Packing Checklist: What You Need In Your Carry-on Bag

Frequent fliers will often tell you that the first rule of traveling is to never check your luggage; however, that’s not always feasible when going on longer trips like honeymoons.  So when I need to check my bag, I always refer to the following checklist when packing my carry-on.  While some of the items on the list are certainly more crucial than others, you’ll always be glad to have them with you in case (god forbid!) an airline loses your checked luggage.

Carry-on bag packing checklist:

  • Airline boarding passes
  • Passport and visa(s)
  • Wallet: driver’s license, credit card(s), ATM card, some cash, insurance cards.  (I take out all unnecessary cards before I travel to lighten my wallet and ensure that I don’t lose them on a trip when I’m certain I won’t be using them anyway.)
  • Hotel confirmation docs (and directions, if necessary.)
  • Medicine (in the original bottle) – prescriptions, allergy medication, sleeping pills (if taking a red-eye.)
  • Contact lenses & glasses (I’m totally blind without them.)
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush + 3 oz toothpaste in a plastic baggie
  • Hair brush
  • Digital camera
  • Make-up “essentials” (i.e. just a small bag with the basics.)
  • In-flight entertainment: headphones, iPhone, book(s), magazine(s), Kindle, iPad, laptop, etc.
  • Light sweater or wrap
  • Socks (if I plan to wear sandals on the flight.)
  • Change of clothes (when flying from foggy SF to a tropical destination where I’ll want to change out of long pants as soon as I land.)
  • Electronics chargers (iPhone, camera, Kindle, laptop, etc.)
  • Electrical adapters (when flying to a foreign country.)
  • Jewelry (I always try to leave the expensive stuff at home, but when I need to bring it with me I never leave it in a checked bag.)
  • Apartment & car keys.  (You don’t want to lose those either!)

Am I missing any important items?  Let me know if there’s anything else you always take with you in your carry-on.

And what carry-on bags do I recommend?  It’s always a good idea to select bags that are extremely light and durable, and of course that easily fit in the overhead storage compartment.  I usually stick with a Le Pliage Longchamp tote*, but I’m also loving my new Fjallraven Kanken backpack.


* My black Longchamp Planetes tote has been to 37 countries with me… so yeah, it’s kind of gross now.

My trusty Longchamp carry-on with me in Málaga, Spain 2011

Me and my trusty Longchamp carry-on in Málaga, Spain 2011

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