Packing is an art which we master over time. This is my summary of my years of travelling containing all my carry-on essentials and the things I never miss packing.
Have I said enough times that I love flying? If not, then maybe now is the time. I remember the first time I set foot in an airport – I was 25! Really, now I can’t imagine how I passed 25 years of my life without making it through a plane, strange, isn’t it? Nonetheless, I am still grateful I got to do so and it made me fall in love with planes forever. The air hostesses greeting hello, the mandatory flight safety tutorial, or the turbulence, I love every part of flying.
After so many years of flying, I think I have somewhat learned the art of packing light. I *mostly* pack carry-on only now, unless I’m flying internationally. There are a few items I cannot fly without, and you will probably need them too. If you continue reading, you’ll realize you agree with me. So, let’s jump on to my carry-on essentials list, the things I (& you too should) never miss to pack.
My carry-on essentials – What I never miss packing!
Travelling has taught me a lot about packing, and everything that can go wrong. I was in Prague and I couldn’t contact my Airbnb host because my mobile wasn’t working. So, a lot can go wrong when we travel and if you obsess about not missing out on anything, then this list is for you.
There are differences in domestic & international travel with a lot at stake, especially when travelling solo. That’s why I have categorized my carry-on essentials list broadly into 2 categories – Domestic & international travel.
Water is an essential part of our routine and so is keeping hydrated. At 30000 feet, humidity drops at less than 10% and the dry air leads to dehydration, which means we need water in planes. Water is often served on the flights, but on some domestic flights, a tiny bottle of water is overcharged. My solution? I always carry a small water bottle, empty it before security and fill it up later. You stay hydrated, save money spent on water and also be a responsible tourist by not purchasing a single-use plastic bottle.
Did you know?
You can take only up to 100ml of liquid(s) during airport security!
Chapstick aka Lip Balm
With low moisture in the air, our lips tend to dry out fast. I just cannot settle down on my seat until my Avon lip balm is handy. I also love the lip balm from The Body Shop, it stays on longer. Whatever brand you choose, try to keep it in your pocket or purse, you’ll not regret this.
Similar to the above two points, when your hands dry out even after moisturizing before the take-off, it’s a reminder to keep that cream close. For years now, I have been using Lakme’s moisturizer, it’s great for the face & hands too.
I pack light, so I don’t carry earplugs but my Sony in-earphones do the job. I’d love to get a noise-cancelling headphones someday, but the cost keeps me at bay with them for now. I used to carry my Apple headphones which were good, but recently I got Sony earphones, which have been great at keeping the noise out while flying. So now I highly recommend these.
I have never come across a situation where my tissue pack came back unused. It’s basic hygiene reason sometimes, or cleaning off dirt where I’m about to sit, tissues never disappoint in my carry-on bag.
If I carry my own snacks or get something from the in-flight menu, wet tissues are my go-to partner for cleaning hands. My carry-on essentials list is never complete without wet wipes, and I highly recommend Kara wipes.
Who else has faced the pain of an iPhone‘s awful battery backup? Most of my friends with an iPhone complain about the same. I am too an excessive phone user and take tons of pictures even during the flight. I need that battery power and not many domestic planes have power connections (well, economy travellers here!). I fully charge the power bank I bought on my first international trip beforehand & keep it in my handbag for accessibility. You never know how long your phone battery might last so keep this power bank close at hand.
I have always loved reading, either a novel or a magazine. Never was a year since my teenage that I was devoid of a magazine subscription. I grew up reading Reader’s Digest, The Week and recently all those travel magazines I promote shamelessly in my Insta stories. Offering light reading magazines not only help me pass the painfully boring lonely time on the plane but also inspire me. If you do not like reading books, pick a magazine of your interest from the airport and pass the time with ease. You’ll be surprised how little space they take in your carry-on bag.
My personal Instagram handle is inspired by my love for books which says a lot that I can’t miss taking a book in my carry-on essentials. For a more than 2-hour flight or a drive from the airport to my hotel, I can always use a good book. Although I usually carry a book which I know I’ll be able to wrap on the flight, probably a small paperback – that’s my filter criteria.
A layover, a long flight, a drive or an hour before the takeoff, an iPad or a Kindle can prove worthy of its size. Read a book online, catch up on a show or simply surf the internet, Kindle makes a great unit to your carry-on essentials list.
Packing light always points me in the direction of small toiletries. Be it a face wash, shampoo, or shower gel, I carry them all in tiny bottles in my carry-on bag. It saves extra single-use plastic and also helps me keep down the limited weight in a cabin-only flight. Don’t forget to pack the shaving kit as well. On international flights, I also pack toothbrushes & small toothpaste in my bag too. I am super hygiene crazy, I cannot go on eating multiple meals and not brush even once in between. If you can relate, do pack a toothbrush & paste too.
Two words – Mouth Freshener! A nice way to keep yourself occupied and also not feel hungry if you forgot to bring any snacks. Don’t bring gum if you’re travelling to Singapore, it’s illegal there.
A pen & notepad can prove extremely useful if you fill out forms or write any important information during your trip. I’d suggest adding these two to your carry-on essentials list.
In a mountainous area or a beach town, the sun is harsh everywhere, hence carrying sunblock is a tip I learned the hard way. I came back from Kedarnath all burnt up even after applying 30 SPF sunscreen, which I didn’t re-apply after reaching higher altitudes.
I recommend applying sunblock even on the flight, you’re so up high, literally above the clouds. The moral is sunscreen is mandatory no matter where you go, so move it to your carry-on essentials list from now.
Sunglasses protect our eyes from the sunshine and also have a high style quotient. Keep it close in your carry-on bag.
In case you have weak eyes, don’t forget your spectacles & the case as well when packing, you don’t want to break them on a trip.
I literally forgot to keep my lens case when I travelled to Odisha a few years back and I had a hard time finding the case. Not even a single chemist had one. Don’t repeat my mistake, and keep the solution and lenses with the case in your bag.
First-Aid & Medicines
First aid is one of those things I never forgot to pack in my carry-on bag. It’s sometimes costly at the destination & often not easily available too.
Ideally, I don’t use make-up but a Kohl, lipstick and a compact powder for humid places, but they’re imperative for my carry-on essentials list.
Keeping a passport, travel insurance, Boarding Pass, ID and Covid Vaccination Certificate (with passport number) are crucial items for an international trip. These are the items which should be easily accessible in my handbag or a fanny bag. It’s important for women to know that you shouldn’t keep them in their carry bag but your handbag. Men usually don’t have that choice so they keep them in their backpacks or any duffel bag. Always double-check these before leaving your home.
Travel to the USA, or Europe, but purchase an adaptor at home, it’s usually an additional cost in a different country. Why not save those extra bucks for a local coffee from a café in a new country than an adaptor?
There have been incidents when airlines misplace the bags or simply arrive late. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t change until your luggage arrives or shed those spare dollars on clothes than an adventure activity you pre-planned. A bummer isn’t it? Always keep an extra pair of clothes, undies, and nightwear in your carry-on bag when flying internationally.
If you’re travelling to a country with a different climate like colder countries, don’t forget to pack a coat/jacket in your carry-on or laptop bag if you have one. You can even carry a coat in hand and just place it in an overhead container till you de-board at your destination.
Laptop & accessories
I never travel without my MacBook, or a laptop, it’s my go-to companion during a layover to connect with my family or just catch up on my work.
International flights usually serve meals, but what if they serve you don’t eat, say anything vegan? Bring something homecooked snack or buy something from your home airport to eat on the plane to keep hunger at bay.
A lot of people have trouble sleeping on a plane, including myself. I now carry an eye mask for long-haul flights so that I adapt to jetlag and the time difference. It’s that carry-on essential accessory that you’ll want to use. A few airlines do provide eye masks if you’re lucky to be flying for them.
Travelling economy means neck pain while trying to sleep. Keeping a travel pillow in your carry-on essentials definitely helps out more than you realize. You can also get this high-quality travel pillow from Amazon.
I love photography, and I used my iPhone till a few months ago recently I treated myself to a camera. It’s an integral part of my trips and I can never risk keeping my camera in my check-in luggage.
A scarf saves me from the in-flight chill and keeps me cosy. It can serve as a mini blanket too, which is why I now remember to carry at least one scarf.
When travelling to multiple countries in a single trip, it’s of paramount importance that we travel with copies of our hotel bookings, passport or contact information in case we lose our phones.
I know not everyone needs a book or magazine but all they need is their favourite show. But without any internet on a flight, it gets tricky. I use Netflix, & Disney Hotstar too, and both give me the option to download. It can also be convenient in your hotel with a TV in a language you don’t understand.
Face Mask and Sanitizer
Covid f***ed the way we travel so we really cannot travel with face masks & sanitiser anymore. A lot of airlines allow normal cotton masks but Lufthansa Airlines make it mandatory to wear N95/surgical mask. A few airlines like Indigo are now providing single-time sanitisers, but be a responsible tourist and rather carry your own. I’d recommend carrying an extra pair of masks just in case you lose one or drop it somewhere unhygienic like washrooms.
Local destination number
I learned it is always cheaper to get a local number of your destination from your home country. You can either enable international roaming on your current number or get a new sim. I prefer international roaming when I travel for more than a week as my provider has good plans. If it is a few days, get a local sim from the airport.
Lastly, cash is also important to carry from your home airport, you’ll pay lesser for the conversion charger. Also, you never know if your card is accepted in the destination country or not. I am not asking you to carry thousands of dollars, just a few to keep you afloat & carry the rest in your travel card or travellers’ cheques.
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These cover all of my in-flight and carry-on essentials which I *almost* never travel without. Maintaining a checklist also keeps me in check so that I don’t forget one.
What Are Some Of Your Favorite Carry-On Essentials? What Is Something You Can’t Leave Without? Tell Me In The Comments Below!
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Lip balm and water bottles are both musts Shivani. Like being in the Sahara, it is so darn dry in a plane cabin. Rocking list.
I agree, in dry places we must carry at least two necessaties.
Thank you so much for these.
This will help me a lot.
As i love traveling. But presently i am studying in up and part time blogger. Thanks
Glad you liked the tips. Thanks for stopping by!