Carry This: 5 Essential Items to Keep in Your Carry-On Luggage

Packing is usually one of the least pleasant parts of trip planning. Use our guide of what carry-on items to pack so you'll be prepared for a great trip.

Packing is usually one of the least pleasant parts of trip planning, but obviously, it’s a necessary one.

On most airlines, you’ll be allowed to take one carry-on suitcase, as well as a purse or bag, on board the aircraft. Using that allowance to its best advantage is a good idea, so strategically planning the carry-on items you want to bring is important.

Don’t ever forget the golden rule of packing carry-on items: never overpack. We all know by now that airlines charge ridiculous fees for overweight or oversized luggage.

Avoid tears at the check-in or boarding gate by sticking to the limits. If you’re not certain about the rules and regulations of your airline, double-check on their website and avoid disappointment — or breaking the bank before the trip has even started.


Pack Smart Carry-On Items to Avoid Extra Fees

Checked luggage fees are now also the norm and not the exception among airlines. For many travelers, the carry-on has become their only bag. Whether this is the case for you or not (and if it is, congratulations on mastering the art of traveling with only a carry-on), these are the top five things that should always stay with you in your carry-on.


5.) A Change of Clothes

clothing in a suitcase

Luggage can and does get lost — trust us, we are speaking from experience. Wearing the same clothes for two or three days, or being forced to spend half your trip budget on a new wardrobe while you’re waiting for your suitcases to reappear can be irritating, to say the least.

Make the most of your space and weight allowance by packing wisely. Throw at least one or two shirts into the mix and a clean pair of pants. If you don’t have room to take a full change of clothes with you, put a pair of fresh socks and clean underwear amongst your carry-on items. These things can still be a huge help in the event of lost luggage or long and delayed flights.

You’re still looking for the right travel backpack or suitcase that will fit into the overhead locker without causing you to break a sweat before that 10-hour overseas flight has even started?

We’ve come up with a list of the best carry-on luggage on the market to help you on your way and make sure you have room for those essential clothing items.


4.) A Small Toiletry Kit

How to travel with a carry-on

It’s more than important to pack all the essentials to make your flight most comfortable.

After you’ve been on a flight for 10 or 15 hours, you’ll feel great being able to brush your teeth, wash your face or top up your deodorant. Keep a small bag with your essential hygiene items with you.

Tip: Face wipes are a real treat on those long flights. They allow you to freshen up whenever and wherever you need to.

Pack whatever toiletries you need in a toiletry bag to get through an overnight stay. If you like to wear makeup, bring some of those items if you’d like to be ready to go out on the town as soon as you arrive at your new destination.

A number of female travel products make your life on vacation so much easier. Menstrual cups, for example, are a real game changer for menstruating people who fly frequently. These cups will allow you to get comfy in your seat without having to worry about leaks or smuggling tampons to the loo.


3.) Medications

what to pack in your carry on

Any and all medications, be they prescription or over-the-counter, should come with you in your carry-on bag. If your flight is delayed or your luggage gets lost, you don’t want to be without your medicine. Medications and vitamins might be hard to find at your destination, so these are essential carry-on items to pack.  In addition, checked baggage is exposed to more extreme weather and temperature conditions, which can harm your medication or vitamins.

Tip: When you travel by air, carefully consider the benefits of a carry-on vs. checked bag and explore all of your options for the best travel experience. While some things like medications need to be in with your carry-on items, you may find that a checked bag suits your needs for many of your other items.


2.) Documents

bring important documents in your carry-on bag

This one sounds obvious, but there are people out there who have inadvertently packed their passport or ID in their checked luggage. Your ID, passport, driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards and so on should always be right with you, ideally in a travel purse. If you need a convenient way to store them, consider a passport holder (as recommended by travel experts).

If you’re required to have a visa for your destination of choice, keep a printed version of it in your hand luggage with all your other important documents, and be ready to present it upon arrival.

Any physical tickets — not just for flights, but also for events or venues you’ll be visiting on your trip — and reservation documentation for hotels, tours, as well as your travel insurance documentation, should also be essential carry-on items.

Tip: Travel insurance is a necessity to make sure your trip isn’t ruined by expensive emergency bills or other sudden expenses. We’ve uncovered why investing in good travel insurance is the smart thing to do.


1.) Valuables

How to pack a carry-on

Every year, people lose laptops, cell phones, jewelry and other valuables to theft at airports.

Did they get mugged? No, they packed these items in their checked luggage. Unfortunately, not every airport employee or inspector in the world is honest, and valuables can and do get stolen. Published reports indicate that theft from checked baggage continues to be a problem at airports around the United States.

Suitcase locks don’t do much to stop this either. The TSA has the legal right to remove your padlock, even if it’s a so-called “TSA approved” model. You don’t have a TSA-approved lock just yet? There is still time to get your hands on one! We’ve reviewed the top locks on the market to make your journey as hassle-free as possible.

To protect yourself, always keep your money, laptops, cameras, phones, mp3 players, watches, jewelry cash, and other expensive items with you. As a rule of thumb, if it looks as though it might bring a nice sum on eBay, don’t pack it in checked luggage. Keep an eye on your carry-on as you go through the airport, too. Some people have claimed that their items were stolen at security checkpoints.

Minimize the Number of Valuables You Bring

While your valuables should always be included in your carry-on items, consider taking fewer valuables than you think you need.

You likely don’t want to be without your camera or phone, but maybe you don’t need to bring your tablet, laptop and the most expensive watch you own. If you’re married, you’ll want to wear your wedding ring, but perhaps you can leave the other expensive pieces at home. Gifts may be safer to send them by mail, certified and insured, to your destination.

If you need to bring valuable items, invest in travel insurance. Some travel insurances will cover any lost or stolen property. This is the time to get coverage! Most airlines have a standard allowance for lost luggage and don’t cover the loss of expensive electronics or other valuables. With the post office or FedEx, however, you can ensure your package for whatever it’s worth and file a claim for full reimbursement if it doesn’t reach its destination safe and sound.


The way you pack your bags can play a huge part in whether your trip starts off on the right foot. A small amount of savvy can help protect you from heartache. Use these tips for what carry-on items to bring to help you make sure your travel experience will be a great one.