Wise Bread Picks
Do you want to fit your travel packing needs into carry-on luggage, regardless of whether your trip is two weeks or two months? Everything you need is in this ultimate carry-on packing list.
These carefully selected items are the real deal, curated from 12 years of full-time travel, two of which were with carry-on luggage only. That’s right; for two years, everything I owned fit into a carry-on suitcase. (See also: 5 Ways Carry-On Luggage Can Save You Time and Money)
The Packing List for Ultimate Carry-On Travel
This carry-on packing list is flexible for multiple climates and scenarios. Pick and choose what you need from each of the “Optional” categories depending on your trip.
If you’re outdoorsy and headed for Nepal, bring your down jacket, scarf, hat, hiking shoes, and headlamp. If you’re city-slicking through Paris in autumn, leave that stuff behind and bring your ballet flats and a sweater for cool evenings.
This list is for guys and gals. Use it as your template and customize it as needed.
Luggage and Packing
This is the most crucial part of your packing list; luggage is your home on the road, and packing tools help you stay organized and maximize space.
- Rolling Luggage/Backpack – I prefer rolling luggage (like the soft-sided Pacsafe Toursafe 21) because then I use a backpack as my personal item/daypack for electronics and extras. But when I’m going super light, I use one of these one bag travel options.
- Daypack – Only needed if you’re not doing one bag travel
- Hoboroll – Invaluable ultralight packing tool; it organizes and compresses so much stuff
- 2 Pairs Pants – Lightweight, quick-dry, can be dressed up or down
- 1 Pair Capri Pants or Shorts – Depending on climate and personal style
- 2-3 Short-Sleeved Shirts
- 1-2 Long-Sleeved Shirts
- 5 Pairs Underwear – Light synthetic material for overnight drying
- 2 Bras (women only)
- 3-5 Pairs Socks – Depending on needs; bring fewer pairs for warm climates
- Bathing Suit
- Packable Rain Jacket – Waterproof layer that packs down small; use on its own in warm climates, and over your down jacket in cold
- Down Jacket – Lightweight, packs down, for cold weather
- Sweater/Cardigan – To layer in cooler climes
- 1 Pair Leggings/Long Underwear – For women, leggings are great lightweight pants. For both sexes, bring leggings/long underwear for cold weather layering
- “Little Black Dress” – A ladies’ staple for dressing up
- Tank Top(s) – For hot weather, layering in cool weather, and doubling as workout gear
- Workout clothes
- Pajamas – Bring dedicated Pjs or wear long underwear/shirts instead (or nothing at all!)
- Scarf – For warmth and/or style
- Walking Shoes – Ideally both stylish and functional
- Flip Flops – Can be used as sandals, shower shoes, inside slippers, and more; lightweight and multi-purpose
- Sandals – For warm climates; here’s my criteria for the perfect travel sandal
- Hiking Shoes – Keep it ultralight with a barefoot trail runner like Xeroshoes Mesa Trail or Vivobarefoot Primus Trail/Magna Trail
- Ballet Flats – Ultralight dressier option for women. Tieks are pricey but preferred by pro travelers
You can buy every toiletry below in solid form from Lush. A carry-on traveler’s dream!
- Face Wash
- Hair Honey (Styling)
- Deodorant – Salt Crystal deodorant lasts forever and takes up no space (all natural)
- Nail Clippers
- Hair Ties
- Menstrual Cup
Hedge your bets! For non-prescription meds, just take a few tablets of each.
- Allergy Meds
- Antibiotic Cream – For insect bites and cuts that aren’t healing
- Prescriptions – Bring the prescription label in case security asks, and extra meds in case your return is delayed
Optional Medical Supplies
- Supplements – I carry multi-vitamins, probiotics, vitamin C, and oil of oregano to stay healthy and deal with illness.
As a digital nomad, I travel with more electronics than somebody on vacation might. Remember, every electronic has cables and adaptors that take up space. Only take what you’ll need.
- Laptop or Tablet – Most people don’t require more than a tablet for vacations
- Smartphone – For accessibility/maps/staying in touch/camera; here’s how to stay connected abroad
- Camera – For people who prefer cameras that don’t make phone calls
- External Hard Drive – For laptop backups; in some places, you might not have sufficient internet for cloud storage
- E-Reader – You can use your phone/tablet instead, but no paper books!
- Universal Travel Adaptor – For charging electronics in countries with different plug configurations/voltages
- Laptop/Tablet Case/Sleeve – For protection and portability
These items may be extra, but most of them aren’t optional!
- Sun Hat
- Passport Wallet – With RFID protection
- Plastic Document Sleeves – For copies of important documents and identification
- Water Bottle – I use Platypus collapsible bottle to stay ultralight
- Earplugs – You never know when you’ll need them
- Ziploc Bags – For so many uses!
- Headlamp – For hiking or camping
- Notebook – For lovers of journaling and sketching
- Travel Towel – Small, super-absorbent, quick-dry towel for hostels, beaches, camping, etc
- Warm Hat
- Buff – Can be worn many ways
- Resistance Bands – For exercising
- SteriPEN Ultra – When the water isn’t potable, SteriPEN is your friend
Carry-On Weight Restrictions
Rules for carry-on bags vary by airline and route, and some budget airlines weigh both carry-on and personal items. Read the fine print when you book your flight and pack accordingly.
A sneaky trick is to wear a jacket with many pockets and load them up with heavy stuff; anything you are wearing doesn’t count toward weight limits! After checking in, you can reorganize.
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Originally posted at https://www.wisebread.com/make-flying-easy-the-ultimate-carry-on-packing-list