What to Pack in your Carry On Bag

The never-ending dilemma, what do I pack in my carry-on bag? Now I’m talking about the small bag that goes under the seat in front of you on an airplane. Not the suitcase you put in the over-head bin.

When I first started flying, I always ended up forgetting something when packing my carry-on. I would either forget it at home or it would be in my checked bag. Either way I would be looking for it and I’d end up having to buy it at the airport (which was never cheap). So I came up with my perfect list and it’s made traveling significantly easier. 

The Bag

Let’s start with the most obvious thing you will need. A bag to put everything in. I switch between these 2 bags depending if I’m flying for personal or work travel.


– I use this bag if I don’t need to have a certain “look”. If I could get by using this bag for every trip I definitely would. However, it doesn’t look as “professional” as I’d like for work travel.
– It’s extremely easy to carry and it holds everything I need.
– I’ve used it for over 10 years. So I know where all the pockets are. I put everything in the same spot every time. No surprises.

Rolling Laptop Bag

– I use this bag if I have to travel for work because it has a more professional look.
– It’s still incredibly easy to carry (roll) because it’s on wheels. It also has a back strap so it slips right over my checked bag.
– It has a lot of pockets including one specifically for my laptop and another for my iPad.


This might seem pretty obvious, but I’ve known several people who have forgotten their wallets while traveling. They just assumed they took it. Never assume, double check. Make sure it has the following items in it.

– ID or Passport
– Credit Card(s)
– Cash
– Insurance Cards

Travel Documents

Plane ticket. You won’t get far without it. I usually have mine on my phone instead of a paper copy but whatever floats your boat.

I usually have a small itinerary I print out. It includes my flight information (including any connecting flights), my hotel information, travel dates as well as whom I’m traveling with and emergency contact information. In the event that something happens and you can’t talk to emergency personnel they will have your information readily available.


*For every electronic I take I also pack the charging cable. Definitely don’t want to forget those!


I keep my calendar, notes, documents, etc. all on my cellphone. I definitely could not travel without it.

I also carry a spare battery. I don’t want to leave home with 100% battery life and get to the airport with 5% due to some fluke. Better safe than sorry.


I always carry my iPad regardless where I go. My kindle app is on my iPad and that’s usually what I read on. I don’t like to travel with books. When traveling I also load it with 2 – 3 movies before hand so I have something to do on the plane aside from reading.


My family is very pro Apple (we could definitely be spokespeople) so I use a macbook air. It’s very light but still does everything I need. I usually only bring my computer if I’m traveling for work. If I have extra time on vacation I don’t want to be tempted with work.

Beats Wireless Headphones

I wouldn’t be able to listen to music, movies or audiobooks without headphones.

Side note: I like the over the ear headphones because it will also block out the sound of the plane. They also don’t hurt my ears like ‘in-ear’ headphones.


Now I’m not saying you should pack your entire pantry and fridge. Leave the fried chicken at home.I would on the other hand recommend granola bars. They are healthy (usually) and will keep you feeling full until you can get a full meal.

Chocolate! Ok, I might be a sucker for sweets but I would recommend something to keep your energy up if you have a long day of traveling.

Empty Water Bottle

Do not try to go through security with a full bottle of water! They will make you throw it away and that’s just a waste of money.

Take your water bottle from home and fill it up when you get through security. I use one like this Contigo brand.

I would also recommend only drinking water while traveling. It will be easy on your stomach and won’t give you a crash later in the day like soda or coffee will.


If you take any medication every day make sure you pack all of it in your carry-on bag. In the event your checked bag gets lost or delayed, you don’t want to have to worry about not having your medication.

I always make sure I have Tylenol and Advil just in case as well.

Extra Change of Clothes

This may seem like a “mom” thing to do but I always pack an extra outfit in case I spill or rip something.

If I travel for work I make sure to pack an extra “nice” outfit. If your checked bag gets lost you want to make sure you have an appropriate outfit to wear to a meeting until you can get more clothes.

When traveling for fun I pack an extra outfit so I don’t have to worry about pulling out clothes from my checked bag right when I get to my destination. Especially if I’m leaving Wisconsin in December (10 degrees) and ending up in Florida (80 degrees). My outfit probably won’t be weather appropriate.

Well that’s everything I take with me. It might seem like a lot and some of it may seem obvious but I found I use everything and I’m a list person. It makes me feel more organized and in control. Is there anything you always take with you when traveling? Let me know!

What to pack in your carry on bag

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