Lifestyle · Travel

Travel 101: Ultimate Carry-On Essentials

My very first time on a plane was nearly 10 years ago when I was 19 years old. Growing up, my family would always travel by car each time we vacationed– even if it meant taking road trips upwards of 12 hours long. Being one of six kids, taking trips via plane simply wasn’t financially feasible for my family… so I never had the opportunity to fly until I was an adult!

Anywho, in 2009, I was living and interning in Washington, DC. It was my first real time away from home, and I was anxious to see my family again. I had extra money from working and decided to book a quick 1-hour flight home back to Ohio. Just a couple years later, I took my first overseas flight when I traveled to the U.K., France, Belgium, Germany, and Austria. It was during this trip that I was bitten by the travel bug.

I’ve since been on over 100 flights to 15 different countries! Each of these experiences have molded me into a (nervous) pro at creating checklists, packing, navigating airports, and determining which carry-on items are absolutely indispensable for flights. Below are some of my essentials (in no particular order)– some of which may be helpful as you plan your own future travels! If you have some of your own essentials I did not include, please share in the comments! I’m always curious to learn about new tips and products that make the process of traveling easier and more comfortable.

1. Luggage Tags

Luggage tags are incredibly important for two reasons! First (and most obviously), tags with your contact information can help the airline reunite you with your luggage in the event it is lost or routed to the wrong airport. While you can fill out paper cards to affix to your suitcase at the ticketing counter, they can easily be torn off. Therefore, using a more secure tag is in your best interest. Second, if your suitcases are standard shades of black and gray, unique luggage tags can help differentiate your bag from other passengers’ when you’re trying to find your items at baggage claim. Below are some super cute options from Amazon:

Travel luggage tag tags   Travel luggage tag tags

2. Passport Holder

I know many people don’t usually travel with their passport since it’s not necessary unless you’re leaving the country, but it has become a habit for me. As an American expat who lives overseas, I have to travel with my passport on all occasions since it contains my Korean visa. However, more people are opting to just use their passport regardless of their destination due to restrictions on certain forms of ID. If this pertains to you, I recommend getting a passport holder! It’s cute, it has many functional pockets that can be used to carry boarding tickets and baggage claim stickers, and it has built-in RFID blockers to protect your bank and ID cards if you decide to store them in the holder for easy access. The below product comes in 17 different colors and is only $6.99!

Travel passport holder book

3. Portable Charger or Charging Case

So I’ve learned the hard way that many airports tend to have few outlets for charging electronics. Though some planes do have USB ports or outlets on board, such features tend to be limited to larger planes, long-haul flights, and non-budget airlines. Therefore, I always bring my portable charging case (as well as a power bank for longer trips) as a precaution. Below are some well-reviewed options! The option on the left is compatible with iPhone 7 and 8, the middle option is compatible with iPhone X/XS/10, and the option on the right is compatible with any smart phone brand/model that has a USB cord.

Travel portable charging case iphone Travel portable charging case iphone Travel portable charging bank

4. Headphones

Some airlines do provide courtesy headphones, but they aren’t always the most comfortable or well-functioning. It’s always a good idea to bring your own. I recently upgraded to Apple Earpods and I am a HUGE FAN. Usually, I HATE the headphones that come with iPhones. I find them to be too big and painful. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had been redesigned to fit more securely and comfortably. Earpods are by no means necessary, but it is nice to be able to put them in and not worry about the wires getting tangled/in the way. If these are out of budget, not your taste, and/or give you anxiety at the thought of losing them, I recommend the Atech headphones. Their silicone earbuds provide a comfortable fit, great sound, and good value.

Travel apple earpods earpod Travel earbuds headphones

5. Backpack

Unless I’m hopping on a quick flight, I don’t like using a purse when I travel. I tend to carry a bunch of different items, and prefer to wear a backpack to keep my hands free. I purchased the below Anello backpack when I lived in Japan and I’m SO GLAD I did! The design is so cute and functional. The bag has an outside front pocket, two outside side pockets, and two inside back pockets. It also has a top handle, very secure zipper, plenty of carrying room, and fits under plane seats easily. Finally, it comes in many different colors/materials, but I opted for the mint-colored nylon bag (similar option below). Out of everything in my entire closet, it is hands down what receives the most questions and compliments!

Travel backpack Travel backpack Travel backpack

6. Inflatable Pillow

I don’t know about you, but I CANNOT sleep sitting up. It’s impossible, even with sleeping pills and those microbead neck pillows they sell everywhere. We were about to fly from Japan back to the US for Christmas when my husband decided to purchase the most brilliant pillows ever. They’re super compact, easily inflated/deflated, and designed in a way that allows users to sleep hunching forward. Basically, the pillow sits on your lap and has an area to rest your face and wrap your arms around it. I love it. Being able to sleep on long-haul flights makes the time pass by so much quicker! Can’t recommend this enough.

travel pillow inflatable

7. Compression Socks

Okay, so I know this is probably the least interesting item on the list… but it’s also perhaps the most important! Last year, we flew from Japan to California for a 5-week visit prior to moving to South Korea. On the trip, I guess I didn’t get up and move around enough to encourage blood circulation, and I ended up in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung) a couple weeks later. It was NOT a fun way to spend our time with family. All of that could’ve been avoided had I worn compression socks. Now, I don’t travel without them. Amazon has a ton of affordable, well-rated options. The below link offers packs of 8, with 25 different color and pattern schemes from which to choose!

Travel compression socks

8. Eye Mask and Ear Plugs

The practicality of these items go without saying, but it is easy to forget to add them on your pack list! If you enjoy peace, quiet, and darkness… eye masks and ear plugs are a must. The first pair linked below are super extra, but I couldn’t resist. I LOVE anything inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s! The second option is a lot simpler, but highly-rated!

 Travel eye mask ear plugs

9. Listerine Spray / Listerine Strips / Disposable Toothbrushes

During long flights, it’s common to pack deodorant, face masks, and body wipes to combat feelings of general gross-ness. After all, being on a plane and breathing in recycled air containing human skin cells is pretty nasty when you think about it. However, many people neglect to freshen their breath. For the love of your travel companion / stewards and stewardesses / airport staff: don’t forget to use Listerine strips, spray, or disposable toothbrushes!

Travel Listerine Spray Travel listerine strips Travel Disposable Toothbrush toothbrushes


FTC Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored; however, it does contain Amazon affiliate links. This means I will make a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you decide to click on and purchase an item. However, if you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to google and find the products on your own instead. All thoughts and opinions are my own, and affiliations have no bearing on which products I decide to mention/review.

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