I'm no stranger to travel. Having been on a plane more times than I can count, I consider myself an expert when it comes to everything from booking to packing. I've experienced 14-hour delays and completely missed flights that have led to long, heated conversations in airports more often than I'd like to admit. Through many sleepless terminal nights and teary conversations at the help desk, I've narrowed down my personal, carry-on essentials to a science. In advance of my trip to Ireland this week to visit family, I thought I'd share every single item in my carry-on. If you're like me and want to be prepared at all times, read on for my flight necessities:
The purse: I have two bags I use for travel: my vintage Louis Vuitton Neverfull (which I bought from eBay) or my Opening Ceremony tote (only $30!). Both have long straps, wide, structured bottoms, and internal pockets, which is essential for all the items I lug through the airport. I bring the LV bag on trips that are city-oriented, where I know the weather will be consistent. If I'm headed to the beach or through nature at any point, I grab my other tote since it's easy to replace and water resistant.
The organizer: I like structure, and a structured tote still isn't enough to meet my organizational needs. This $19 organizer from Amazon fits perfectly into both of my totes and has a pocket for everything. I keep my valuables in the zipped sections, and the other separated areas each have a theme: beauty, technology, emergency, etc. With this organizer, there will never be a moment where you don't know where something is.
Document holder: Growing up, my dad was obsessed with passport security- how you hold it, where you hold, who has it, etc.. Naturally, all the years I made fun of him have now come to haunt me as I am now that girl. My documents organizer (similar here) has room for both mine and my fiancé's passports, any currency we ordered from the bank, pre-bought tickets to museums, and boarding passes. Having everything together, in the exact location I want it, eases any travel anxiety.
Card case and coin purse: In the U.S., I never typically have cash. My card case (affordable version here) keeps everything I need for travel: credit cards, driver's license, and insurance card. For cities where coins are a major part of the currency (e.g.: European cities), I always bring a coin purse for easy reach and convenience at cafes or bars.
Makeup bag: When your bag gets lost in a country without formal addresses (trust me, it can happen), you'll want to have some beauty products on hand for the beginning days of your trip. In my amazon makeup bag, I always have Glossier Stretch Concealer, Nars The Multiple in Orgasm, Glossier Boy Brow, Charlotte Tilbury Cream Shadow in Amber, a Tweezerman Eyelash Curler, ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara, and Dior Lip Glow in Pink. This is enough to get through day and night looks, all while hiding your jet lag.
Skin products: Though it embarrasses many people in my life (Rob, my mom, the stranger next to me), I'm obsessed with hydrating my skin during my flight. In my beauty section of my bag, I make sure to bring facial wipes, my Caudalie toning mist, and an Avene moisturizer. If I continuously take care of my skin throughout the flight, I'm guaranteed to have a vacation free of blemishes.
Extras: My beauty bag isn't complete without a nail file (I always break a nail at some point on the trip), an ultra-moisturizing hand creme to combat airplane soap, perfume sample or roller, homeoplasmine, hair tie and clip, sunscreen, my travel wet brush, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes to clean off the tray table.
Neck pillow and eye mask: These are recent additions to my repertoire. Flying from the East Coast to Europe never felt long enough to need these sleeping luxuries. Now that my flights have significantly increased in duration (it can take twice as long to fly from L.A. to visit family in Ireland), I make sure to pack both every time to ensure I sleep the whole flight and beat any jet lag.
Warm wrap: Since I go from hot to very cold within in a matter of minutes, I pack this huge, blue scarf as an extra layer (similar here). It's long enough to cover most of my body (a perk of being short), and the pop of color brightens my all-black ensemble.
Spare cash: As I mentioned, I rarely have cash on me, and that has led me into some annoying airport cab situations. Now, I always make sure I have the equivalent of 30 dollars on me wherever I go, just in case.
Disposable toothbrush: Packing 3 to 4 disposable toothbrushes will make you feel fresh after long flights or travel. These come with the toothpaste built in, and I can't go without them.
Medicine: Getting sick on the trip, whether from allergies or the germs from the flight, is never ideal. I recommend having a few pills of Claritin, Benadryl, and Advil on hand.
Google maps downloaded: Before I go anywhere, I always download the map of the city I'm going to. By doing this, you have access to directions anywhere, even if you don't have wifi. Since I don't have phone service abroad, this is a great way of getting where I need to go. (Bonus: It uses less battery than regular 3G mapping!)
A pen: For filling out Customs forms or anything that could delay you getting the heck out of the airport.
Headphones: I refuse to pay for anything while in flight so I bring my headphones, even if I don't end up using them. If you have a wireless pair (amazing affordable pair here), make sure to bring a pair with cords so you can use the plane's tv and radio.
Chargers & power bank: Every time I put a piece of technology into my bag, I make sure to put the corresponding charger in as well, since it is probably one of the most forgotten things when packing. I also always have a back up power bank for long days of sightseeing.
P.S., Here's what Emily packs in her carry-on for a 48-hour trip and how Leslie shared a carry-on with her boyfriend for a 5-day trip to Europe.
If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.