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How to Pack Your Carry-On Bag Like a Champ

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I travel a lot, which means I fly a decent amount. One of the worst parts of flying is figuring out how to pack  your carry-on bag perfectly so you’re not bored during the flight, but you also don’t have a lot of stuff you don’t actually need to carry around the airport.

I’m definitely an overpacker, so lately I’ve been working on honing my carry-on list down to the absolute essentials. Here’s everything that I bring on an airplane, and you should too.

The bag

Right now my carry-on backpack is one that I’ve had since college. It’s still a nice backpack, and has held up great, but it really is more for school than for travel. After 8 years, the stitching is starting to fray as well, so I’m worried a strap will break while I’m running for a flight one day.

I’ve had my eye on this Matein backpack as a replacement. It’s got so many pockets that are perfect for organizing your things while you travel, and even though it looks small, it’s big enough to fit a 15 inch laptop.

That black feature on the side between the two big pockets is a charging port. You plug your power bank into the inside and your phone into the outside, and then you can charge as you’re walking.

The back has a luggage strap, so you can hook the backpack over your suitcase handle and not have to carry it once you’ve picked up your luggage at your destination.

The Entertainment

I always have my phone and ipad when I travel, so I always have games to play or books on my kindle app. I also like to bring a physical book on a plane even though it takes up space in my bag.

My favorite book is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It’s got the fantasy element that I love and it’s also set in the midwest, so I love when the characters go to places that I know. It’s kind of long, so it’s great for a long plane ride and since I love to read it over and over, I don’t need to bring any other books.

The Accessories

One thing I hate that always ends up happening is my headphones getting tangled. I have to spend so much time untangling them and getting them tangled up means they’re more likely to break. Luckily, I found this headphone wrap from Hide & Drink. I love how easy it is to wrap your headphones to keep them from tangling and it comes in so many cute colors. The key ring means you can stick this anywhere and it will stay there so you never have to dig through your backpack for your headphones again.

These iPhone chargers are the best ones I’ve ever gotten. I usually manage to break charger cables within a few months, but I’ve had these for over a year and they’re going strong. It’s super handy that there are four cables in three lengths, but for a flight you only need a 3ft cable.

If you have a short flight on a cheap airline, there’s no place to charge your phone or iPad on the plane. I use my phone and iPad for everything, especially for keeping myself occupied on a flight, so after a few hours my batteries are pretty dead on both. Having a power bank in my backpack is an absolute must, and this one from Poweradd is not only super pretty, but it also can charge your phone several times before needing to be recharged itself.

Finding a place to charge all your things before you take off is a great way to save on how much you’re using your power bank. The worst thing about airports is having a long layover and not being able to find a place to plug in all your electronics. This cute power strip makes it easy to charge everything as long as you can find one open outlet. I usually have my iPad and my phone and sometimes my computer as well when I’m traveling, so I love that I can charge everything at once with this little guy.

You need a reusable water bottle for the plane. Just make sure it’s empty when you go through security and fill it at a water fountain once you’re through. This Under Armour bottle is my favorite for airports. At 18oz, it’s a smaller than a CamelBak water bottle, which comes between 20oz and 32oz, but it’s a lot better for air travel. When the plane is taking off and landing, pressure changes force water up the straw in the CamelBak bottle and it dribbles all over everything. The Under Armour bottle doesn’t have a straw for water to be forced up and it has a locking cap to keep your water inside instead of all over your stuff.

The Clothes

You should always have an extra outfit in your carry-on in case your suitcases get lost by the airline. I like to bring three extra pairs of socks and underwear, a tshirt, and a pair of jeans. Layers are great, but I hate bringing sweatshirts in my carry-on because they’re bulky and take up so much space if you’re not wearing them.

A jacket is a great layer to bring instead of a sweatshirt. I love utility jackets like this ViiViiKay anorak because they have so many pockets for when you’re arriving at the airport or going through customs and need your ID and boarding pass easily accessible a lot.

The Toiletries

You’re going to need the basics, like your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, hairbrush, and comb. Every Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Target, or similar store has a travel section, so these are easy to find. What’s more important is finding the right containers for everything else.

Having the right toiletries is super important to me. The wrong products will ruin my skin and hair and hotels don’t even have conditioner half the time, let alone one that will work for me. This travel set is adorable and also made of silicone, so it won’t break easily like plastic travel-size bottles do.

Keeping my (non-liquid) makeup organized is an important part of traveling too. Nothing is worse than getting somewhere and not being able to find my eyeliner or the right brush. I love this makeup bag because it’s not too bulky and it has pockets for everything I need. The big pocket is great for my actual makeup products, while the smaller pocket has a mirror, a pouch for things like wipes, cotton balls, and qtips, and slots to keep my brushes organized.

The Snacks

Besides books and entertainment, snacks are the most important thing in my backpack.

I love KIND bars. I’m pretty sure no granola bar is actually healthy, but I like that they’ve got all the gluten free and super grains information on the packaging so I can pretend these bars are healthy. They’re probably a lot more healthy than any other granola bar. I don’t think it helps that I like the peanut butter and dark chocolate ones, but at least I’m getting antioxidants from the chocolate.

I also love fruit leather and Stretch Island is my jam. These strips are really small, but individually they’re around $.59 each, so they’re not expensive. I think they’re actually healthy since they’re made from 100% juice. This variety pack has apple, apricot, cherry, grape, raspberry, and strawberry flavors. I’ll probably have eaten all of them before takeoff.

Did I miss anything that’s a must-bring on your packing list? Let me know in the comments what your favorite products for flying are.

2 thoughts on “How to Pack Your Carry-On Bag Like a Champ

  1. sandibluffs says:

    With such an elegant backpack, I could attend all my important business meetings, right off the plane. I would probably include a packet of nuts in my pack, too.


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