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The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

The Ultimate Carry-on Packing Guide || All the best items + tips and tricks to help you conquer international and long-haul flights || Kristy Wicks

One of the biggest rookie mistakes that I used to make as a traveler is to not think through all the items that I should carry onto a flight in order to make my experience a comfortable one. While growing up my mom was a flight attendant and I traveled internationally quite a few times at a very young age. I took traveling for granted and I didn’t really prepare much or think about all the tiny details that were involved with carry-on baggage items. As a result, I spent many flights uncomfortable and extremely bored.

Now that I’m older, I plan and pay for all my own flights.. Packing matters a great deal to me and I’m always thinking about EVERYTHING that I need to take on the plane with me in order to make each trip as comfortable and entertaining as possible. Even while sitting in coach. ;) (Flight attendants and their families often get to sit in business and first class when it’s available..)

Since I have been sharing so many booking/traveling tips lately I thought this might be the perfect time to share everything that I bring along with me on all my domestic & international flights. You might not think this is important but if you have ever sat on a plane bored or uncomfortable than this post is for you..

Totes & Carry-On Bags

Depending on how long your trip is.. you may have to check a larger bag and carry on a tote for all your necessities or you may have a small suitcase and tote that you are carrying on with you. No matter, I have a few different options that I like to have just in case:

Best Carry-On Luggage 

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide || Everything you need on a long flight! Kristy Wicks
  • The Bigger Carry-On by Away: This luggage isn’t inexpensive however.. it’s SO high-end. I just bought mine and I’m so excited to use it for my Barcelona trip this spring. I love it for so many reasons.. it’s unbreakable, it comes with an ejectable battery that can charge your phone, it has a TSA-approved combination lock on the outside, 360 degree wheels, an interior compression system and a hidden laundry bag. If that’s not enough it’s guaranteed for life and it comes in 10 different color options. Click here to sign up for an account and receive $20 off your bag!

  • The Delsey Luggage: My mom has both of these luggages & they are truly amazing! Not only are they so stylish, but they are very high-end and beautiful. She’s had them for a year now and has taken them on many trips – both international and domestic and is very happy with her purchase. Once again, these are on the pricier end.. but they will last a lifetime! She uses the 21″ for her carry on, and the 25″ for checking. Both are on sale PLUS an additional 25% off right now! Click here to shop the carry on, and click here to shop the 25″.

  • CalPak 2-Piece Luggage Set: This is a great budget option at only $200 for the 2-piece set. It’s not going to be the most ‘high-end’, but they are aesthetically pleasing and should last you at least a few years! 8 color options. Click here to shop the 2-piece set!

Best Carry-On Totes:

  • CalPak Under-Seat Soft Carry-On: This bag is amazing.. it fits under the seat in front of you, it’s tiny wheels roll and it has a strap that enables you to attach it to your luggage. There are so many features, pockets and compartments – you can fit everything inside. It’s also 40% off right now and it comes in a few color options. Click here to shop.

  • MZ Wallace Metro Tote: I love this bag SO much. Obsessed!! It’s the perfect size for carry-on and it’s the lightest bag ever. It also comes in so many colors and pattern options. Click here to shop the tote.

  • Le Pilage Longchamp Large Tote: This bag is a CLASSIC. I have it in quite a few sizes and it’s durable, reliable, always cute and it holds so much stuff. The price is really great for a name brand bag.. I use it constantly. Click here to shop the tote.

  • Louis Vuitton Neverfull: I bought this bag for my mom for Christmas and she loves using it as her carry-on! It’s not only chic, it’s durable and it can hold so much! She loves the look and style.. plus it holds everything she needs and more. Click here to shop a used yet high-quality Neverfull. Click hereto shop her favorite purse divider that she uses to organize her Neverfull.

Extra’s that I love

  • Clear TSA-approved Toiletry Bags: With my Mom being a former flight attendant.. she has always encouraged me to bring a few of these bags with me. I always like to bring a few little liquid beauty items and toiletries with me in case the airline loses my luggage and these little packs save me! Click here to shop my favorite 3-pack.

  • Passport Wallet – I purchased this wallet for my trip to Thailand and it was SUCH a lifesaver. My passport used to float around inside of my bag and I was always worried that I would lose it. Now, my passport fits perfectly in my wallet without any worries for the long travel day. I love having everything in one place. It also comes in a few colors. Click here to shop my passport wallet.

Sleep Necessities

So important! Especially on long-haul international flights.. Sleep is a 100% requirement to helping beat jet-lag and super important for a great day ahead. I always like to bring along these 4 necessities to help me sleep on my flights.

  • Eyemask: My eye mask is my #1 must-have to help me sleep during any flight. I invested in a high-quality sleep mask and it has helped me so much more than some of the inexpensive masks I have grown used to using. My mom swears by them and never flies without one.. she even uses them while at home. My favorite? This Slipsilk pure silk sleep mask. The mask comes in a few different colors and my eyes NEVER have wrinkles or lines from using them! Click here to shop my favorite eye mask.

  • Travel Pillow: I prefer the aisle on all of my international flights (so that I can get up whenever I’d like!) so I need a nice travel pillow to help me with my slumber.. ( no window to lean on here) I love this pillow by AirComfy.. It folds into a tiny little bag and it inflates into a comfy soft pillow by using a built-in inflation pump. Click here to shop my favorite travel pillow.

  • Earplugs: Always a must have for quality shut-eye time. My Mom lives for earplugs and still sleeps with them every night. Se began using them during her flights and layovers and can’t imagine a night without them. I like to order a big pack from amazon and bring a few earplugs with me everywhere in a small Ziploc bag. Click here for the earplugs I like to use.

  • Travel Blanket: Most blankets are usually included as ammenties during all international flights however unless your flight is the first of the day.. your blanket may not be fresh and new. (things you learn as a flight attendant’s daughter) Eww. I always make room for a travel blanket inside of my bag so that I can keep warm during my flights. (I’m always freezing!) This is SUCH a comfy blanket that can turn into a poncho.. it also folds down really small which makes it easy to carry. Click here to shop my favorite travel blanket.

Entertainment

I hate being bored on a flight.. I always make sure to pack a few things to keep me entertained:

  • iPad Mini – I try really hard not to bring my laptop on vacation, so an iPad or iPad Mini is what I use for all entertainment. It’s the best size and fits perfectly inside my small totes. I love it because I can pre-download lots of books, Netflix shows/movies and YouTube videos before I board my flights. It’s amazingly convenient and it gives me hours of entertainment. I also find that it’s easy to pull out on buses/shuttles and more. Click here to shop my iPad Mini.

  • Headphones: It is essential to bring a quality pair of headphones for the plane/whenever you’re traveling. You never know if you’re going to have a screaming baby on your flight or talkers in the row behind you. I love this pair of noise-cancelling headphones for this reason. Click here to shop the headphones.

  • Power banks & Universal Adapters: Both important.. especially if you’re traveling internationally. I always bring power banks anywhere I’m going. When I flew to Bangkok I used two power banks that I love. They charged my phone and my iPad Mini multiple times. Universal adapters are important to bring if you’re visiting another country with a different outlet that’s different than what you a re used to using. Click here and here for the two power banks I love and click here for the universal adapter I have.

Beauty

I always bring a few essential beauty items to keep me feeling hydrated and fresh on all flights. All of these are must-haves on any carry-on check list.

  • Eye Cream – I hate the ‘tired eye’ look after traveling. Combat this by using a great eye cream! I love this eye cream which helps with wrinkles and tired eyes. Click here to shop the cream. Visine also helps with red eyes.

  • Moisturizer – My Mom has taught me that it’s so important to keep your skin moisturized! The air i the cabin of an airplane is extremely dehydrating. I always bring this special cream with me (Holy Grail product!) everywhere and I love it. It’s a small 2oz container so it’s TSA approved for carry-on. This cream clears up any dry patches that I have and it works so well. I always wear it during long flights. The smell is amazing. Click here to shop my favorite moisturizer.

  • Face mask – If I’m taking a long, international flight I always like bringing this face mask with me to help moisturize and make my skin feel beautiful. Once again, the air inside of an airplane dries out your skin and this mask is so helpful with hydration. I used to laugh at the thought of doing this on a flight but my Mom has taught me to do things for myself and not worry about people onboard. Most are sleeping anyhow and you would be surprised at the things people do in order to take care of themselves on flights. I love the Summer Fridays face mask for this reason.. it was created for airplane skin. Click here to shop.

  • Lip Balm – Always bring some sort of chapstick/lip balm on a flight! You need this for moisturizing. I bring my Rosebud lip balm. Click here to shop my favorite.

  • Hand Cream – I always bring a bit of hand cream to moisturize my hands during the flight. My favorite that every flight attendant swears by? The classic L’Occtaine Shea Butter. Click here to shop my favorite.

Emergency Toiletries

I always bring ALL of these items with me because they are SUCH lifesavers if anything goes wrong:

  • Deodorant – this brand is my fave!
  • Medication (I never check this in case they lose my luggage)
  • Tampons/Pads
  • Eye drops
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Toothbrush & mini toothpaste
  • Mascara/mini versions of makeup in case I lose my luggage
  • Flushable wipes
  • Makeup remover wipes
  • Mini version of shampoo/conditioner. I always bring my own and never use the hotel’s because of my thick & curly hair.

DON’T FORGET:

  • Copies of your passport/important documents: I always bring at least 2 copies of my passport when going overseas.. and I e-mail a copy of my passport to myself and family as well.
  • Travel Insurance: I’m going to be writing an entire post on this subject but don’t skimp on insurance! Insurance can cover you for everything: medical, evacuation, if you lose your luggage, if your flight/accommodation is cancelled & more! I get my insurance through World Nomads.
  • Valuables: Never check valuable jewelry or other items and ALWAYS bring them on with you. You don’t want anything stolen or lost.

I hope this post on what to pack in your carry-on has helped you! It taken me years to figure out everything that I need for flights. I have to say, it definitely helps having a Mom who traveled as a flight attendant for years. She has taught me so much about the importance of preparing for anything and everything. Now I travel happily and like a pro. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments below.

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The Ultimate Carry-on Packing Guide || All the best items + tips and tricks to help you conquer international and long-haul flights || Kristy Wicks

Click here to read other travel blog posts!

xo,

Emma

Thoughts?

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45 thoughts on “The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

  1. This is another great post, thank you for all the suggestions and recommendations! I have been looking for a tote that can be used as a purse in addition to bringing a carry-on, and I see a few on here that would work out well! Based off of your post I am in the process of ordering several items listed for an upcoming trip and future travel :)

      1. Hi Kristy, I got the travel pillow, which I have to say is the first one I found to actually be comfortable, and it feels so plush! I also got TSA approved toiletry bags, which hold so much more than a plastic quart bag and look so much nicer, more shoes bags and the blanket. After having looked at the Longchamp and MZ Wallace bags, I decided that I am going to get a MZ Wallace bag! Thanks so much for your recommendations, I am happy with all of my purchases!

        Leyla ?

      2. Hi Leyla,
        I’m SO glad you like everything you got! Yesss seriously.. the travel pillow is incredible. And we love the toiletry bags. They hold a lot! The MZ Wallace bag is my all-time favorite for an under the seat bag. Definitely a must-buy! xx

    1. Hi Hailey,
      Kristy here – this is a tough one! I would definitely go with the MZ Wallace bag (I personally use this bag constantly while traveling) but Emma loves her Longchamp and swears she can fit more into it. It’s really a personal preference since they aren’t that far off in price.

      Wish I could be more help! -Kristy

    1. Hi Amy,

      Surprisingly they all fit! Emma just went to Cabo this weekend and brought all of these items in her large carry-on size Longchamp tote. :)
      -Kristy

      1. Thank you for the response, so appreciated!! And what size organizer do you suggest for the Neverfull?

  2. Great ideas Kristy!!! These are all really necessary!!!! I just traveled to Minneapolis where my oldest son and his family live and you’re so right!!!! These are all the things I needed?

  3. I’ve never bought travel insurance before and have traveled a bit over the years. Fortunately had very few issues. In your experience have you needed the insurance, what kind of things have you claimed it for? Or is it more for peace of mind? We missed a flight once that meant we missed the connection and no way to get back to the US that day – the airline paid for the flight the next day but we had to pay for the hotel that night. would you have used it for a situation like that?

    1. Hi Rachael – Totally understand. The example you provided is exactly what travel insurance helps you with – they will help cover costs and give you money for hotels/things like that. I’ve never had to claim anything but I know plenty of people who have (lost luggage.. after 12 hours if it’s still missing you will receive $750 to get new clothes!) or even health problems (like if you need to go to the hospital or surgery!)

      There are so many reasons why I get travel insurance.. it’s mainly so I know that I’m covered if ANYTHING happens. Hope this helps. -Emma

  4. Love this post! I’m tempted to buy the Calpak Under the seat for my next trip! One question that I haven’t been able figure out is hot tools in Europe. Do you have a dual voltage flat/curling iron that you know works well overseas that you recommend? Or do you keep your hair natural?

    1. Hi Amy,

      Right?! That under the seat little bag is amazing!

      I personally keep my hair natural (this is Emma!) as it takes hours for me to do my hair anyways. OR I go for a blowout before my trip and go with that for a while.

      My mom bought a different flat iron/curling iron that works overseas – she bought hers in London but it wasn’t a specific brand or anything.

      Hope this helps. xx, Emma

  5. Have either of your used the packing cubes that I see popping up? I have heard rave reviews but do I really need them?

    1. Hi Lisa – I’m not sure which packing cubes you are referring to.. but yes! We both use packing cubes.. they are AMAZING. Gamechanger for packing!

  6. Thanks for this post! So many great ideas that I will be sure to use. Do you take snacks with you when you travel?

    1. Hi Stephanie – Emma and Kristy here! We both bring snacks with us.

      Emma: Dried fruit, candy bar, trail mix, small bag of baked chips (not all of these things, usually just 2!)
      Kristy: Nuts, m&ms!

      If it’s a longer flight – we both stop by a nice deli in the airport and get a healthy sandwich with turkey or avocado (no mayo!) and lots of veggie. We try and avoid salt because of bloating on the plane.

      Hope this helps!

  7. I bought the wallet and the quart size bags, so useful. I’m thinking about the carry on.
    These are great tips. We are getting ready for a trip to Croatia!

    1. I’m so glad this post helped you Cindy! Both of those items are literally my lifesavers, haha. Yeah I’ve changed over from being an only check my bag type of girl to carrying on.. so much easier and with my new bag – it’s even easier!

      Have so much fun in Croatia.. definitely on my bucket list! I want to do a sailing trip there. The water is gorgeous!!

      xx, Emma

  8. Thanks for more great info! Love the travel posts… Do you have any recommendations on traveling with a backpack type carry on only? Heading to Africa in June, and trying to pick a backpack carry on (no suitcase allowed) to be able to take everything with me for 14 days! Not sure this is possible, ha ha.

    1. Hi Cyndi – Yes it’s definitely possible. ;) I backpacked Thailand with a carry-on backpack and it actually wasn’t that hard.. just re-wear clothes. But I also packed with packing cubes very deliberately and diligently. It’s worth it:)

      The backpack I have is this one: https://rstyle.me/+Xzx6KqyDsnuWXN7uh1zijQ It is truly the best backpack for travel.

      Hope this helps! xx Emma

  9. Thanks for all the travel tips. My daughter is getting ready to study abroad in London this summer – do you have any tips on must haves?? She’ll be there for 7 weeks and I want her to be prepared for everything :)
    Thanks So Much –

    1. Hi Cathy,
      How fun for her.. I’m jealous. London is one of our favorite cities ever!! :)
      Honestly, London is SO much like the U.S.. you can get anything over there that you can get here. I would definitely make sure to buy a new flat iron/curling iron over there though because the voltage of ours will blow over in London.
      xx, Kristy

  10. Thanks for all the travel tips. My daughter is getting ready to study abroad in London this summer – do you have any tips on must haves?? She’ll be there for 7 weeks and I want her to be prepared for everything :)
    Thanks So Much –

    1. Thanks Cathy! We love London and plan to do a London Travel Guide soon. We have been many times! It’s one of our favorite cities and Jeff goes for work often. :)

  11. LOVE this post!! I have been traveling much more lately and this is so… helpful. I have some purchases to make;)) Kristy- On your insta story you talked about the bag you loved with all the pockets( same brand as the tote) . What was that called? That seemed perfect for me. I have a bag right now, but it is already heavy and when I put in all my stuff it is like carrying bricks.

    Thanks!!!
    Have a good day!

    Cheryl

  12. Wish I had these tips last month! I had such icky skin and definitely needed a better bag for under the seat AND ended up buying a neck pillow from the airport on the way home. Definitely a necessity with 11 hours of flights plus layovers ?.Learned the hard way- Saving for next time!! Xoxo

  13. Loved this post. Made a list from it … 10 days until we leave for Portugal for 32 days! Feels like there’s still so much to do! Your travel blog posts are the best.

  14. I love this very thoughtfUl and thorough list. I am usually over-prepared when traveling and you really have thought of everything!

  15. Great post. Thank you so much! DO EITHER of you use compression socks For long haul fliGhts? I always pack socks in my carryOn bUt have been thinking compression socks might be good Idea for long Flights?

  16. I checked with your ins company you recommended. And they only ins up to 69? IS this This the norm? Thanks jan

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