What I Put in my Carry-On Bag

What I carry on flights - my carry on bag essentials

Thanks to a previous career that required a lot of business travel and plenty of travel opportunities as a blogger, I have become quite expert in packing for travel. I find especially for airplane travel, your carry-on bag contents determine how comfortable of a flight you will have. Friday I am traveling to California and wanted to share what I put in my carry-on bag to have as relaxing and comfortable a flight as possible.

Universal Standard black overalls with a black cashmere sweater, EVA Birkenstocks, and the Dagne Dover Dakota backpack on Wardrobe Oxygen

My Carry-on Bag of Choice: The Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

Read my previous Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack review. I still am rocking the same backpack (FYI I have the Large size) and it still looks like new though many flights, train trips, and everyday carting my everything. I love the organization; so many pockets, a place for my laptop, and it’s so easy to access what you need even when stuffed under a plane seat.

 

What's In My Carry-On Bag

I am all about pouches; it's how I organize my daily purse and it's also how I organize my travel bag.  

What I pack in my carry-on bag for every flight

The main pouch I call my Personal Essentials Pouch; it's a heavyweight nylon bag with a durable zipper that I received in a swag bag from an event at a Longchamp store.  In this bag I have:

  • Small Comb and Hairbrush – As I mentioned in this post, choosing smaller versions of your everyday products saves space when packing.  The comb I have no idea when or where I got it; the brush is from The Body Shop and I purchased it at an airport!
  • Tissues – Because life happens.
  • Gum – For popping ears and fresher breath.  I usually carry more than one pack.
  • Mirror – A phone's selfie camers can work, but sometimes it's just nice to have the real thing.
  • Change – If I need to make a call, if I need to rent a trolly, if I want to give a tip at the coffee shop… I always carry a few quarters and dimes in my bag.
  • Tampons – In case Aunt Flo is early or in case a fellow woman is in a jam.  I am a fan of LOLA.
  • Barrettes and Safety Pins – Because life, fallen hems, busted seams, and bad hair happens.
  • Ear Plugs – I don't usually wear them on the flight, but like to have them just in case.  I also like them in case I have a noisy hotel room.  These are from Hearos and a style that is more for attending concerts but they get the job done and work with over-ear headphones (and I highly recommend them for live music).
  • Flossers and Wisps – Flossers are a must, especially if you have older teeth.  Colgate Wisps are great for a quick brushing and freshening during or after a flight.
  • Band-Aids – I once wore new shoes to the airport and had to spend $8 on two crappy Band-Aids to cover the popped blister on my ankle. Now I carry my own.
  • Glasses Wipe – I always carry one in my bag.
  • OTC Meds – See below.  They are sometimes in my liquids pouch, sometimes in this pouch.
  • Face Wipes – For when I feel grody after a long flight.
  • Mineral Powder Sunscreen – See below as I included them with my liquids.
  • Pens – I always bring at least two because one always decides to run out mid-brilliant thought in my journal.

What I pack in my carry-on bag for every flight

My second pouch is my Electronics Pouch.  This is the zippered pouch that comes with the Dagne Dover Dakota backpack.  In here I keep my chargers, cords, plugs, and a little USB fan I got in yet another swag bag and has become a travel must when stuck on the tarmac and the air isn't yet working on the plane (or when you're just on a hot plane).  Also nice when waiting in line outside. This is essentially the same gadget.  As for chargers, this one from Anker is my absolute favorite; it can keep me going all day even if I am at a blogger event and taking a ton of photos and videos and using social media without WiFi.  The ones from MyCharge (one I bought, one was gifted to me by the brand a year or so ago) are small enough to fit into a dressy clutch purse or my pocket and will give enough to get through an evening with lots of phone usage.

What I carry on flights - my carry on bag essentials

Other than the two pouches, the items in my carry-on bag are:

  • A PashminaThis one is from Chico's but any large scarf is great for travel.  It's a good blanket on the plane, offers extra padding if you wish to take a nap, adds style to looks, and wards off chill with dresses.
  • A Neck Pillow – I hate carrying around a neck pillow, but it is essential when you're flying cross-country.  This flight I am leaving my house at 8am ET and not arriving in California until 4pm PT and then I have an event to go to that night.  If I don't nap on the plane I won't make it.  This is the J-Pillow which has an extra appendage that keeps your head from falling to the side (or onto your seatmate). 
  • Reusable Water Bottle – You can't bring water through TSA, but if you bring a reusable water bottle, most restaurants at the gates will fill it with water and/or ice for free.  Then you also have a bottle once you reach your destination. I've found these days most hotels have a filtered water machine in their fitness centers.  This bottle was free when I did a campaign with Fabletics and I like that it's narrow enough to fit in the side pocket of my backpack.
  • A Snack – I always have at least one protein bar tucked in my bag.  Terrible options at the gate, hungry on the plane, flight delay, or saving money… it's a smart choice.
  • A Journal – I get some of my best writing done on flights.  I have trouble focusing on podcasts and reading, and I rarely have the time to sit down with a pen and paper like I can on a plane.
  • Bluetooth HeadphonesMy headphones are by Jabra.  I got them free from the brand but that was two years ago and they're still rocking.  They keep their charge way longer than any other Bluetooth headphones I've owned. I wear them to the gym and they get sweaty, they've been shoved in plenty of bags under plane seats and in trunks of cars and still rock.  Oh, they're also less than $50. 
  • Sunglasses – I wear them to and from the airport, but they're also great at preventing people from trying to talk to you on a flight.
  • Socks – While I'm in line at TSA I will slip off my shoes and if I'm not already wearing socks I'll slip them on to stay off the gross floor and to save time. They're also nice to have on a flight if your shoes are constricting.  These are from Smartwool.
  • Laptop and Cord – I don't use my laptop much on a plane unless I have specific work to do but I spend a lot of time on my laptop when waiting for my flight.
  • Luggage Strap – My backpack doesn't have a sleeve to slide it onto my suitcase's handle; this gadget accomplishes the same thing and is great to have on hand if I come home with an additional bag.
  • Mini Wallet – No need to bring all the contents of my wallet on travel.  ID, debit card, emergency credit card, insurance cards, and some cash is pretty much all I need.  I use the Dagne Dover card holder; I like how there are two pockets so I can keep cash separate.
  • My Liquids – Separated for TSA, these are all the liquid products I want for the flight and after.  For this trip I am checking my luggage; click here to read how I pack when not checking luggage.

What Toilitries I Carry on a Plane

What I carry on flights - my carry on bag essentials

Here are the items that are in my liquids bag when I am checking luggage.  A few of the items aren't liquid but I put them in there anyway because there's room and it's easy to find them later.

  • Face Mist – Flights are drying, a mist can add a boost of hydration and also smells nice. I like the smell of this one from Pixi and like that the bottle is durable, a TSA-friendly size, and a nice price.
  • Tinted Moisturizer – I don't wear makeup on flights but like to have it for when I land, especially if I have to straight to an event or meeting.  Tinted moisturizer looks better when slapped on in a rush in an airport bathroom than heavier foundation.  This product from Charlotte Tillbury is great on its own, as a primer, or even over foundation to give a glow and filtered effect.
  • Hand Cream – Instead of classic hand cream, I prefer Weleda Skin Food which can also go on my face, lips, cuticles, elbows, and more.
  • Mascara – Again for once I arrive at my destination.  I am currently obsessed with Thrive Causemetics which doesn't smudge and makes my lashes look long and lush.
  • Hand Sanitizer – A must when flying!  I will even wipe down my tray table with hand sanitizer.
  • Lip Balm – Again, I like products that work double-duty, and Glossier's Balm Dot Com can also be added to cuticles and dry places anywhere on the body.
  • Eye Drops – My eyes became drier after getting LASIK, and are especially dry on flights.
  • OTC Meds – That little Advil container has Advil as well as Benadryl and Imodium.  I refill it from bigger containers, it's on its third year of being a given in my purse and travel bag.
  • Aromatherapy Roller BallThis one helps destress while also helping with sinuses (two issues I regularly deal with). I also like having it when a seatmate has that not so fresh feeling.
  • Stain Stick – Because life happens.
  • Cream Blush – Again for once the plane lands.  I like Glossier's Cloud Paint because it's easy to apply without looking like a clown and because I can also add a dab on lips for a hint of color.
  • Lipstick – I like to go with a subtle color after a flight, this is ‘Pigalle' by NARS.
  • Sunscreen – This is a mineral powder sunscreen from Tarte that also works as a mattifier/loose powder.  I've learned to carry sunscreen in my carry-on after one time I got stuck for an hour waiting for my ride in the blazing sun and got a sunburn.
  • Hydrating Face Mask – Since I go with a bare face, I use flights as a time to pamper my skin.  This face mask from Colleen Rothschild is clear, just looks like wet/creamy skin, isn't too fragrant, and can either be left on or easily tissued off.
  • Dry Shampoo – While my skin will be dry after a flight, my hair will look like it hasn't been washed in a week.  Living Proof makes my favorite dry shampoo.

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19 Comments

  1. Ali
    March 15, 2019 / 5:18 pm

    It is not really travel related, but in relation to the tampons, I know how sustainable you try to be, and I found a menstrual cup to be a game changer when suffering heavy periods. Just wanted to mention it, as they also save space when travelling if you need to pack sanitary supplies!

    • March 20, 2019 / 4:28 pm

      I love cups and used them for YEARS. After getting an IUD I have been able to find one that is comfortable and I’ve tried a half dozen different ones. It’s why I’ve switched to LOLA since they’re organic and the applicator-free ones use the least amount of waste possible. Thank you for mentioning this, and to anyone else reading this, cups are not gross and rarely are uncomfortable. I used one before and after having a baby with great success!

  2. Tracie Bowman
    March 15, 2019 / 10:41 am

    Thanks for this post. I love that you listed all the items in your carry-on bag, so I can really be prepared for a river cruise in July. I took your advice and purchased the Dagne Dover backpack, which is great. Now I think I’d better get the luggage strap. Always fun to read your posts.

    • March 20, 2019 / 4:47 pm

      I’m glad you liked it Tracie! I’ve always wanted to do a river cruise, hope it’s fantastic!

  3. diane
    March 14, 2019 / 7:37 pm

    Hi, Diane from SoCal here. If you are coming to the greater Los Angeles area keep in mind that it is in the high 70s during the day but cold at night. Add some hot weather clothes to your bag. Have a fun trip!

  4. Chris
    March 13, 2019 / 10:24 pm

    Allie,

    I know this can vary by airline. My airline allows one personal item that I use my backpack for and one roller bag as long as it is no larger than the specified dimensions. Sometimes if the plane is at capacity, the airline agents will ask for volunteers to have their roller bag stashed in the luggage compartment of the plane – no charge. I always volunteer since it saves me the hassle of wrestling my bag into the overhead bin. I have learned to put anything I need for the flight in my carry on backpack.

    Flying is so expensive as it is. so it burns me to pay even more for checked luggage. I understand that because of the business you’re in, you’re almost required to have more clothes than I do and so you may need to sometimes check luggage. Travel-wise I am fortunate to fit into the data wonk/computer nerd category. None of us looks especially stylish. Even the plenary speakers at the conferences don’t dress up much. I can get all the clothes I need into my carry on roller bag, even for a trip that is 2 weeks long. I make all my garments do multiple duty. I usually take a blazer (with pockets) that will go with everything. Since the blazer takes up so much room in my luggage, I wear it for the flight. If it is too hot for the blazer, I take it off as soon as I get to my seat.

    In my carry-on roller bag, I always take a roll of wide width clear, shipping tape. I am surprised how often I have need for it. I also carry few empty ziplocks in sandwich, quart, and gallon sizes. Again, I am surprised how often the come in handy.
    flat
    For travel in the US, I want to bring up the USPS Flat Rate Boxes. These are charged one rate per size of box rather than weight. If you can get the items in the box without straining the seams, it doesn’t matter how heavy it is. The boxes can be a good, less expensive alternative to having to wrangle an extra piece of luggage.

  5. Sonia
    March 13, 2019 / 6:29 pm

    I carry almost all of what you carry and more just to make myself comfortable on a flight, though it’s been so long since I’ve traveled by air either for business or pleasure. The only thing I’d add is a sturdier bag to carry my 3 oz. liquids. It’s the Flight 001 Clear Carry-On Quart Bag found here: https://flight001.com/clear-carry-on-quart-bag/. It keeps everything from getting squashed and protects my packed items from bottles that may come open. I’ve carried mine, which is neon yellow, for several trips and it’s still holding strong. It doesn’t take up much room either.

    • March 13, 2019 / 6:46 pm

      That looks great! This Ziploc bag is years old but I never fill it tot he max which is what likely keeps it ticking.

  6. Lee
    March 13, 2019 / 6:15 pm

    Tell me more about that pillow, please! It looks like it would be so helpful for the reasons you mentioned, but do you find it works well? I’m desperate to find a more comfortable way to sleep on long flights.

    • March 13, 2019 / 6:45 pm

      It’s not perfection but it’s the best I have tried. It can shift, but the concept itself works well!

  7. McKristie
    March 13, 2019 / 2:37 pm

    Would love to hear more on thrive mascara. I stopped wearing it mostly due to all either melt or irritate my eyes!! Now I do brows, cheeks and lips!

    • March 13, 2019 / 6:31 pm

      I need to do a review! It’s a fiber mascara, but not clumpy like others I have tried. I wipe off the tip of the wand and it makes my lashes look amazing, doesn’t flake into my eyes even though I rub them a lot with allergies. No raccoon eyes either.

  8. TURNER
    March 13, 2019 / 10:10 am

    I followed the link to last year’s post and read the backpack review. Now I totally want one. It looks like a great bag and this probably sounds weird but I just love neoprene. I noticed on that post you had a DD coupon code. Any chance they will be offering that to your readers again?

    • March 13, 2019 / 2:39 pm

      I’ll see if I can score one. I doubt I can get one this week as they just launched their spring line but I hope before summer!

      • TURNER
        March 13, 2019 / 3:12 pm

        Yay! In the meantime I do see they offer 10% off a first purchase when you register in their site so maybe I’ll do that.

        • Sonia
          March 14, 2019 / 9:07 pm

          They’re having a sale right now on retired colors.

  9. Linda Dodson
    March 13, 2019 / 9:50 am

    “when a seatmate has that not so fresh feeling.” yes!

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