The Perfect Carry On Packing ListIt all comes down to packing. Hate it or love it, we can't leave without doing it.
Let’s talk about the ways to reduce stress, create a neat suitcase and remember all the essentials. There’s a few ways to “do it right” and we’ll show you just how that works. Also, you’ll need a secret ingredient to finalize the process... keep reading to find out what it is!
Must bring carry on essentials
Besides for your ID, Passport and tons of snacks… What else are you missing? Packing a carry on bag requires strategy. Once you master the strategy, you’ll be a happy packer in no time. Here’s a list of the most essential items you’ll need to pack in your carry on bag:
EzPacking’s Carry On Packing List
Whether you’re traveling for 5 days or 2 weeks, you can definitely use a Carry On Suitcase for all your items, no problem. We’ll show you how to pack, what to pack and what to leave at home.
✓ Passport - Put this baby in a special wallet or pocket. Before your trip, make sure it’s up to date and still valid.
✓ ID - You’ll be required to present identification proof for domestic flights. Presenting your driver’s license? Make sure that it was issued by a Real ID compliant state. Likewise if you’re presenting another government-issued ID.
✓ Boarding Pass / Check in 24 hours Before - Let’s be smart in this 21st century. Check in online 24 hours before. Save your boarding pass on your phone and phew you’re done! No more leaving your boarding pass in the girls bathroom.
✓ Itinerary - Creating a short list of the things you want to do or have planned is a great idea. Either pack in your carry on or keep it as a note on your phone.
✓ Hotel Bookings - Save your hotel bookings on your phone. However, we still like the added comfort of printed bookings (in case your phone gets lost or you can’t access WiFi).
EzPacking Tip: It’s easy for these items to find their way into the bottom of your bag! Keep them organized in an extra small cube instead. During airport security, just take out the cube and present the specific documents asked for. Tuck the cube away in an accessible but secured place in your bag (like the zippered pocket inside).
✓ Wallet - Make sure you take out all the unnecessary cards, gift cards, extra coins and receipts! You don’t need this extra bulk.
✓ Jewelry - Secure all your favorite necklaces and bracelets in this travel jewelry roll to avoid them getting tangled!
✓ Credit Cards - Place your credit cards inside an RFID-blocking holder to keep them safe from intruding scanners.
✓ Keys - Car keys, house keys… keep them organized and secured on a key chain holder. You’ll need to put all metal items in the security bin during TSA inspection but if you put them in your extra small cube, they should be easy to find!
✓ Smartphone - Make sure it’s charged the night before (and don’t forget the charger on your way out)! Save all the important docs to your phone BEFORE you leave, while you still have wifi. Keep your phone on airplane mode to save battery.
✓ Tablet / Kindle - Great entertainment options… Especially for a short flight where there’s no movie options.
Tip: Always download movies & shows before getting to the airport (you’ll need WiFi to do this in most cases).
✓ Laptop - Must have for business travelers! If you plan on doing some work on the flight, make sure to load your pages beforehand so the no WiFi doesn’t ruin your plans.
Tip: You can actually work / make changes in Google Docs offline and it will automatically save your work. Learn how to work in Google Docs offline here.
✓ Camera + Lenses - These can get damaged in checked luggage so it’s best to pack them in your carry on. Make sure to bring extra lenses just in case!
✓ Chargers - Pack your computer charger, phone charger, tablet charger and any others your can think of. It’s smart to bring a multi outlet wall charger, so you can charge all things at once!
✓ Power bank - Out all day and have 7% battery? No good. This is a handy device for keeping your gadgets charged on the go. We really like this portable charger from Anker (can charge your devices up to 5 times). Super useful when traveling!
✓ Adaptor - Must have when traveling internationally (so you can charge your gadgets in outlets on airports and hotels). Try this turquoise universal adapter for all UK / European Countries.
CLOTHES / SHOES
✓ Underwear - How many days will you be traveling? Bring a pair of underwear for each day. If it’s more than 10 days of travel, bring a couple of Tide Sink Packets for hand washing in your hotel.
✓ Tops - Pack at least 5 to 7 shirts you can alternate each day. For the ladies, bring an extra 3 to 5 blouses for night time / dressier nights. Chilly weather? Bring 2 to 3 long sleeve sweaters to throw on top on your short sleeve shirts. For men, bring 1 to 2 dress shirts.
✓ Sweater / Cardigan - Pack an oversized sweater or cardigan that you can use as a blanket when sleeping on the plane. We like this knit sweater for women (super soft) and this zip hoodie sweatshirt for men. You can throw this on to any outfit if the day is a little chilly.
✓ Packable Down Jacket - A huge must when traveling! Being able to pack your jacket into a little ball is the most convenient invention. Try out this lightweight down jacket that comes in multiple colors!
✓ Socks - Pack 1 pair of socks for each day. It can get cold on an airplane so pack an extra pair in your personal bag.
Shoes - If you actually want to fit into a carry on… You can’t bring all the shoes you want. Sorry but it’s true! This is VERY important and could be the reason why your stuff doesn’t fit into a carry on. Choose 2 to 4 shoes maximum!
○ Sneakers or Comfy Sandals - 1 pair of shoes for the day
○ Booties - 1 pair of shoes for the night
○ Athletic Shoes - 1 comfy or athletic pair (if your “daily shoes” are also your athletic shoes, even better). These Women’s Adidas Sneakers could work for both!
○ Flip Flops / Sandals - 1 pair of sandals (if you really need them for summer or beach vacations.)
EzPacking Tip: Use a medium packing cube to pack your shirts, shorts and leggings. Use a large packing cube for jeans, sweaters, and jackets. For your shoes, use a travel shoe bag to keep your other items protected from dirt.
AIRPLANE / SLEEP
✓ Eye Mask - This silky soft sleeping eye mask will put you to sleep in minutes!
✓ Earplugs - Must have if you’re a light sleeper... we recommend this ultra soft earplugs from Mack’s!
✓ Neck Pillow - This portable scarf neck pillow will make sleeping on a flight easier and comfier.
✓ Blanket Scarf - Another must have if you get cold easily. Try this handmade travel blanket that comes in a neutral color! Perfect for the airplane, restaurants that get cold or if you’re out for the day and need something to keep you warm at night.
✓ Toothbrush + Toothpaste Tabs - Pack a foldable toothbrush and a TSA compliant toothpaste. If you want to bypass the TSA rules about liquids and creams, you can also opt for a toothpaste tablet! They work the same way as a cream toothpaste but you need to chew them to activate them.
Fun Fact: if you have a Quip Electric Toothbrush, these fit perfectly into our Extra Small Cube.
✓ Shampoo + Conditioner - Bring your favorite (but travel size) shampoo and conditioner. An alternative is to bring instead a solid shampoo and conditioner bar!
✓ Body Wash / Soap - Don’t forget your go-to body wash or better yet, a solid bar of soap!
✓ Deodorant Wipes - They’re less bulky than deodorant sticks but work just as well! We love this individually packed deodorant wipes from La Fresh!
✓ Dry Shampoo - Washing your hair everyday while traveling simply doesn’t always happen. Dry shampoo is perfect for keeping your hair smelling fresh and less oily!
✓ Hair Brush / Comb - This little hair brush can remove tangles easily just like a regular-size one and is too cute to not pack in your carry on.
✓ Facial Wash - Pack your fave facial wash so you can freshen up after a long day of sightseeing!
✓ Moisturizer - Bring a travel size moisturizer (under 3.4 ounces) to keep your skin hydrated.
✓ Eye Drops - This tiny eye drops would fit well in your toiletry pouch! Traveling can make your eyes dry and itchy.
✓ Contact Lens + Solution - It’s best to use your glasses during the flight. But for the rest of the trip, bring your contacts and solution with you. Here’s a travel size contact solution version!
✓ Lip Balm - We like this tinted lip balm which keeps your lips moisturized and gives a little bit of color.
✓ Perfume - You can purchase your fave perfume in a travel size version.
✓ Hair Ties - These babies always seem to disappear! Bring 10 extra just in case.
✓ Hand Sanitizer - Clean hands means a lower risk of getting sick!
✓ Sanitizing Wipes - Handy for sanitizing your tray table, seat handles and any other place where germs lurk.
✓ Pads / Tampons - Pack enough for a week, just in case the destination doesn’t have your favorite brand.
EzPacking Tip: Remember the TSA liquids rule when packing your toiletries in your carry on. Our extra small cube is the perfect TSA approved toiletry bag. It’s just under quart size and is transparent! Compared to ziplock bags, this clear toiletry bag is more durable and comes with double zippers. Just pull it out during TSA inspection, place it in the security bin and breeze through security.
COSMETICS / MAKEUP
✓ Foundation - Transfer your fave foundation or cream into a TSA approved pump bottle like this one!
✓ Makeup Basics - powder, blush, highlighter, lipstick, mascara and eyebrow pencil. For the liquids, they must all be under 3.4 ounces and fit inside the quart size bag. The rest of your items can go into a clear makeup like this one above.
EzPacking Tip: The TSA liquids rule also applies to cosmetics including mascara and liquid lipstick. Make sure that all your liquids (including the toiletries) fit into your clear TSA approved toiletry bag.
MEDS / FIRST AID
✓ Prescription Medicines - Make sure they’re in the original bottles to avoid being questioned at the airport!
✓ Advil Packets - We like these individually packaged Advil tablets for travel.
✓ Allergy Medicines - Just a good idea to keep a couple of anti-allergy packets on hand especially when going to a new place.
✓ Nasal Spray - This nasal spray is under 3 ounces and perfect for the TSA liquids rule.
✓ Band Aids - We like these travel pack band aids!
Other important goodies you don’t want to forget
✓ Snacks - It’s important to munch on healthy snacks, especially on a flight when they only give you crackers or peanuts. Pack some healthy trail mix packs, dried fruit and granola bars for the flight and also for your hotel when breakfast isn’t part of the schedule.
✓ Mints / Gums - To keep your breath smelling fresh after meals.
✓ Tissues - Sometimes the plane just makes you have the sniffles. Also traveling to new places, new scents, new allergies… you just never know.
✓ Pen - Must have for filling out forms in the airport. Put in your zippered pocket in your purse.
✓ Hat - A great way to hide your messy hair when you just don’t care. Also, sun protection!
✓ Sunglasses - Bring your shades that make you feel fierce. Or the ones you wear everyday… that’s probably a better idea.
✓ Water Bottle - We like this stainless steel water bottle which keeps your drinks cold or hot for a long time. Make sure it's empty for the security line, but then remember to fill it up at a water fountain before the flight!
✓ Laundry Bag - It’s half way through your trip and half your clothes are dirty. Using a Drawstring Laundry Bag is so convenient and separates the clean from the dirty!
Tip: Hang the laundry bag from a chair or door knob for easy access.
Here’s how you should pack your carry on
So you have all your carry on essentials ready? Here’s some tips on how you should pack your carry on:
✓ Use clear packing cubes - Wouldn’t it be nice to have your suitcase organized into different sections? So when you need something, simply grab the cube that you need and you’re done. This clear packing cube Starter Set is the ideal set for carry on luggages. Unlike other mesh packing cubes, you can actually see what’s inside the cubes!
Separate the cubes by item:
1) Pants/sweaters into the Largest Cube
2) Shirts/dresses/leggings into the Medium Cube
3) Bras/Socks/Underwear into the Small Cube
4) Travel size toiletries into the Extra Small Cube
✓ Remember the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule -If you’re not familiar with the TSA liquids rule, we’ve got you covered! In a nutshell, all liquids, creams and gels in your carry on must be under 3.4 ounces in size. They must also fit in 1 quart size clear toiletry bag.
Need more info on this? Read this blog post.
✓ Don’t bring safety hazard items - Check this website to find out what items TSA allows (and don’t allow) in your carry on bag. Items like lighters, other flammable sprays and scissors more than 4 inches in length aren’t allowed in your carry on!
✓Backpack / Tote Bag - Pack these items in your personal bag to save space in your suitcase:
○ Toiletries (Extra Small Cube)
○ Makeup items
○ Foldable Jacket
*Tip: Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack the rest on the sides of your suitcase (on the outside of your packing cubes).
The best carry on bags we recommend
It’s a struggle to find the perfect carry on bag! It has to fit within the cabin limits, but you also want it big enough for all your cute shoes. Here’s some of our favorites:
✓ AmazonBasics Spinner Luggage (Hard Shell) - An affordable hard shell carry on suitcase that’s durable and spacious. It also fits our Packing Cube Starter Set perfectly! You’ll lay the cubes flat on either side of the suitcase, fitting them in like a puzzle. Comes in many colors.
✓ Swiss Gear 21’ Carry On Spinner (Soft Shell) - This classic black suitcase on wheels is perfect for carry on travel. You can fit a Packing Cube Starter Set and pack the cubes vertically, so the handles will be facing up. This make pulling out the cubes so convenient!
✓ Adidas Defender Duffel Bag - A great option for weekend trips! Pack 1 Medium Cube for clothes, 1 Small Cube for undergarments, and 1 Extra Small for toiletries with room to spare for a pair of shoes! Here’s a cute version for the ladies!
✓ Osprey Farpoint 40 Liter Backpack - Osprey is by far the best backpack brand out there. Their FarPoint series is ideal for backpackers. The 40 liter variant is good enough for a short trip and can fit more than a week’s worth of clothes. We love the quality of Osprey backpacks and the comfort they provide! You can organize this backpack with packing cubes as well. Pack 2 to 3 Small Cubes and 1 Extra Small for easy access to your items while on the go.
Now you know what essentials to pack in your carry on!
Get those packing cubes ready and start packing! Remember, less is more. Meaning...bring less shoes and one less outfit than you have planned. Also don’t forget to pack all your travel size TSA liquids into an Extra Small Cube.
Want a printable / downloadable version of this packing list?
Download the Free Printable Carry On Packing List here. Enjoy and safe travels!
- The EzPacking Team