My 25 Carry-On Travel Essentials

Friday, March 3, 2017

After my recent flight from Cleveland to Chicago for work, I landed at my destination only to learn that  my luggage hadn't arrived with me. Somehow, my bag didn't make it onto my 45-minute direct flight, & thus began the process of trying to figure out what I had & what I needed as I waited for my luggage to make it to the Windy City.

Luckily, as an experienced traveler, I'd brought some of the important stuff with me in my carry-on luggage. What I didn't bring was a change of professional clothes, which is how I found myself at a Macy's upon my arrival, buying a quick change of clothes so I could be presentable for work (note to self: Don't wear neon "Hello, there!" sweatshirt while traveling to work events).

In case you don't travel much, or just want to be nosy & peek inside my bag, here's a look at what goes into my carry-on.

The Basics

My wallet is a tiny leather card case from Dagne Dover, which I received in a recent Box of Style (here's $10 off a subscription, should you be interested!). I used the 25% off coupon that came with it to purchase this bag from Dagne Dover, which is the perfect size - & has the perfect amount of pockets - for traveling. It's big enough to carry magazines & my iPad, but it fits neatly under airport seats; I also like that it has a zippered top so that nothing spills out of it if it shifts around in flight.


I usually shlep all of my makeup around with me in this little zipper bag from Target. If I'm trying to downsize my carry-on, I pack most of it & only bring the important stuff in my carry-on. That includes...
  • Lip balm: My favorite is this Burt's Bees balm in "mint and cocoa" flavor. It smells so cozy!
  • Concealer: I'm now a devotee of the brand Makeup Forever, expensive though it may be.
  • Mascara: I have an annoying habit of picking off my mascara, especially when I'm bored, so I keep this with my for touch-ups on travel days (& all other days).
  • Powder: I'm the shiniest, sweatiest human alive. Gotta have this on hand for a quick fix!
Also in the beauty category, at the intersection of fashion & functionality: sunglasses. I've lost all my good pairs, though, so all I've got right now is some pair from a lost-and-found. And don't forget dry shampoo, which keeps me from looking greasy during long travel days. My favorite is from Dove, but I haven't found it in a travel size, so the TRESemmé version does the trick.

Health & Wellness 

This is by far the largest category of my carry-on items because I never want to find myself without something important... & the essentials cost so much in airports!
  • Anxiety medicine: I take Lexapro every night for anxiety, & without it, I start to get headaches. I always make sure the whole bottle travels in my carry-on bag with me in case of lost luggage.
  • Allergy medicine: I always have a Zyrtec on hand during flights, lest my allergies flare up at random. I pack the rest, though, because my allergies aren't that bad.
  • FitBit: I'm always surprised by how many steps I get in on travel days as I rush from terminal to terminal. If only I could remember to pack the charger for my FitBit Alta...
  • Earplugs: I'm weirdly sensitive to noise, & sitting next to a snorer or a baby can ruin a flight for me. Enter these squishy Mack's earplugs, which I also use nightly.
  • Tissues: Again with the allergies. I sneeze all throughout plane rides!
  • Gum: I pack my toothbrush, & I'm not one for mints, but I love Orbit Spearmint gum for freshening up, especially after airport snacks. 
  • Deodorant: Yes, I wear Old Spice, & I keep it in my carry-on to stay fresh throughout the day. Traveling can be a sweaty affair!
  • Makeup removing wipes: Speaking of freshness, these Neutrogena wipes are a godsend for refreshing my skin up, & they smell so calming.
  • Healing stick: I prefer to have lotion with me for dry airports & hotels, but because I try to minimize liquids in my carry-on, I travel with this shea butter stick from Perfectly Posh
  • Glasses & contact case: I always fall asleep on flights, & waking up with my contacts suctioned to my eyeballs is so unpleasant. For long flights, I fill my contact case with clean solution & pack it in my carry-on so I can pop out my contacts as needed.

Technology & Entertainment

I used to all kinds of things to keep me busy during travel: books, magazines, my iPad... it started to get heavy! Finally, I admitted that I spend most of my time on my phone, on my Kindle, or asleep, & I stopped packing so damn much. Now I just bring...
  • Phone charger: My new phone holds a charge much better than my old one, but when I travel, I use it so much that I suck up the battery reaaaal fast.
  • Power bank: For times when I don't have access to outlets, I have this pig-shaped power bank with me. It's not as powerful as some varieties, but it works in a pinch.
  • Headphones: I hate the new Apple headphone situation (no headphone jack in the new iPhones), & I've yet to master remembering to bring the right listening apparatus for actually being able to use my headphones while I travel... but I'll get it right eventually!
  • Kindle & charger: Buying a Kindle Paperwhite revolutionized my reading - & it's so much lighter than traveling with books!
  • Camera remote: This CamKix Bluetooth Camera Shutter goes everywhere with me, in case I want to take better photos than the standard selfie timer can provide.
  • Magazines: If I finish them while I'm away, I leave them behind to lighten the load on the way home. I often offer them to flight attendants to read during their downtime.
  • Pens: My favorite pens come from my old workplace, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. I swear, they're the best pens in the world.
  • Note cards: Sometimes, if I have a lot of thank-you notes to write, I tuck a few into my bag so I can get them done in the airport.
Packing a carry-on full of clothes? I like this video from Brit + Co. for some space-saving packing tips.

Tell me: Am I missing anything that you always make sure to bring in your carry-on? I've got a few trips coming up - including D.C. & New Orleans later this month! - so I'd love to hear your travel wisdom.

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