These are some of the items that go in my carry on, and the carry on bags. Most airlines will allow you to take 2 carry on bags, one that fits in the overhead compartment, the other goes under the seat in front of you. Depending on the airline and your plane ticket, you may or may not get two bags. Check your ticket and figure out what you’re allowed and if there is a cost attached. Then figure out your packing accordingly.

Bags I take

I take two carry on bags whenever possible. One is an overnight bag that fits in the over head compartment, the other is a smaller bag (think tote) that fits under the seat in front of me. If your ticket only allows one bag, you need to find out which. Some airline tickets only allow one carry on that fits under the seat in front of you. I also use packing cubes for clothing, electronics, and for miscellaneous items.

Now a days there are a lot of backpacks that have space for a laptop, clothing, water bottles, electronics – pretty much everything you need in a carry on. Backpacks can make great carry on bags.

Packing the carry on

The carry on has : Clothing – cashmere sweater, pants, 1 bra, 2 panties, 1 pair socks, jammies, 2-3 tees. Toiletries – tooth brush, tooth paste, floss, hair conditioner (a must for me), sun screen, face moisturizer, eye cream, comb, minimal makeup (optional). Medication – any prescriptions I need (Never Pack These In Your Check Thru Luggage!). Electronics – cell phone, tablet, chargers, maybe camera. Other – head phones, post-it notes, pens, binder clips, snacks, etc.

Most of the toiletries will go in a 1 quart baggie for security. Clothing goes into packing cubes, as do electronics. Pack your bag for how you need the items. If you are most likely to need the electronics and other items during the flight, keep those on top. If you will need your prescriptions, keep those in an easy to reach area. If you plan to change clothes on the flight or shortly after landing, keep that in mind. And pack with these things in mind.

What I wear

Plan what you wear to go with your carry on. The idea is in an emergency you have enough clothes to make it thru 2-4 days, even if you have to hand wash items in a sink. That’s why I take a cashmere sweater, if I had to go to dinner, that over jeans or leggings could easily work. It doesn’t have to be cashmere, but you need to consider it as a working piece – cool weather, dinner, etc.

Which is why you need to think about what you are going to wear. My usual go to is: jeans/leggings/yoga pants, tee shirt, jacket, pashmina/scarf, and sneakers or other shoes. Between what I have in carry on and what I’m wearing I have clothing for a few days.

One reminder, if you are taking heavy shoes (boots), or taking heavy winter coats, plan to wear them. They take up a lot of room in luggage and make luggage heavy. This is all about planning.


Why am I so concerned about my carry on? I know someone who flew from the USA to Rome. Her carry on was a laptop. No clothes, no toiletries, not even a tooth brush. It took 3 days for her luggage to catch up with us on a cruise. I’ve had times where my check thru bag was delayed and I lived on what was in my carry on. It happens.

What I Don’t Pack

I don’t worry about body soap, shampoo, full makeup, or alarm clocks. Even if you are staying in a hotel for a night, most hotels have shampoo, soap, and body lotion. Use what they have for one night unless you have a REALLY specific reason you can’t. Also, don’t worry about the makeup for one day. If you have to take makeup, keep it to a significant minimum, using mini sizes, and multi use items (lipstick for blush idea). Use your cell phone for an alarm clock, there’s an app for that.