A well-packed carry on is essential to the experience, just like a well-planned trip. I’m a firm believer that a great trip begins before you ever leave home, so making the necessary preparations allows you to begin your journey a little more relaxed and ready for the adventure ahead! I’ve learned a lot through trial and error over the years, and it all comes down to three categories:
These categories are a great starting point for determining what you should and should not pack in your carry-on; if it does not fall into one of these categories, it may not need to come. Let’s go over the top 10 essentials to pack in your carry on for an international flight.
You’re not going anywhere without one, so while it may seem obvious, it’s not something I’m going to leave off the list.
Already have your passport? Don’t wait until the last minute to locate it. Take some time to do so when you book your trip and check the expiration date to ensure you don’t need to apply for a new one.
One week before your travel…
Locate your passport again and put it somewhere you won’t forget to stick in your carry on bag.
Make a digital copy of all important documents. Take a picture, scan it, or email it to yourself. Just make sure you keep it somewhere you’ll have easy access to while traveling.
I also prefer to have digital copies of all itinerary information (flights, tours, hotel confirmations). My clients receive a daily itinerary app to help them keep track of all trip documents.
For an extra layer of safety, enroll your trip with the US government by creating an account with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The program notifies the nearest US Embassy or Consulate of your visit. If there is ever a safety or security issue in the city you have visited, they will text you to let you know which areas to avoid. The state of the world can be unnerving, but there is a risk in everything you do, whether you get in your car or travel to another country, so don’t let this stop you from seeing the world… just take smart safety precautions.
When I’m traveling, my phone dies so quickly, but I’m taking photos, listening to audiobooks on the plane, accessing my travel itinerary, and posting on Instagram, so a backup battery is essential to avoid the panic of low power mode… particularly when traveling solo. I always travel with my Anker Portable Charger but here are some options to choose from.
I love Citymapper to help with personal navigation and WhatsApp to talk to people for free around the world! Of course, Google Translate can certainly come in handy when English is not the primary language or just to help you learn to pronounce something correctly.
When traveling, you’ll undoubtedly get your steps in, so packing the right shoes is critical to ensuring that your feet don’t suffer as a result. Every trip, no matter the season, includes lightweight sneakers.I’ve included a list of my favorites ranging from comfort, such as the Allbirds, to versatility and style, such as the Golden Goose sneakers.
I used to have to sort through entire bags of plugs for each destination, so when I discovered all-in-one adapters with multiple USB chargers, I was ecstatic to toss the color coded plugs to the side.I personally use SublimeWar, which has served me well for several years.
These have significantly improved my ability to stay organized. I pack by outfit so that I can use the cubes to separate clean clothes as my travels progress. Plus, I always bring an extra empty packing cube in my carry-on so that if I take off a sweatshirt, scarf, or jacket, it has a place to go on the plane and I can simply throw it in the overhead bin, inside a packing cube. Because I’m likely to want it back before the flights over, it’s much easier than opening my entire bag to store an item. I currently use the Bagail set because organization is my main goal, but there are other options for more style or compression to optimize space.
I always travel with my AirPods, but Bose has always been a favorite for long-haul flights because I find over-ear headphones to be the most comfortable for extended periods of time, but if I’m only traveling with a carry on, I’m a little more space conscious.
You will be given a meal and snacks, but I always bring a few items that I know my stomach can handle because airport food can be risky. While this is purely personal preference, I always bring a few camomile tea bags with me and request hot water. Cheese and crackers are another easy packed snack that can last up to 4 hours without being refrigerated. My favorite dessert is a few peppermint patties- I freeze them ahead of time so they don’t get smooshed. I’d normally recommend some storage containers, but since we’re all about saving space, I just use ziplocks and throw everything away when I’m done. Water bottles are the same; sometimes I bring an empty plastic bottle to fill up at the airport that I know I can ditch on any trip, and other times I bring my S’well bottle.
You want you to feel your best when you arrive at your destination. A good rule of thumb is to drink a full glass of water every hour of your flight to avoid dehydration. Maybe even bring some electrolyte packets for your flight, especially if you plan on having a drink or two. Compression socks (not the most attractive) are essential on long-haul flights to reduce the risk of blood clots or DVT.
If you’re going to a place where food or water contamination is common, think about preparing ahead of time. To avoid travelers’ tummy, begin taking Travelan during your first meal abroad. It naturally supports your gut’s immune defenses.
Let’s talk about your carry-on of choice now that we’ve covered everything that goes in it. It all comes down to personal preference, destination, and whether you prefer a hard or soft-sided exterior. For me, I knew I’d be traveling internationally for work, so I needed something with space for my laptop, a hard top to make it more sturdy and durable, and good wheels to get through train stations and the occasional cobblestone street. After lots of contemplation (and I mean a lot), I created my perfect carry-on collection with the Away Bigger Carry-On, Dagne Dover Duffle, and Tumi Backpack, but here are a few top-rated alternatives to consider.