If you’re trying to figure out what you should and shouldn’t include in your carry on packing list, then you’ve come to the right place.
As a backpacker and a frequent traveler, I know all about the struggles of keeping your packing list simple and making everything fit in a personal item or carry-on bag. Experience and lots of trial and error equipped me with the best tips to pack a carry-on.
Whether you’re trying to save the extra cost of checked baggage, or avoid that dreaded wait at the luggage carousel, here is the perfect carry on packing list to make it happen.
Table of Contents
- Carry On Packing Checklist
- Carry On Backpack
- Day Pack
- Toiletry Bag
- Hand Sanitizer
- Bug Spray
- Passport Cover
- Solid Shampoo
- SPF Lip Balm
- Noise Cancelling Earphones
- First Aid Kit
- Power Bank
- Motion Sickness Medicine
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Portable Speaker
- Portable Tripod
- Camera Sleeve Case
- Electronic Organizer
- Action Camera
- Travel Towel
- Waterproof Pouch
- Luggage Lock
- Travel Adapter
- Other Carry-On Essentials to Pack
- Clothing to Pack for a Carry-On in Summer
- Clothing to Pack for a Carry-On in Winter
- Carry On Packing Tips
- FAQs About a Carry On Packing List
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Carry On Packing Checklist
Carry On Backpack
If you’re traveling for a week or less, then it’s best to travel with a carry on travel backpack. The Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack meets most airlines’ carry-on standards and is TSA friendly. This backpack has enough space to fit your complete packing list, your electronics, and some snacks. Its front pocket is easy to access even in the tight space of economy class.
Check out our full Osprey Porter 46 Review for more info!
Even if you travel with a carry on, a separate day pack is necessary to take snacks, electronics, and even a change of clothes. The Tortuga Setout day pack can fit everything you need for a day trip with an inner pocket large enough to fit 19 liters. The best feature of the Tortuga Setout is that it’s foldable, so you can fit it in your carry-on.
If you’re traveling with a carry on bag, then you know that your toiletries have to follow specific standards to go through airport security. This MAGIGO travel bottle set is TSA approved and comes with 16 pieces. The set includes a small funnel to fill up your bottles and multiple types of containers for creams, shampoos, and perfumes.
Something essential that you can’t forget when you’re traveling anywhere, hot or cold, is sunscreen. This Sun Bum day tripper set includes an SPF 30 sunscreen, an SPF lip balm, and a cool-down lotion to treat sunburns. This sunscreen is our pick because it’s vegan, hypoallergenic, and reef-friendly.
Hand sanitizer is on everyone’s packing list nowadays. And even if you’re packing light, you can’t skip this travel essential. You can save money with this Purell hand sanitizer pack which includes multiple bottles. The bottle comes with a jelly carrier you can easily attach to your carry on or checked luggage.
If you’re an outdoor lover, then you know how much mosquitoes can ruin your day. And if you’re going anywhere near the tropics, then bug spray is essential in your packing list. This OFF insect repellent has a plant-based formula and is fragrance and DEET-free. The small bottle can fit right in your pocket on the go.
Compression Packing Cubes
If your carry on packing list makes your bag hard to close, then compression packing cubes can help you save space. This Gonex packing cubes set comes with six different cubes that can fit your tops and bottoms. The cubes compression system can save up to 50% space in your luggage without tearing or breaking, and are water-resistant too.
Compression socks are in-flight essentials that help prevent that heavy feet feeling you get after international trips and long-haul flights. The CHARMKING compression socks are breathable, comfortable, and provide precise compression. Besides keeping your blood flow going, these unisex socks come in cute designs.
A passport that gets ripped, stained, or wet is a problem you just don’t want to run into abroad. But this Melsbrinna passport holder does more than just protect your passport – it keeps everything from your credit cards to your boarding pass in one convenient place. It even has a slot for your sim cards and is RFID-blocking and waterproof too.
If you’re a traveler that uses a carry-on for longer trips, then include solid shampoo in your carry on packing list. Solid shampoo is one of the frequent travelers’ best-kept secrets. It lasts for weeks, saves money, and goes through airport security without any problem. The Ethique solid shampoo bar is vegan and has natural ingredients. It’s also free from parabens and fragrances, making it safe for all skin types.
SPF Lip Balm
Visiting beaches, rivers, and canyons comes with sun exposure that can damage your skin, particularly your lips. So, if you plan on being outdoors, your carry on packing list should have an SPF lip balm. O’Keeffe’s lip balm both repairs and protects your lips with SPF 35. It’s also water-resistant which makes it ideal when packing for the beach.
If you’re a book lover but want to pack light for your trip, then you’ll need an e-reader on your packing list. The Kindle Oasis is a weightless e-reader that’s super thin and waterproof. Using WiFi, you can download hundreds of books without making your luggage heavier.
Noise Cancelling Earphones
Sleeping on the plane during long flights can be a real challenge without any headphones, which is why they should be a top priority on your packing list. These Bose earphones offer the coveted noise-canceling feature without the discomfort of wearing huge headphones around your head. They also have a long battery life that can play your favorite music for hours.
First Aid Kit
The ultimate carry on list can’t lack a first aid kit, even if you’re packing light. First aid kits are one of those things you rather have and not need than need and not have. Although compact, this General Medi first aid kit includes 100 pieces to treat minor wounds, and you can attach the pouch to the outside of your bag.
While not many electronics are necessary to enjoy a trip, a power bank will definitely come in handy. The Anker portable charger is almost weightless, slim, and provides enough energy to charge your phone multiple times.
Motion Sickness Medicine
If you’re traveling on a cruise or renting a car, you might face motion sickness. Luckily, it’s easy to buy motion sickness medicine over the counter. Dramamine Non-drowsy is our pick because it’s fast-acting and won’t put you to sleep. It’s also made with natural ginger which helps to relieve drowsiness symptoms.
Filtered Water Bottle
Water safety is an important part of every trip, but buying plastic water bottles isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly. The GRAYL GeoPress water purifier bottle purifies water easily and quickly. Its replaceable filter removes pathogens and particulates from sources like sinks and rivers. Check out our Grayl Filtered Water Bottle Review for more information.
If you’re a music enthusiast who loves to enjoy your fave songs on the go with portable speakers, then you have to check out the JBL Clip 3 speaker. Its clip-on design allows you to attach it to your carry-on backpack or your excursion day pack. This speaker is also waterproof and easily streams music from your phone.
If you love taking pictures, but you always struggle to find someone that takes them, then a portable tripod is a vital addition to your carry on packing list. This Bluehorn portable phone tripod is a 3-in-1 travel gear. It’s a tripod, a selfie stick, and a small table tripod. The top feature of this tripod is its control which allows you to take your pictures remotely. Plus, it’ll fit in your carry on bag.
Camera Sleeve Case
Photography enthusiasts know the struggle of having a camera bag so large it counts as a travel bag itself. But, if you want to travel with your camera, a compact camera sleeve case is your best alternative. This USA Gear camera sleeve lets you pack your DSLR inside your bag, and it has a pocket that can fit a battery or a memory card.
Techies often have a lot of cables and chargers on their packing list, and electronic organizers are perfect for keeping them organized. The FYY electronic organizer features multiple layers with extra room to fit chargers, cables, and even your phone. This case is also waterproof and will keep everything safe in case an unwanted spill happens in your bag.
If there isn’t a picture of it, did it even happen? Not all cameras and cellphones are optimal for outdoor adventures, but an action camera will go anywhere with you. The GoPro HERO8 is waterproof, can handle extremely cold weather, and fits inside your pocket.
If you’re looking for a towel that won’t take up too much space in your bag and dries easily, then check out the Rainleaf microfiber towel. It’ll fit in your luggage easily and even dries more water than a common towel.
Not everyone can afford a totally waterproof phone, and even then, waterproof phones shouldn’t really get immersed in salt water. So what do you do with your phone then? You use a waterproof pouch to protect it. This AiRunTech waterproof pouch is our pick because it also has space for your passport, your keys, and cash. You can strap it to your waist and hide it under your clothes.
One of the most common safety travel tips is to protect your carry-on travel bag and checked bag with locks. This Master luggage lock is TSA-approved and tamper-resistant. Plus, it’s a combination lock, so you don’t have to worry about losing the key.
If you’re traveling internationally, then you’ll need to include a travel adapter in your carry-on packing list. This Mingtong all-in-one universal travel adapter will let you charge your phone and plug in your electronics no matter where you’re headed – with different ports for Europe, the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom.
Travel insurance is probably the most important personal item to have for a trip. World Nomads travel insurance is our pick because it covers hundreds of outdoor activities, hazardous weather, and medical emergencies. It also covers your flights and luggage in a great number of countries around the world.
Other Carry-On Essentials to Pack
- Visa and travel documents
- Custom forms
- Face sunscreen
- Moisturizing skin lotion
- Vaccination card
- Contact lens solution (if you wear contact lenses)
- Eye mask
- Printable packing list (to make sure you don’t leave anything behind)
- Vehicle insurance proof (if you’re renting a car)
Clothing to Pack for a Carry-On in Summer
Your carry on packing list for hot weather will include lighter and comfortable clothing. If you’re traveling to a beach destination, then flip-flops and swimwear will be the main items in your bag.
While packing a carry on with all your travel essentials is challenging, a smart selection of clothing pieces and a strategic arrangement in your backpack can set you up for even international travel.
So what clothing should you include in your carry on packing list for summer? Here is a quick clothing checklist for your carry-on:
- 4-7 t-shirts
- 1- 2 dressier shirts (button-ups or blouses)
- 1 summer dress
- 1-3 swimsuits
- 1 beach cover-up
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1-2 pairs of shorts
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 ball cap or sunhat
Now that you have an overall idea of what you’ll be needing in your carry on packing list, let’s look in detail at some of our clothing picks for hot weather:
For beach destinations, cover-ups are indispensable wardrobe pieces. They offer a quick transition between the beach and restaurants or excursions. This Wander Agio cover-up is easy to slip on and doubles as the perfect sundress, with a nice loose fabric.
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, then hiking boots are a better option to pack than sneakers. These sturdy Columbia hiking boots promise to help you conquer any outdoor quest with extra comfort, regardless of the terrain. These boots manage to stay lightweight even when you’re trekking in the river.
Those visiting beaches, rivers, or waterfalls during their vacation need to pack water shoes. The L-RUN athletic hiking water shoes are great for swimming, but they also have a strong traction sole for hiking in rocky rivers or paddleboarding on the beach. These water shoes are also flexible and lightweight.
A rain jacket will come in handy if you’re visiting rainforests or high-altitude places. The BALEAF light rain jacket will keep you dry during your hikes and visible with its reflective logos. The jacket is also easy to pack in your bag as you can fold it and pack it inside the back pocket.
Sunglasses are both a fashion accessory and a packing list essential. These PZ sunglasses won’t break your bank and they’ll protect your eyes from UV rays. The clear minimalist frame suits a ton of face shapes.
We all know sunscreen isn’t enough to protect your skin from UV rays, and that’s why should bring a sun hat on your trip. This Columbia sun hat features specialized fabric with UPF 50 and breathable mesh panels to prevent stuffiness.
Clothing to Pack for a Carry-On in Winter
Winter clothes are thicker and often occupy more space in your carry-on. But, dressing in layers and wearing your winter jacket on the plane (or using it as a pillow) will make it possible to fit everything you need in your bag.
How does your clothing change if you’re packing your carry-on for winter? Here is a quick clothing checklist for your carry-on:
- 4-7 long sleeve t-shirts
- 1-2 scarfs
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 set of pajamas
- 1 set of thermal underwear
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 5-6 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of sneakers or boots
- 1 beanie
For the most part, those are the essentials for a carry on packing list. Let’s see in detail some of our favorite picks:
Traveling during the autumn and winter seasons means packing thicker clothes for cold weather. This DLGJPA hooded windbreaker doesn’t take as much space as other jackets and still manages to keep you warm. It’s waterproof, breathable, and ideal for outdoor activities for both men and women.
Occasionally, a winter jacket won’t be enough to keep you warm in cold weather, and thermal underwear will be necessary. This Amazon Essential underwear thermal set is long-lasting, comfortable, and best of all, budget-friendly.
Hands tend to get the cold the fastest when you’re outside in the winter. But, since keeping them inside your pockets all day long isn’t practical, you should bring a pair of gloves in your carry on. The OZERO winter thermal gloves are flexible and screen touch-friendly. These gloves are also water-resistant and fit snuggly around your wrists.
Carry On Packing Tips
Keep a Color Palette
Another way to avoid overpacking is to stick with a color palette when you’re packing your carry-on. This allows you to form multiple outfits with fewer pieces and still look fashionable for your vacation photos.
Pack Versatile Clothing
Saving space in your carry on is all about packing smartly. Instead of focusing on forming multiple outfits with different pieces, try packing clothes that work for different outfits. For example, your gym shorts might be good for sleeping, hiking, or even swimming.
Consider the Weather
Considering the weather seems like an obvious thing, but carry-on travelers often reach a destination only to find out they have to buy a long sleeve shirt or a jacket for the cold. Smart packing also involves research. Does your next destination have hot weather all year? Does the season change? Always research ahead of time, and use the information to pack your bag.
Don’t Forget Dress Codes
Another thing to keep in mind when packing is the usual dressing code in your destination. Some countries are more conservative than others. Even if the weather might be nice enough to be out in shorts and tank tops, the local and cultural dress codes might be different. The last thing you’d want on your trip is to have people staring at you.
Consider Your Travel Style
When you’re packing a carry-on, it’s key to know what you’ll be doing on your trip to avoid overpacking (or underpacking). If you’re traveling for business purposes, then button-ups and blouses will replace swimwear and shorts. If you’re traveling for pleasure, but you plan to go clubbing, you’d prefer dresses and high heels over sneakers.
Wash Your Clothes
The key to avoiding checking a bag during longer trips is doing laundry. You can find laundry services in hotels or community laundromats in many destinations. And even if you don’t find any, you can always wash laundry in your hotel sink or bathtub. That way you’ll save on extra bag fees and travel light.
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FAQs About a Carry On Packing List
What should I pack in my carry-on bag?
A traveler’s carry-on packing list should include toiletries without liquids over 3.4 ounces. Travelers should also include a compact capsule wardrobe with versatile and practical pieces that are fitting for their destination. A carry-on packing list should also have travel documents and electronics.
What is not allowed on a plane carry-on?
Liquids over 3.4 oz, sharp objects, gas-pressured bottles, and firearms are not allowed in carry-on baggage that goes on the overhead bin inside the plane. Travelers using a carry-on can find a complete list of approved items on the Transportation Security Administration website.
How do you pack everything in your carry-on?
Travelers using a carry-on to travel should keep their packing list small and only with essentials. There are multiple ways to pack a carry-on, but the use of compression cubes to organize and compress everything inside is one of the most popular methods.
You’ve reached the end of my ultimate carry on packing list! Now you can use this packing list to prepare for your next quest. If you need a carry on backpack, be sure to check out our ranking of the best travel backpacks.
Have a great trip! I hope this carry on packing checklist has helped you!