Packing for any trip can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when you’re dealing with different climates, weight limits, and size constraints. While you can generally stuff your checked luggage to the brim without too much care or worry, your carry-on bag requires a different set of rules to follow because of more restrictive size and weight constraints on what you can take on board the plane. You’re also limited to what items you can even bring with you. Lastly, there’s more pressure to pack the right items that will prove useful to you as you make your journey. If you need a good starting point for what to pack in your carry-on, consider tossing in these essential items first and foremost.

Baby Wipes

what to pack in your carry-on: Closeup woman hand holding wet wipes from package.

The best travel items are those that are versatile and multi-purpose. Baby wipes are a must have item for any trip for its multiple uses. It’s great to clean your hands and face after a meal. Also, right before you land, rather than carry face wash and soap, you can use a baby wipe as a quick refresher and mini-shower. And, if you run out of toilet paper on the plane, you’ve got a backup!

Compression Socks

Airports and airplanes are notoriously cold, and your sensitive feet are going to be the victims of these freezing temps. At the same time, air travel days also mean lots of time off your feet and in your seat. To combat two problems with one item, you can pack a pair of compression socks in your carry-on bag. Compression socks keep your feet warm on flights. They can also help with blood circulation and prevent swelling. In the case of long flights where you have to be seated for several hours, a pair of compression socks can reduce your risk of getting a blood clot.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

what to pack in your carry-on: amenities kit on gray background

Those cheap round trip flights you booked may mean you spend a lot of time flying or in transit. When you’re on a long flight or stuck in a layover, the worst feeling is an unclean mouth. Besides wiping your face down, a quick dental clean in the restroom can make for a better feeling during those long travel days. Think about all the people you have to talk to; it’s nice to have a fresh mouth and not worry about bad breath.

Hand Sanitizer

Over the course of your day spent touching security bins, door handles, and seat tray tables, you can start to feel a little germy in the airport and on the airplane. One of your best defenses against catching a bug while you travel is using hand sanitizer religiously throughout your travel day. If you have a bottle in your carry-on bag, you can quickly protect yourself from catching a cold from your seat mate in 22F.

Granola Bars

what to pack in your carry-on: Little boy drinking water and eating snack during the flight.

You can’t always rely on food on the plane to be served fast, or for it to be a delicious filling meal. Most carriers don’t serve food until an hour into the flight. Put your hunger at bay by throwing a few granola bags into your carry-on bag. This is also great for unexpected plane delays when food isn’t readily available or when you don’t want to pay for expensive airport food.

Ziploc Bags

Another versatile travel item to have is a few Ziploc bags. You can place any garbage you accumulate on board the flight in these bags when the flight attendant is taking too long to collect your trash. You can use Ziploc bags to keep your carry-on bag organized and tidy for long travel days as well. Ziplocs also come in handy for trivial purposes, such as storing an opened potato chip bag, or to throw your jewelry in that you removed during a flight.

Mini Flashlight

what to pack in your carry-on: mini flashlight

A mini flashlight is also a must-have item for any trip. While a lot of people rely on the torches on their phones nowadays, there may be times when you may have to switch off your phone during a flight or you forgot to pack your phone charger and your battery is running low. A mini flashlight can help save the day in such situations. Also, rather than using the larger overhead light to look for something, use your mini flashlight as a courtesy to the passenger next to you. A book light also works as a great substitute to use as both a reading light and mini flashlight.

Small Blanket

On some flights, carriers are now charging for what used to be free items. This includes the small blanket that sometimes barely covers a tall individual. Travel blankets are lightweight and portable, so having one in your carry-on is a must. It also doubles up as a pillow if you scrunch it up the right way.


what to pack in your carry-on:Cheerful female passenger in headphones for noise cancellation watching online movie during intercontinental flight in cabin of aircraft

Face it, we all know the headphones given on the plane are usually inadequate. Bringing a pair of decent headphones will save you the trouble of pestering the flight attendants about non-functioning headphones. Trust us: you don’t want to be twiddling your thumbs, staring at a movie you can’t listen to because you forgot your own set of headphones!

You may also enjoy reading: How to Pick the Perfect Carry-On Luggage for Travel

Ear Plugs

While headphones can come in handy for listening to music and podcasts on a flight, all that noise might keep you up if you’re trying to get some sleep. Especially on long-haul flights, you’ll want to toss in some ear plugs to drown out all of those cabin dings and noisy passengers. Even just having muffled noise can go a long way toward a more stress-free flight.

Rubber Bands

what to pack in your carry-on: Pile of colorful rubber bands over blue background

Although it may sound obscure, you’ll realize how handy it is to have rubber bands in your carry-on. You can use rubber bands to wrap up your hair (carefully) when your hair tie breaks. It can be used to secure a broken item, to wrap bigger items into a compact size, and to make a rubber band ball when boredom strikes!

Reusable Water Bottle

Air travel can be quite dehydrating, which in turn can make you feel sick before you even touch down. To help fend off jet lag and illness, you need to stay hydrated as you make your way on through airports and on airplanes. By packing a reusable water bottle, you can fill up whenever thirst strikes. You can even ask the flight attendant to fill up your water bottle with much more liquid than those tiny in-flight cups can hold.

What items must you have in your carry-on bag? Share your essentials with us in the comments below!

One Response

  1. ZipSetRachel

    Great article – baby wipes and ziplock bags sound like a great idea. I just got an iGo – portable phone charger that runs of 2 AA batteries that I don’t think I am going to be able to live with out.


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