The Ultimate Carry-on Packing List For Your Next Trip

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Are you a light packer or a heavy packer?

I was one of those who needed two large suitcases and a carry-on bag for a two week trip! Looking back now, I realize how ridiculous it was. Trying to drag around two heavy suitcases, waiting at the carousel after landing, and then not even wearing half of what I packed.

Fast forward a few years. Packing for our elopement/honeymoon in Thailand, all I needed was one small suitcase and a small carry-on bag for two weeks. And for a work trip, I was able to bring everything in one carry-on bag.

Traveling with carry-on only, means you avoid paying checked bag fees, you won’t have to carry so much or waste time at the baggage carousel after your flight, and the airline can’t lose your bags!

What does ‘carry-on’ mean when it comes to traveling?

It means that small suitcase or backpack that you can carry with you onboard, but which you pack in the overhead compartment. Apart from your carry-on bag, you can also have a little purse, or briefcase, something small with all your personal items in that you need with you all the time; that can go under the seat in front of you.

If you fly on a smaller plane with smaller overhead compartments, you might not be able to bring as much. The best advice regarding carry-on luggage is don’t even try and bring something onto the plane that is clearly over the limits, it won’t be permitted.

What Should You Pack In Your Carry-On?

Here we give you the best carry-on packing list to help you travel carry-on-only no matter where you’re going.

The Right Bag

Importantly, you need the right bag. That means checking in with your airline’s website for the correct sizes and restrictions, and then choose a bag that complies. Look at this one; ideal for organizing – plus the colored stripes are really cute! (The spinner wheels are great too, for maneuvering around at the airport.

Carry-on packing list - the bag
Carry-on packing list - the bag

Versatile Clothing

You need to cut down on weight and space, so that means packing clothes that serve more than one purpose. For example, this beautiful Pashmina shawl can be used as a sarong or a light blanket.

Another tip is to keep your clothing in similar colors, like jeans and shirts, and then you can accessorize with colored scarves, etc.

Carry-on packing list - grey shawl for traveling

Packing Cubes

These are a game changer when it comes to getting more into your carry-on bag.

Packing cubes are ideal for traveling, because end up fitting more into your luggage, when your items are packed neatly into these cubes.

And bonus – you don’t have you unpack your whole bag if you need to find something when you’re in transit. Simply assign each cube a specific type of clothing, and everything will be easy to find.

packing cubes for traveling
packing cubes for traveling


Fill Your Shoes

Whatever shoes you pack, use the inner space. You can pack small items such as socks and underwear. If you are packing a hat, you can do the same with that, too (unless you are wearing it while you travel).

Both the hat and shoes will keep their shape better too.

Roll Up Your Clothes

Rather than folding your clothes, try and roll them up to optimize on space. Rolling up your clothes ends up using less space. And bonus – it helps to keep them wrinkle free too.

It will also be easier to find your clothes in the suitcase if they rolled up, rather than folded and stacked.

Be Ready For Laundering

If you will be away for a few days, plan on doing some laundry. Check if the place where you stay has washers or else just map the nearest laundromat.

This way you don’t have to pack a new outfit for each day of travel, so you can pack less and travel lighter.

No “What-ifs” Allowed

This is something I am bad with!

“What if it’s freezing? what if it rains? What if I really do need 3 pairs if underwear for each day I am away?”

And then you end up not even using these extra items!

When it comes to a carry-on bag, you need to focus on what you will actually need.

Buy Things At Your Destination

If you know it will be possible to purchase things like toothpaste or deodorant or a travel umbrella in case of rain, then rather don’t pack it.

When you arrive at your destination, you can get the shampoos and conditioners, body wash and so on.

It is also important to remember that there are certain things you can’t pack in carry-on, that you would be able to pack in checked-in luggage. Read more about the size of bottles and also what you can’t take in your carry-on bag.

Carry-on packing list

Things you can’t leave out in your carry-on bag!

Wet Wipes

Planes can be breeding places for illness-causing bacteria. These anti-bacterial wipes are highly recommended! You won’t be sorry!

Travelan or similar

This is an over-the-counter traveler’s diarrhea preventative which has been formulated to be high in antibodies to help maintain your digestive health while traveling. It’s not an antibiotic but a 10 day supply will protect you from bacteria – to stay in top form while traveling.

Hydrating lotion & lip balm

Planes lack a lot of humidity, leaving your skin and lips dehydrated more than usual. Keep a moisturizing lip balm and body lotion on hand in small quantities. You can even pack a small tub of organic coconut oil which will take care of both!


No matter where you are going, something warm will be needed. Thermal cardigans are lightweight and good space savers.


Light, healthy snacks are so helpful when you’re in a bind. If you can squeeze in a few protein bars, almonds, and dried fruit, these can help out in times of need. Stash in also an empty collapsible water bottle that you can fill after you pass security; not only does it save money, but it takes up little space in your bag.

Noise-canceling headphones

The instances where these come in handy while traveling are endless – to listen to your favorite audiobook, to drown out a screaming baby. They are known also to reduce stress.

Exhaustion or headaches that can occur after a flight can be reduced or even completely prevented with a great pair of these.

Packing these essential items on your next trip will make those long travel days so much easier! And, if you’re homebound for awhile longer, you could always try these vacation bedroom decor ideas to make you feel like you’re on the beach!

Can I bring 2 backpacks and a carry-on on a plane?

No, but you can bring one backpack and a carry-on! My husband and I always do this as we don’t like to check bags if we can help it!

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