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Travel Tips

What to Pack In Your Carry-On Bag

Photo credit: Joi Ito / Flickr

You’re going on a trip! You’ve already packed the sunscreen, the bathing suits, the loungewear, sundresses, shorts, and sandals. You’ve thought of everything… or have you? What are you putting in your carry-on bag? This seemingly simple question could turn into a big problem, if your luggage gets lost or your flight gets delayed.

Imagine leaving your cold weather home for the sunshine of the Caribbean and not having your sundress and shorts? Take it from me, someone who has lived through this, it’s not fun! Here are some things to pack in your carry-on that will save you time and money should your bags not get there when you do.


First and foremost, pack your documentation in your carry-on. Your passport and license will be used frequently, so put them in places that are easy to access. Also pack your confirmation for flight, hotel, and rental cars in the bag, so that you have all of the addresses and contact information at your fingertips. Make sure to pack your wallet as well!


Flights are long, especially when you’re excited about getting to your destination. Even the shortest 2-hour jaunt can seem to take all day. Pack an activity to pass the time. If you use a tablet or Kindle, load it with books that you are interested in.

This way you won’t have to use precious space in your carry-on bag to hold a large book. If you are traveling with kids make sure they have a device loaded with games and movies to occupy them as well… that is, if you want to preserve your sanity! Be sure to pack the chargers too.


It is wise to pack some munchies for the trip. Something compact like a granola bar or a dried fruit pack will do the trick. Apples also do well. Also pack a mini bottle of water. You may never need these, but if your luggage gets lost or you have an unexpected layover in the middle of the night, you’ll be happy you have a little something to snack on.


It is particularly important to keep your medications with you. None of us want to think about our luggage being lost, but it is a possibility. If that happens and your medication is in the carry-on bag, you could miss your next dosage. There’s no guarantee that you will be able to find a pharmacy that stocks your medication, so be safe and keep it with you.


In the event that your bags are lost, you will need the basics to get by until either the bags are shipped to your hotel, or you can make it to the local store. Pack toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, and body wipes. Keep them miniature and consistent with TSA guidelines.

Sleep Aids

Sleeping on a plane is a difficult task. Try packing earplugs or a sleep mask to block out stimulants. A travel blanket and a pillow might help as well. Catching some z’s will make the time go by faster.

A Change of Clothes

Take it from me, shopping at the island K-Mart is not the best way to start your vacation. Save yourself the frustration of standing on a tropical island in a sweater and jeans while your bags are flying to some far off place.

Pack a change of clothes for everyone traveling with you, including underwear and sandals. Even go as far as packing bathing suits, sunscreen, and a community towel. That way you can buy yourself some time to wait for your bags to arrive and still enjoy your vacation.

Packing your carry-on bag is an art. Fold and roll things tighter than you ever have before, use travel sizes for all materials, and use all the available space. You’ll be happy you did!

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