The Bare Minimum Carry-On Travel Essentials

Aug 2, 2018

What’s the secret to not overpacking? Pack light and carry-on. The last thing you want is to turn your free carry-on into a $25 checked bag. But why carry-on in the first place? Well, there’re lots of reasons like no checked bag fees or wondering how your bag will do against those airline baggage throwers you see on Facebook, but one things for sure—you never have to worry about the airlines losing your luggage since you’re carrying everything you have through airports. If you ever find yourself thinking about packing “just in case” items for, well, anything, leave it at home. And if you end up needing it, use it as an opportunity to go souvenir shopping at your vacation destination. So let’s get to ithere’s the break down on carry-on basics:

  • Carry-on luggage dimensions are 22″ tall x 14″ wide x 9″ deep. Dimensions varies by airline so refer to your specific airline’s carry-on policy.
  • Personal item dimensions are 17″ tall x 10″ wide x 9″ deep. In addition to a carry-on luggage, most airlines allow one personal item like a purse, camera bag or small backpack.
  • Carry-on liquids are limited to 3 ounces per item. You’re allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of travel-sized liquids, gels, creams and pastes, but don’t try to sneak in your 6 ounce bottle of lotion even if it has 1 ounce of lotion inside. Pack your liquids properly.

Start with the Bags


If you pick the biggest suitcase from a three-piece set, all that extra space becomes an excuse to fill it up with clothes you probably won’t wear. That’s how you overpack. Getting the carry-on size forces you to pack light. Give yourself space and try not to pack your suitcase all the way, leaving room for souvenirs on your way back home. Focus on curating basic clothing pieces that you can combine into different outfits. This Samsonite suitcase is my main carry-on because it’s hard sided and features an expandable zipper for those times when you need an extra inch of packing.

Get it: Samsonite Novus Spinner 20″

Packing Tip: Pack less clothes than you think you need. Whether your Airbnb or hotel has laundry facilities or if you pack your own ziplock of detergent, remember that you can always do laundry while you’re traveling.


This Anello backpack is my personal fave for travelling. It’s my personal item bag that does double duty as a daypack. It features a wide mouth opening so you can see (and fit!) everything inside. There’s a snap button clasp over the bag handles in addition to a double zipper to keep the main compartment closed, preventing thieves from picking through your bag. Plus, there’re side compartments for storing a water bottle, and a zipper on the back of for easy access to your wallet buried at the bottom of the bag.

Get it: Anello Canvas Backpack

And then the bags within the bags

Travel Wallet

Leave the backpack at your Airbnb room. This travel wallet was made for fitting all your night out essentialslike phone, cards, cash and even your passport.

Get it:
Krosslon Travel Wallet

Toiletry Bag

Don’t turn that bathroom sink into a cosmetic aisle. Invest in a hanging toiletry bag to organize your makeup and toiletry essentials. Pair it with travel-size bottles and you have the perfect bathroom beauty kit.

Get it: Amazon Basics Toiletry Bag

Foldable Duffel

I got this foldable duffel as a gift, but you can find a variety of duffel bag options on Amazon. If you’re going carry-on only, stuff a foldable bag in your suitcase. It’s easy to pack and you can easily pop it open and fill it up with all the snacks and souvenirs you didn’t anticipate buying, even if it means checking it in on your way home. If you end up not using the duffel, at least it doesn’t take up too much space in your suitcase.

Get it: Mixed Bag Designs Packable Duffel Bag (Not Available)

Don’t forget the essentials


No need to carry around a bulky DSLR when you can use your smartphone for easy travel photography.

Get it:
Unlocked Google Pixel 2

Travel Adapter

Plug types are not made equally. Each country has their own electricity standards so pack a travel power adapter to recharge and power your electronic devices in any country around the world.

Get it:
NEWVANGA Travel Adapter

Selfie Stick Tripod with Remote

What’s better than talking selfies or asking strangers to take pictures of you? Taking the picture yourself with a selfie stick tripod! Unfortunately this was an impulse purchase so I didn’t get to test it out until I got to the destination. The Bluetooth remote didn’t connect to my phone so let’s just say I didn’t get the pictures I wanted. I don’t recommend this particular brand, but I’ll be exploring another product so you can amp up your travel phoneography.

Get it:
EletecPro Selfie Stick Tripod with Remote

Packing Tip: Leave your laptop and tablets at home and use your smartphone to read books, watch movies or play games. Plus, its less charging cords and devices taking up space in your travel bags.

Water Bottle

Bring your empty water bottle wherever you go you so don’t have to deal with overpriced airport water. Fill it up at airport water fountains after clearing security or have the flight attendants fill it up in-flight. It’ll help you stay hydrated which helps with jet lag and dehydration.

Get it:
Swell Bottle – Teakwood

And everything for getting comfy in coach class

Travel Pillow

When I first tried this travel pillow in-store at Bed, Bath & Beyond, my face covered—literally. It was comfortable to wear, but when I actually used it on the plane, I didn’t have the chin support and my neck got sore for being so squished from all the extra comfort. Needless to say, find a good travel pillow so you don’t nod off in an uncomfortable position.

Get it:
Cabeau Evolution Pillow


If you’re in it for the long haul, pack some quality ‘buds to hear the movie better or sleep soundly without being disturbed by surrounding airplane noises. If they’re noise cancelling, that’s even better. Keep in mind that most in-flight entertainment is not Bluetooth-compatible.

Get it: Skullcandy Method Sport Earbuds

Toe Socks

This one’s for people who sleep with socks on. There’re no benefits to these toe socks except that they’re comfy, but I’ve read about compression socks that’ll help regulate blood flow to your feet during long-haul flights where leg room is minimal.

Get it:
Meaiguo Toe Socks

And now you still have space to bring home snacks!

Carry-on travel means being more selective of what you pack. At the same time, you don’t want travel to determine what you buy. But if it helps you speed through security or make sitting in coach feel like first class, then you might as well invest in quality travel products to build up your carry-on essentials collection. Just make sure to save room for your souvenirs on the way back home!

This post contains affiliate links and I earn a small sales commission at no extra cost to you when you make a purchase through them. I only recommend products and services that I love and use myself. Thanks for supporting my blog!

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