Since I’m traveling today to Dakar, Senegal (my 30th country!), I figured I’d share what I pack in my carry-on. I’m always curious about what other people pack in their carry-ons, too, as it gives me insight into who they are as a traveler and I sometimes get new ideas.
As a frequent traveler, I have, through trial and error, perfected my carry-on packing. Here’s what I take with me for most trips, however, a few things change depending on where I’m going, the length of my flight/trip, and the weather.
My Carry-On Bags
I brought both of my carry-on bags for this trip, but sometimes I only take one or the other. I have a Samsonite Mightlight Spinner 30 rolling bag. What I love about it is that it is super lightweight (less than 6 lbs.), can expand to fit more stuff (for when I shop too much!), fits in the overhead bins (even on smaller planes), and has a front pocket for my laptop, which makes it so easy to go through security. I also have a Samsonite Mightlight Boarding Bag, which has a loop on the back so it fits on the handle of my rolling bag. I like the front pockets because they provide organizational pockets for things I need to find quickly and a small zipped pocket with easy access to my passport and phone. There’s a side pocket that’s open for a water bottle, which is very convenient. The back of the bag unzips on three sides, revealing a packing area that can hold a surprisingly large amount of stuff! It has straps inside, too, that can be used to pack clothes. The back flap also has a zippered pocket that is great for holding my iPad. Within these bags, I always have a smaller zipped bag to hold toiletries and other odds and ends.
Now onto the contents of my carry-on(s).
- Wallet: Duh! I take out all non-travel essentials before I go so that it’s less bulky.
- Passport: I keep mine in a cute holder so it’s easy to find and is protected.
- Pens: It’s always good to have a pen for filling out departure and arrival cards in many countries. Bring more than one and you can loan one to that seatmate who doesn’t have one. They’ll thank you for it.
- Tempurpedic neck pillow: Seriously the best thing ever! My friends generally make fun of me for bringing this, but it is essential for helping me sleep on planes, which is very important to me. Plus, I use it as my pillow in hotel rooms when the hotel looks a bit sketch. *I’ve tried many neck pillows (inflatable, the one with the pills in it, etc.) over the years, and this is by far the best.
- Large scarf: This can obviously be used as a scarf in cold weather, but I always travel with one and use it as a blanket. Planes are usually very cold! Mine is from American Eagle (2015). It is soooo soft and warm, and it is long enough to reach my feet and still go up to my neck.
- Eye mask: I cannot sleep when it’s light out, so I put on my eye mask to tune everything out and catch some zzz’s!
- Sleepphones: Have you ever tried to fall asleep on a plane when there’s a crying baby or people around you who won’t stop talking? OMG! So annoying! I have to block out the noise somehow. I used to just wear ear buds, but even the most comfortable ear buds begin to hurt when you’re on a 12-hour flight. Sleepphones are headphones that don’t hurt your ears. Basically you wear a headband around your head, positioning the speakers over your ears, and voila! you can tune everything out while saving your ears!
- Comfy socks: I love taking warm, fuzzy comfy socks to change into when you are on the plane. I hate wearing shoes when I’m seated, and my feet get cold. Plus, bare feet on an airplane is just gross!
- Refillable water bottle: It’s so important to drink tons of water when you fly! The flight attendants will fill it up for you if you ask. It’s much easier to keep at your seat than the little water cups they give you. My favorites are Camelbak and S’well.
- Face lotion: I apply anytime my face feels dry/tight. I keep mine in a contact lens case, as it provides just the right amount for airplane rides.
- Lip balm/Chapstick: My favorite is Lucas’ Papaw ointment from Australia. I am in love with this stuff, and apply several times during the flight!
- Eye drops: Airplanes seriously dry you out, but having eye drops really helps keep your eyes hydrated.
- Hand cream: My hands are always dry, but an airplane brings a whole other level of dryness! I have to apply hand cream a few times during each flight. My favorite is Body Shop hand cream in Wild Argon Oil scent.
- Laptop and charger
- iPad and charger
- Ear buds
- Camera and lenses, accessories, charger, etc.: I have a Canon Rebel XS and a Go Pro. Sometimes I take both; sometimes I take one or the other. It really just depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing.
- Book: I don’t always take an actual book, although it is nice to have. Sometimes I just read on my iPad to save room and weight in my luggage.
- Writer’s notebook: I sometimes take my writer’s notebook to jot down my observations or thoughts while traveling. Other times I use my laptop or other device to record my thoughts.
- Colgate Wisps (disposable toothbrushes): These are great for when you want to freshen up while at your seat. Did you just eat something garlicky? How about drinking a Coke or juice? Before taking a snooze, freshen your teeth and breath!
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste: I collect those free ones that many airlines give out, since they are small and compact. This is great for those long-haul flights (8+ hours) when you need to fully brush your teeth or for when you land at your destination (or layover) and want to freshen up.
- It’s Potent Eye Cream by Benefit: This is a great product to dab under your eyes after a long flight. It helps brighten you up and makes you look more awake than you really are. I store this in the other half of the contact lens case.
- Assorted medicine: You never know if you will get sick when you are traveling or on a plane, and finding meds in a new country can prove to be difficult, so I always take a few pills that I might need. If I end up getting really sick, these few pills will tide me over until I can find a pharmacy. You’ll always find Tylenol, allergy pills, Pepto Bismol pills, Oscillococcinum, and Melatonin in my bag.
- Basic make-up: I usually have mascara, tinted moisturizer, blush, and lip gloss with me so I can freshen up when I arrive at my destination.
- Face wipes: It’s always great to have a couple face wipes on hand to clean up the gunk around your eyes after your nap. I don’t usually travel with make-up on, but if you do, these are great for removing make-up, too.
- Roll-on perfume: These things are great! Not only can you travel with your favorite scent(s) and save on luggage weight, you can use it to freshen up or sniff when someone/something around you is stinky.
- Hand sanitizer: Airplanes breed germs! Sanitizer helps. That is all.
- Sanitizing wipes: Again, germs! These are great for wiping down your tray or washing your hands after eating.
- A few tampons: Because you never know when you (or a friend) might need them.
I don’t really like airplane food, and I’m a vegetarian, so I choose to bring my own food to snack on during the flight(s). Here’s what I brought today:
- apples and peanut butter
- dried apple rings
- chocolate-covered rice cakes
- tea bags
- I also bought a pasta salad in Paris for the long flight to Dakar.
- Hair ties: I keep these in several locations just in case.
- Foldable travel brush: Helps tame my wild hair, especially after I’ve napped.
- Travel-sized Kleenex: There’s nothing worse than needing to blow your nose and not having a tissue or napkin. They are also great if you need toilet paper and they don’t have any (a must in Asia).
- Sunglasses: Getting off a plane and stepping into the sun when you’ve just been cooped up in the dark for hours can seriously hurt my eyes, so I always pack my sunnies just in case.
- An empty quart-sized plastic baggie: Because you never know when you might need it.
- Facemask: As a past resident of China, where the air was polluted and you occasionally needed to wear a mask, I got used to taking one with me when I traveled to and from China. I find that they are really useful when you are sitting near a smelly person or something suddenly doesn’t smell right (you get the idea). I know I might look weird with it on, but I don’t care! What’s really funny is when I’m wearing my facemask, eye mask, and sleep phones at once. You pretty much can’t see my face…haha!
What must-have item do you have in your carry-on?
**Because I wrote this on the plane, and just arrived in Senegal, I’ll have to post pictures of my carry-on items tomorrow.**