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11 Things You Should Always Pack In Your Carry-On

11 Things You Should Always Pack In Your Carry-On

Traveling can be stressful and from personal experience, it can be easy to forget everything you need when you’re packing.

Today I’m sharing with you the 11 things that you should always pack in your carry-on when you’re going on a trip.

The 11 things you should always pack are necessities and you’ll be glad you packed them ahead of time!

Also, you can find a packing list of everything you’ll need in your carry-on at the end of this article.

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Related: 13 Airport Hacks That Will Change Your Life

1. Plastic Baggies

Have you ever gone through security, and as you’re putting your things on the carousel to be x-rayed you suddenly remember you have your favorite body oil/hand sanitizer/small bottle of liquid and it’s not in a quart-sized bag?

Or when your bag gets pulled and you watch the TSA pull out your shampoo bottle and throw it away? It sucks.

Don’t let this happen to you and bring a few extra sandwich bags with you, just in case you run into this situation.

You won’t know you forgot to put something in your checked bag until it’s almost too late!

2. Socks

Airport floors as straight-up NASTY! You will be so happy if you pack socks in your carry-on if you accidentally wear sandals or some sort of shoe that doesn’t require socks, like crocs!

I don’t judge–maybe its summer or you just grabbed the first shoe you saw in a sleepy haze at 4 am when you were leaving your house to catch your flight.

Regardless, do not be that sad barefooted person walking through security trying not to think of all of the germs and yuck your feet are touching!

My skin is crawling just thinking about it! This won’t be you, however, because you packed a pair of socks in your carry on, and you can give yourself a high five for avoiding a gross situation!

I love these compression socks for air travel, especially if you have a long flight! Click here to check them out!

3. Phone Charging Bank & Charger

I always bring my phone charger with me and a charging bank for the plane!

Have you ever noticed you are waiting for your plane and you are getting low on your phone battery that’s supposed to last through the flight so you can listen to your favorite podcast?

Or maybe you missed your flight and have to hang out at the airport for 4 hours like me as I’m writing this article?

Well, lucky you packed a phone charger/bank! If you are lucky enough to find an open outlet at the airport, which sometimes can seem impossible, you’re in business to charge up your phone for the flight.

If that’s the case and you have time, try finding an empty gate and you’ll probably find some empty outlets.

However, if you don’t have time and there aren’t outlets on your plane, you can always charge it from your battery bank!

This charging bank is my favorite! Click here for more info!

4. Empty Water Bottle

Most airports have a filtered water bottle filling station. At least the ones I’ve been to recently!

I live in Colorado so I’m always flying out of DIA and there are filtered water bottle filling stations at every terminal!

Also, traveling –especially on a plane– can be very dehydrating. Personally, that tiny cup of water you get halfway through your flight just doesn’t cut it for me.

So, I always make sure to bring an empty water bottle and save myself a few bucks on an overpriced one at an airport store!

I really like this one! Click here to check it out.

5. Cord Organizer

I literally travel with a million cords. Okay, maybe not literally, but that’s what it feels like.

When I’m packing for vacation I bring my phone charger, an extension cable (so I can lay in bed and charge my phone, feel free to steal this hack LOL), my FitBit charging cable, my laptop cord, and my Kindle charging cord. SO MANY CORDS!

My carry-on has a designated pocket for my mass of cords that I don’t dare open.

However, I use my phone for pretty much all of my entertainment when traveling, who doesn’t? And sometimes you need to charge it before you fly so you can stay entertained and you need to go fishing in the cord pocket and dig around and unravel your cord. SO FUN! Not.

These cord organizer babies seriously save you all of that wasted time and energy you spend digging around in your cord pocket by keeping everything nice and organized.

You can group your cords together and keep them raveled and neat and seriously, I consider this a necessity for your carry-on!

6. Snacks

I love snacks. I’m a snacker and I’m proud. I’m getting hungry just talking about snacks, it’s a good thing I keep some in my carry-on! (See what I did there?)

But in all seriousness, pack yourself some snacks because there is nothing worse than your stomach grumbling while you’re sitting on your plane en route to your destination.

Maybe you’re looking at the menu, questioning if the $7 bag of chips is really worth it, or if it’ll make you bloated so you’ll have to drink a bunch of water from your water bottle (that you filled up at the airport) before you can go swimming when you get to your hotel.

Or you could remember that you packed yourself some healthy snacks in your carry-on! Woohoo!

7. Valuables

A few years ago when I was traveling with my family our luggage got lost. Which is something that’s happened two more times since and is just oh so much fun (JK, obviously).

Anywho, my sister was with us and when we were trying to figure out what to do next at the airport, form a game plan, since our luggage was GONE and my sister remembered she left a piece of really nice jewelry in her checked bag.

I think it was a few hundred dollars worth, but nonetheless an expensive piece of jewelry. In the checked. Lost. Bag. That was gone.

Don’t let this happen to you! On the bright side, we were able to recover our lost bag and she got her jewelry back, but regardless, always bring anything valuable with you on your carry-on. You never know if it’s going to get lost or stolen.

8. Earphones

You’re probably thinking, duh Ali. Fair. However, headphones are a necessity you should always have packed in your carry-on, so they belong in this article, thank you very much.

We both know those cheap plastic airplane headphones that they give you when you forget your own suck and hurt your ears. You might as well not use them.

Save yourself the hassle and make sure you put them in your carry-on.

I LOVE these Bluetooth ones!

9. Wipes

You should always keep a package of travel wipes in your carry-on. You can get them in the travel section of the store and are the greatest thing to bring with you.

If you think about it, hundreds of people are sitting in that seat and you don’t know the last time it’s been sanitized.

I guarantee you when they clean the plane in between flights they are not wiping down and sanitizing those trays.

If you plan to use the tray for any reason, I highly recommend wiping it down before you do. Especially if you are going to put your food or drinks on it.

10. Toiletries

Unfortunately, sometimes your travel plans don’t go the way you planned them.

Whether your flight gets pushed back, canceled, or your checked bag gets lost.

Hopefully, this won’t happen, however, if it does happen to you, you’ll be happy you are prepared for it!

I always bring a pair of undies or two, tampons/pads, and a toothbrush and toothpaste in my carry-on. Just in case!

Something that would make losing your luggage or being stranded at an airport for several hours or overnight even worse than not being able to brush your teeth or put on a fresh pair of undies.

11. Medication

This one goes along with my previous items of in case your checked luggage gets lost.

You would have a bunch of hoops to jump through to get another prescription on top of trying to get your checked luggage recovered.

Save yourself the headache and just throw it into your carry-on even if you know you won’t need it on your flight.

There you have it! 11 things I think you should always have packed in your carry-on when traveling on your next trip!

Pin this for later and check out my related article: 13 Airport Travel Hacks That Will Change Your Life

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  1. Bonnie says:

    Also, an extra change of clothes. When. Flew to Paris, I got to the airport and gate early and bought a big coke with ice. They didn’t secure the top and it spilled all over my white blouse. If only I’d packed a spare top. I was miserable.

  2. Barbara says:

    Ever since I spent a couple of days without my bag, when going to a hot place, I pack a pair of sandals at the bottom of my carry-on (it was too hot to wear socks, and I got blisters from my shoes without socks), as well as my toothbrush and make-up, which I had to replace. And of course glasses and sunglasses. I also like to have a puzzle book or something for when my iPad is out of power.

  3. Patti says:

    Thanks for all the ideas. Super helpful!!

  4. Alle says:

    As mentioned in other comments, I carry a photo of my passport in my phone; I also have printed ones I can add in case my phone gets lost/stolen. For the same reason, we carry a plastic 8/5 x 11 envelope with printed copies of train tickets, plane tickets, hotel confirmations, etc. Overkill, maybe, but it has happened when suddenly we had a to gate check a carry-on and forgot the phone was in an outside pocket…phone was stolen. We try to always do all carry-on (so far we’ve done so for a 3-week trip). However, if you have to check a bag or get the inconvenient gate-check (that resulted in our bag left on the tarmack), have a photo of your bag in your phone and print-out for the above mentioned document packet. If you’ve ever rocked the lost luggage claim line, you know who essential this is. (side tip: don’t buy a black suitcase. If you already own one you love, put something very bright on it that cannot be removed.) We also started using airtags after the bag-on-tarmack incident.

  5. Christy says:

    This is my first time on a plane and in an airport,thanks for the heads up.

  6. Laureen says:

    Thanks for the valuable advice. It takes the stress out of packing.

  7. Grace says:

    Allergy tablets/pills, and more important Alka-Seltzer Heartburn Relief Chews and Gas Relief. The last time I ate at the airport, something did not sit well in my stomach and I was miserable through the whole time at the airport and an airplane. Now, I carry my tablets heartburn and gas relief – just in case.

  8. Renee says:

    This was super helpful! thank you

  9. Heather says:

    When traveling to a cold destination, wear your big coat on the plane and keep a pillow case folded up in the pocket. Then when you take off for your destination, put the big coat in the pillow case (I like the ones that zip shut) and it turns into a travel pillow. It also helps keep your coat clean if you need to put it under the seat or in the overhead bin!

  10. Jan says:

    A few years ago I was traveling frequently. I had a check list of what to pack and things to do before I left. (empty the trash) I also kept small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste & toothbrush, etc. packed in my carry-on ready to go. This came in very handy when my husband ended up in the hospital in Iowa and I had to catch a 6am flight at DIA.

  11. Mick says:

    Not just spare undies: panty liners too – wear one, carryon extra. Lost luggage…

  12. Deborah says:

    Good article. I travel quite a bit, both in the States and abroad, and you hit the nail on the head all the way through. Good travel pointers.

  13. Veronica says:


  14. Justin says:

    you might wear it, or carry it, but, my go-to travel kit always includes:
    a hoodie – warm, cozy, and you can always roll it up into its hood to be a pillow.
    a shemagh – there are so many uses. worst case, after over-indulging at the duty free, you can tie it into a bag to be your “personal item”, and, like the hoodie, you can fold it up to be a cozy pillow. If you’re not interested in the “tactical” look, some other large square loosely woven scarf.
    my toiletry bag – delays, lost luggage, and overnights happen; at least you can brush your teeth and not stink.
    a “ranger roll” of socks, undies and t-shirt. takes little room, and, if the unexpected happens, you will be glad you have it.
    charger and cables for tech in an organizer pouch – as mentioned in the article, digging/sorting through many cables just sucks.
    a little emergency cash – because I just always have…

  15. Jen says:

    I bring gum (to help eat pressure) & airborne tablets (to hopefully keep me healthy)

  16. Anne says:

    I do the same, but add at least one clean set of underthings to my carry-on. Remember: Lost. Luggage. For a week… 🙂

  17. Lisa B. says:

    I always pack a tee shirt. It’s something to sleep in if my checked bag goes missing and you won’t have to purchase a $25 tee in the gift shop. Been there😬

  18. Patti says:

    And dont forget to check your airline’s allowed weight & size of your carry-on, because nothing’s worse than having to repack and shift things to the checked luggage on the ground in front of the check-in counter. Even worse, if they check through your carry-on and charge for extra baggage

    • Alle says:

      @Patti, we had to repack our carry-ons at check-in once to distribute the weight so that they were both within weight limit. It was a pain.

    • Angie says:

      Right up until that ‘last minute’ when you leave for the airport…take a look at the seating availability. If it is fully/mostly booked, you will likely find them checking carry-ons for free. (Either at the gate or even at the baggage drop!) Worth it to stop at the check-in lane, even if you don’t plan to check a bag, and give a listen to the check-in folks.

    • Mick says:

      @Patti, And always weigh luggage before leaving the house factoring at 2 lbs. under that limit. Scales vary & they will charge you.