Top 10 carry-on essentials

Every traveler is different and every destination requires a varied list of items to be packed for travel. But, there are always essentials that everyone carries-on with them for every flight. Over the past 29 years, I have had my share of airports and airplanes, long and short hauls, connections and disconnects, sleeping in airports and taking two to three days to actually get somewhere.

I have come to fine-tune my packing list to not only have the lightest load possible, but keep myself entertained and comfortable no matter how long my travel days may be. I am also just going to go ahead and assume that phone, passport/ID and credit/debit cards are already an essential that pretty much go with anyone, anywhere. Besides these items, I have created a list below of my top 10 carry-on essentials for any trip. Check it out! 


My top 10 carry-on essentials:

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste – I hate airplane breath. Making sure I have a toothbrush and toothpaste packed in my carry-on is my number one priority.
  2. Headphones – I LOVE to listen to music on my flights (and more recently podcasts), for many reasons, but mainly to drown out the noise of everyone else. I still use the iPhone 7 earbuds. I seriously need to update to bluetooth headphones especially, because the iPhone 7 only has ONE charging/headphone slot. A nice pair of white Beats is on my list. 😉
  3. Phone and computer chargers (AND adapters for those international trips) – Universal adapters are ideal, but just make sure you have the right connection for whichever countries you are visiting. I just so happened to bring the wrong adapter on my Europe trip. Ooooppps. Luckily, my travel partner had a spare. Thanks Savannah!
  4. Extra clothes and socks (especially if I checked a bag) – Flights can be very unpredictable and you never know if your flight may get delayed, or you may get detoured to another city. It is much more convenient to have an extra set of clothes and underwear in your carry-on just in case. After years of flying stand-by, this has just become a normal ritual for me. Also, on my most recent trip to Europe, my friend introduced me to bringing socks on the flight. It is genius! That way you can take off your shoes, and you don’t have to worry about walking around the plane barefoot, or with smelly feet.
  5. A GOOD book – Lately, I have been trying to read a book during my flights instead of going through my iPhone looking at all of my old pictures or text messages. Does anyone else do that? Haha. I just recently read The Alchemist. I know, I am a little late to the game. My good friend Kris gifted me this book on his visit to San Diego. I loved it, and I don’t know why it took me so long to read it. Thanks Kris!
  6. A deck of cards – I love having a deck of cards on hand. Not only is it good for a solo game of solitaire to take a break from technology and in-depth reading, but also I just love playing card games with anyone I meet.
  7. Snacks – My first few questions whenever I get on a flight are, “What do you think they’re going to feed us?” and “When do you think we’re going to eat? Do you think they’ll feed us more than one meal?” Haha. I’m always so worried about food, AND I also have such a hard time sleeping because I’m afraid I’m going to miss when they come around. For this reason, I always make sure that I have some kind of snack with me just in case. Trail mix, apples, and dried sugar free mangos from Trader Joe’s are always good options.
  8. Lotion – Because it is always so frickin’ dry when you’re 40,000+ feet up in the clouds.
  9. My Sony camera and gear – These have become attached to my hip, especially in the past year. I currently use the Sony a6000, and I LOVE it. It is amazing for travel because it is so small and light. It is a reliable 24-megapixel camera and shoots up to 11 frames per second and has a good AutoFocus system. I also bring two lenses with me at the moment; the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-6.5 OSS for my landscape pictures, and the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Prime Lens for portraits. I also used this amazing backpack from MindShift on my last trip. It stored all of my Sony gear right in the back. It was a perfect fit for everything I needed to bring.
  10. My laptop – This has also become an essential travel piece as well. The perk of remote working is that you can work anywhere. The not so nice perk is that you have to bring all of your work and technology with you everywhere…a very, very small price to pay. No complaining here.


If possible, I always try to just have carry-ons. The picture on the right is me with my carry-ons AND my friend Savannah’s carry-ons. She had to take the picture of course. Not bad for two weeks in Europe. 

I have had a few bad experiences with lost luggage. So, I try to avoid checking bags whenever possible. I used to love when I was asked to check my bag at the gate. It would become a free baggage check, and I wouldn’t have to worry about lugging it around with me. However, I recently had the worst turn of events on a trip home from Canada and all of my luggage was lost. I eventually ended up getting it all back, but it was a good lesson to avoid the hassle for the future. Sometimes, you just can’t avoid having to check a bag. Just make sure you keep all of your luggage tag receipts and have your information on all of your bags.

I am always open for suggestions of new “life saving” carry-on travel essentials. I love to take as much stress out of traveling as possible. It’s fun and all part of the experience.


Jenn Journeyz