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Carry On Bag Packing List

There are some things that should always go in your carry on and never in your checked bag. This Carry On Bag Packing List can help you pack your bags.

For more help planning your trip, check out all of our travel posts.

A purple bag with a sweatshirt, headphones, water bottle, makeup, book, and contact solution on it with the words "Carry On Bag Packing List" digitally written above it.

When I flew to Washington a couple years ago, the airline lost my luggage on the flight home. I had my purse and carry-on bag with me, but my checked bag was traveling around the country on its own. That meant my laptop and camera, which I never should have put in my checked bag, could potentially have been missing forever.

Luckily, my luggage eventually made it to the right airport and, aside from a couple ruined items thanks to TSA destroying a full can of liquid and a pair of K-Cups and throwing them back in my bag, everything was fine.

Ever since, though, I’ve been very intentional about what I pack in my carry-on bag. And I figured I would use that experience to help you pack as well.

Two quick notes: One, we’re saying carry on bag for convenience of the term (and because many people take a carry on bag to place in the overhead compartment of a plane now to save money). But, if you’re only using a checked bag and personal item bag (like a purse or travel backpack) for your trip, then these items should be packed in your personal item.

Two, so many people want to pack carry-on bags instead of checked bags because they don’t want to pay the extra cost of a checked bag. So, if you have an economy plane ticket, there’s a chance that you’ll be asked to gate check your bag because there isn’t enough space in overhead bins.

So, for free, your carry-on bag will be treated like checked luggage and will be stowed under the plane rather than in an overhead compartment. If that happens to you, take a moment to take out all the items on our carry-on packing list below and put them in your personal item.

A suitcase on a porch with the words "The Ultimate List Of Packing Lists" digitally written on top.

This isn’t the only travel packing list we have on Drugstore Divas. For more, check out The Ultimate List Of Packing Lists.

Carry On Bag Packing List

Affiliate links are included in this post and Drugstore Divas may make a small commission if you use them.

Some of the items on this carry on packing list are convenience items that make your flight easier, like a sweatshirt if the plane gets cold. And others are essential items you should always carry with you, like your wallet with ID and credit cards, in case — worst-case scenario — the airport loses your luggage.


Always, always, always pack your identification in your carry on bag, not in your checked bag. You’ll need your identification to get through airport security, so you won’t be able to board your flight if you put your wallet and ID in your checked bag. 

But, even worse, if your checked bag with your ID gets lost, you’re in trouble. You can’t get through customs, if you’re on an international trip. If you rented a car, you can’t pick it up or drive it. If you booked a hotel, you won’t be able to check in.

So keep your ID on you at all time. Or, at the very least, in your checked bag.

For international travel where you need a passport, I suggest getting a passport holder with a pocket on one side for your passport and one on the other side for your travel documents showing where you’ll be and when. That way, if you leave your passport at a restaurant, someone will be able to call your hotel and arrange to get it back to you.


It’s always cold on a plane. No matter what season you’re flying in, it seems like the air conditioning is always on full blast.

Unless you’re on the tarmac. When you’re sitting there, the plane gets so hot. So having a light sweatshirt in your bag for when you’re actually flying — and being able to take it off when you’re waiting — is a necessity.

A book titled more than a mom.

Book or tablet

I used to pack magazines when I flew until I started blogging full time and started to work as often as possible.

If you can actually take time off, pack a book to read on the plane.

If you’re like me and need to work, pack your tablet so you can get some work done. Or, you can download movies onto your tablet before your flight and watch them on long flights. That’s a great way to catch up on a new movie or series.


If you’re using your cell phone or tablet for your playlist, audiobook, or streaming, bring headphones with you and plug them into your device. You don’t want to play DJ for the plane, and your fellow passengers might not want to hear your novel.

A pair of contacts.

Contacts and eyeglasses

I often wear glasses when I fly, especially on international flights. Going to Japan is a 14 hour flight, and that means I’m going to sleep at some point. If you wear contacts, you know that sleeping in them is just awful. Sleeping in contacts is not great for your eyes and dries your contacts out. And when you wake up, it’s not a good experience.

So wear your glasses, pack your contacts and solution in your carry on, then put your contacts in your eyes in the airport bathroom.

Also, this is a really great way to assure that you have your glasses with you in case your luggage gets lost. When my luggage got lost, my eyeglasses were in that bag. I didn’t have a backup pair, so once I took my contacts out, I couldn’t see.

Also, yes, for those asking: You can bring contact solution in your carry on, as long as the contact solution bottle is under 3.1 oz. Quick travel tip: Put a piece of tape to hold the top down so it doesn’t open in your bag. Also, put it in a plastic bag in case it does open. That way, it won’t spill all over the rest of your bag.

And, if you need some more tips, we have a whole post on traveling with contacts.

A pink, silver, and blue reusable water bottle on a shelf in the store.

Empty water bottle

You’re not allowed to bring full water bottles through airport security, but you are able to bring empty water bottles. So, pack either a reusable water bottle or an extra plastic bottle with the cap in your carry on. Once you get through security, find the closest water fountain and fill it up. This way, you can have a drink while you’re waiting for your flight and when you’re on your flight without having to buy an expensive water at one of the airport cafes.

If you fill your bottle up before security, you’ll be asked to throw it away, so make sure you wait until you’re through security, not just through check in, before you fill up your bottle.

Pecans at Buc-ee's.


Airport snacks are really expensive. I’m always so surprised at how much they charge for things like granola bars and single serve bags of chips. These are the things I like to eat when I’m waiting at the gate, though. So I make sure to pack them in my carry on bag. They’re a lot cheaper to buy at the grocery store when your have a coupon than the airport’s convenience store.

Packing your own snacks is the easiest way to save money on food on your vacation. Click that link for more ideas.

An iPad with keyboard on a table at an airport.

Your electronics

I can’t stress this one enough. If you’re taking any electronics on your trip, like a digital camera or laptop, pack them in your carry on. Do not pack them in your checked bag.

I never heeded this warning and when the airport lost my bag, there went my laptop and camera. I ended up getting everything back, thank goodness, but what if my bag was lost forever? All my electronics would be too.

I always pack them in my checked bag, if I have one, because they take up too much space in my carry on bag, plus they make a carry on bag so heavy. But I would have regretted it forever if my bag wasn’t returned.

So now, I deal with having less space in my carry on and have my laptop and camera with me at all times. Just in case.

CVS Acetaminophen boxes on a shelf.

Prescription Medication

If you take any prescription medication, you’re going to need that when you’re on your long trip. So you have to pack it. But pack it in your carry on.

If your luggage gets lost, you can easily go to the store and purchase any over-the-counter vitamins or medications. But, you can’t easily get more prescription medication. So pack your aspirin in your toiletry bag and put it in your suitcase, but put any prescription medication in your carry on.

Phone Charger

None of us can leave home without our cell phones anymore. And when you’re going on a trip, you need to bring a phone charger. Most people throw it in their checked luggage.

But things can happen when you’re at the airport. Like flight delays. I got stuck for 10 hours in the Canton, Ohio airport with no phone charger in sight. This was way before the days of wireless charging. A kind soul lent me a charger, and ever since then, I make sure to have one with me at all times.

If you’re traveling outside the United States, you might need a travel adapter, so you might want to carry one of those in your carry on bag as well.

A piece of luggage outside of a home.

Carry On Bag: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a carry-on luggage bag?

A carry-on is, as the name implies, a bag that you personally and physically carry on the airplane, as opposed to a checked bag, which baggage handlers put onto the plane.

What qualifies as a carry-on bag?

A carry-on bag is any bag that fits within an airline’s designated dimensions. 

Most airlines allow a carry on bag to be 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches high — including handles (when not extended) and wheels.

However, there aren’t standard TSA regulations for the size of a carry on. Airlines can choose to allow different sizes of bags, so it’s a good idea to double check an airline’s website before packing.

What happens if your carry-on is too big?

If your carry-on bag is outside of the airline’s allowed dimensions, you’ll be required to gate check your bag and it will be stowed under the plane rather than allowed on the plane with you.

Be really careful about this because you could incur an additional charge for checking a bag at the gate (which is often more than if you checked the bag when you got your boarding pass).

What is allowed in a carry-on bag?

The TSA has restrictions for carry-on bags that are different than checked bags. These would trump any airline restrictions, FYI.

For a complete list of what is and isn’t allowed in a carry-on bag, check out the TSA’s website.

A hotel room in the Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel.

Purchase Carry-On Travel Bags Online:

If you want a new travel bag before your next trip, the one above is from my Rockland Luggage set from Amazon. Pete has the same set, but in silver. It came with a larger bag (a standard luggage size) and a smaller bag (the above carry-on size).

​You can find more options at the following stores online:

Also, check thrift stores for luggage as well. I’ve personally never done this, but it has been suggested so many times, so it’s definitely worth looking into, especially if you’re on a budget.

Luggage on a rack at the airport with the words "10 Luggage Tops For Checked Bags" digitally written on top.

Luggage Tips For Checked Bags

Now that you sorted out what goes in your carry-on bag, our Luggage Tips For Checked Bags post will help you pack your carry-on suitcase.

What other carry on must haves do you have? Be sure to comment below!


Wednesday 28th of June 2017

wait until you become a parent... your carry on bag turns into a crazy mess. diapers, wipes, lots of snacks, toys, books, (we are using an iPad for our upcoming flight), a change of clothes not only for the baby but for yourself.

things change so much when you have kids


Tuesday 27th of June 2017

Thank you for sharing! We are taking a trip later this summer and will be flying and riding the train. So this will help me be prepared!