10 Essential Things to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

Disclaimer: Adventure In You is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites at no additional cost to you. Please note we only link to products & services we personally use or trust. 

Being that we have been traveling non-stop for almost two years and a half now, we have slowly mastered the art of traveling and how to utilize every inch of our bags and carry-on luggage. Mind you, when I say “mastered the art”, I mean I now no longer stuff everything than I can into one bag. Kidding aside, life on the road teaches you valuable tips and tricks which will make life easier. When we travel, we mainly have all our things in our big backpacks which we would happily chuck into the back of a bus or on a plane. Our carry-on luggage or day bags is something which remains with us at all times. What does it have? Essentials which would get us through long flights, bus rides, or worse, the survival of lost luggage. So without further ado, here are some tips on travel essentials to pack in your carry-on bags.

Travel Wallet

Using a travel wallet or even just a Small Plastic Envelope to organize all your travel documents is highly advisable. Listed below are a few of the travel musts that we recommend you have with you at all time:

  • Passport
  • Flight tickets (we recommend keeping them on your phone for environment’s sake!)
  • Pen
  • Photocopies of your passport and credit cards
  • Physical address of where you’re staying

In case anything happens, having photocopies of all your documents in one place is a life saver. Having a written copy of the address you are going to also comes in handy. Sometimes, immigration officers ask for this before entering the country. In case you run out of battery on your phone, this will save you from the awkward “umm….it’s somewhere in here” moment.


This is another thing that I have learned from experience. Always carry a small med kit with you which has your essential travel medications. I once had a severe allergy attack in the middle of a long flight from New York to China. The kicker? All my medication were conveniently located in my main backpack which was checked in the flight. The result? 15 agonizing hours with nothing but an ice pack for my swelling ear. Always pack a small medicine kit with the basics. Headache and allergy medicine plus the other prescription medicine that you might need. In case your luggage gets lost, it is best to have those in hand.

This travel health journal has some good advice on traveling with medication and how to check if the medication you are bringing is legal or not.

Apart from bringing your medications, other essentials like contact lenses and eye drops are best kept safe in your carry on. Tom used to carry boxes of contact lenses with him as buying them in another country is just too much of a hassle. Given his high prescription grade, he has to normally order them from the shop and wait until it gets delivered-sometimes, it can take weeks! However, during our recent trip to Europe, he discovered Vision Direct through their Summer campaign. Vision Direct is a company who delivers contact lenses directly to you within two to three days. For those who travel with bad eyesight, you know how much of a relief this is! Their fast delivery all over Europe has saved us a couple of times from having to charades our way through yet another awkward travel situation.

Is ordering contact lenses abroad a myth? Check this infographic out to see how it works

Roll Up Bag with Spare Clothes

My mum always used to tell me to pack a change of clothes (underwear included) in our carry-ons. I never believed her and thought it was one of those “mum things”. Lo and behold, my backpack didn’t make it to Spain during a local flight and somehow ended up in Greece. The lesson of the story? Always do and trust what your mum says.

Another tip to keep in mind is to pack spare clothes that will be based on where you are going. If you’re flying to Norway, there is no point in packing a spare tank top and shorts. I also always bring a travel scarf in case the flight is a bit chilly.

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Bag for Valuables

It’s a no-brainer that you should keep all your valuables with you. Money, credit cards, jewelry, or anything valuable should be kept with you at all times. If your luggage gets lost, so will your money. I make sure that my wallet is neatly packed. For good measure, I also place photocopies of my IDs in my luggage along with a written contact number in case it gets lost! Another great tip is to have a photocopy of your passport in your wallet with emergency contact numbers written down at the back. To keep my valuables safe, we recommend the Pacsafe Travel Safe bags which lock up really well. If you prefer to travel with carry-on garment bags, just make sure you get ones that easily fit in the overhead cabin bins.

Power Bank

One thing that we always travel with, especially on long-haul flights and buses is our power bank. There is nothing worse than arriving at a new destination with no clue on where to go because your phone just died. Trust me, we have learned from experience. If you don’t have a power bank, pack your phone charger at the very least. It would save you having to dig through your bag in the middle of the airport, desperately trying to find an outlet to plug your phone to.

Sleep Accessories

For long-haul flights, I recommend coming prepared. Ear plugs, neck pillows, hoodies, etc. the works! I promise they will come in handy. I saw one woman who unpacked a mini “sleep bag” which had everything she needed for the entire flight! I was super jealous- especially since most of it weighed almost close to nothing. Definitely worth bringing.


I cannot stress the importance of having a small toothbrush, wipes, and basic toiletries when you travel. Sometimes, you need a good pick me up and freshening up is the only way to do it. I once survived a hellish 30-hour bus ride from Vietnam to Laos and I could have sworn that my little toiletry pouch kept me slightly sane.

I normally have loads of little pouches or zip locks which contain different things from wipes, a small travel deodorant, and some perfume.When you do pack toiletries, just be mindful of TSA liquid rules which are pretty standard everywhere.

What to bring in your toiletry pouch:

  • Wipes
  • Travel deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Perfume
  • Chapstick


In this day and age, we get on airplanes thinking that they would all have movies ready for us to watch but sometimes, you get unlucky as you chance upon those old school planes with no entertainment systems. Tom was on a flight from the Philippines to London on a plane with no movies. The solution? Bring your own entertainment. Whether it’s an iPad, a kindle, or even just a good travel book, having your own personal entertainment can be a lifesaver for long waits. Don’t forget to bring your own headphones

Since space is a luxury for me, I no longer travel with paperback books. Although I love the feeling of reading actual books, they just don’t make sense to lug around. Instead, I always have multiple titles sitting around on my iPad ready for me to read.

Read: MUST Read Travel Books to Inspire Wanderlust


For us, being that we are so highly dependent on our gadgets, having these things constantly with us just gives us peace of mind. Plus, we usually use our spare time in planes and trains to get some work done. Having them safely packed in your carry-on bag also means that they are less likely to get damaged. Bags often go flying everywhere when handled in airports, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

As we have a lot of electronics, these electronic wire organizers save us the hassle of digging through our bags and having random wires lying around everywhere. This is something we highly recommend investing in.

Snacks- lots of it!

Lastly, speaking of that long bus ride, another thing that kept me sane was snacks. Maybe it’s just me, but man, do I hate being hungry during long travel days. Although most airlines will provide you with snacks, my suggestion is to bring your own. Especially for long-haul flights or trips.

Do you have any more tips on what to pack in your carry-on bag? Check out our other articles on travel tips

Inspired? Pin it! Carry-On Packing List | 10 things you should always have with you during long flights

Disclaimer: Adventure In You is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites at no additional cost to you. Please note we only link to products & services we personally use or trust. 

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