. Even if you aren’t sick, you never know if you’re going to need to wipe your wet nose or something else needs to be wiped dry (ladies, we all know the struggle when there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom).
Ibuprofen, Kinedryl, Band-aids
This is a sort of mini first-aid kit. I may not take medicine often, but the worst thing to do is travel without some basic necessities. You never know if you’re going to get a splitting headache during your layover. And trust me, it can be quite difficult sometimes to track down some ibuprofen at an airport. I always have some ibuprofen as a backup for these types of situations.
Kinedryl is the Czech version of an anti-nausea pill, the main ingredient being Moxastine Teoclate. I don’t need to take this often, but I have had a couple of instances where I felt like puking all over my airplane seat. There are a lot of causes of travel nausea, so I think it’s a good idea to have some anti-nausea pills as a backup.
And let’s not forget band-aids! These are super important! I can not tell you how many times I have gotten a paper cut or cut myself on something ridiculous while traveling. It’s good to have band-aids in your carry-on to help cover up your fresh wound.
Ricola, Tea, Snack Bars
Sometimes, you just need to eat. I always pack a couple of snack bars when I’m traveling. My husband and I both are angry monsters when we are hungry, and sometimes you just don’t have the time to stop for food, so having some snacks in your carry-on is a great idea. My favorite snacks are ‘Raw Energy’ bars, as they are filling but also delicious and they don’t have that fake taste I hate.
You know how they only serve gross black tea on planes? Well, guess what? If you love your tea and would like to have something better than the plain black tea, pack some tea bags and ask for some hot water. Drop the tea bag in, and voila! You have something much much better.
Sunglasses are super important, especially if you’re hypersensitive to sunlight like me. It’s frustrating when you leave the airport and the sun is fully shining down on you, and you have nothing to shield your eyes with because you packed your sunglasses in your checked in baggage. The best thing to do is pack your glasses in your carry on so that you have them at hand whenever possible.
Wallet and Passports
This is probably the #1 thing you need to always pack in your bag. The worst thing is not having your passport or money on you. What I usually do is transfer all of my necessary cards and money into my travel clutch, and then throw my wallet and its remainders into my checked bag. This way I reduce the amount of stuff I have, plus I keep everything organized in one place. The travel pouch I use can be found here. Both a friend and I have it, and we found it quite useful. There’s space for your passport, sim card, boarding pass, credit cards, and IDs and money. The only downside is that this thing is a bit difficult to close when you have two passports inside + a vaccination booklet. But I make it work.
These are the carry-on necessities that I’ve found most valuable during my travels. Obviously, other people might find some things unnecessary. My husband, for example, doesn’t travel with hand sanitizer or wipes or snack bars. But I’m the sort of person who likes to be prepared and I hate suffering when I know I could have prevented it by being prepared!
What do you put in your carry-on and what are your must-haves?