When you travel, sometimes your carry-on bag makes you feel like a pack mule. When you add children to the mix, you are loaded down with every conceivable toy from the toy box: crayons, stickers, Lego guys, stuffed animals, you name it. You’re lucky if you don’t throw out your back while hauling everything through the airport. After five trips abroad in the last five years with our three children, and many domestic trips in between, I think I have come up with a pretty stream-lined list of everything you might need, hopefully saving you some back pain along the way. These are our favorite carry-on travel essentials for every type of trip.
25 Carry-On Travel Essentials for Every Type of Trip
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What to Pack When Traveling Alone
1. Hand wipes – You may need to use these before you are on the plane, on the plane to wipe off those gross tray tables, and probably throughout the rest of your trip. Don’t leave home without them.
2. Tiny first aid kit – Throw in a few band-aids, acetaminophen, airsickness medicine, and ibuprofen for yourself and/or the kids.
3. Tissues – Never know when you’re going to need these.
4. Lip balm – Your lips will become dry from all that re-circulating air, so take something to prevent them from chapping. My kids love Eos lip balm (I think it’s the egg shape they love) and I am partial to the Smith’s Rosebud Salve. I keep a tin of it everywhere.
5. iPad or Kindle with headphones or Books and Magazines – Face it, the in-flight entertainment these days leaves a lot to be desired. Download your favorite shows or books or bring along the latest book club read to entertain yourself.
6. Gum – Equalize the pressure or refresh your breath. You choose.
7. Scarf/shawl – Doubles as a blanket to keep you warm if the plane gets too cold.
8. Portable battery charger and cord – I love my Anker lipstick sized portable charger. It is so tiny, and when it is at full power, it will completely recharge your phone for over 7 hours of talk time (not that you would be talking on the airplane, not yet anyway). I use this when I travel and also throw it in my purse when I am home. I don’t go anywhere without it.
9. Snacks – Since airplane food is non-existent, I always bring along snacks. For a quick list of easy travel snacks, you can see my posts: 25 Easy To Pack Travel Snacks, Nut Free Travel Snacks, and Easy to Make and Pack Travel Snacks. There are a lot of ideas over there.
10. Medicine – If you have prescription medicine, ALWAYS pack it in your carry-on. Medicine is one thing you don’t want to lose. If you are concerned about being questioned at security, bring a copy of your doctor’s prescription as peace of mind.
11. Reading light – If you are traveling at night and want to be polite, bring your own reading light so you don’t disturb other passengers. The light can also come in handy if you need to search for something lost in the bottom of your bag or under your seat.
12. Cell phone – This really goes without saying because I don’t know anyone that travels without their phone these days. Just be sure to turn it to airplane mode and if you are flying overseas, leave it in airplane mode to avoid data roaming charges.
13. Notepad and pen – I find inspiration everywhere, so I always pack paper and pen with me. It’s handy for writing down reminders or to do lists as well.
14. Pair of socks – Don’t laugh, I have poor circulation in my hands and feet, so I am always cold. Hence, the socks to keep me warm.
15. Spare pair of contact lenses, lens cleaner, glasses – Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I definitely need them.
16. An eye mask, ear plugs and travel pillow– Keep out the light if people won’t close their shades or turn off those bright overhead lights. Use the earplugs to tune out loud talkers or crying babies. I don’t use a travel pillow, but I bring it along for the kids and my husband who can’t sleep without it.
17. Important documents – I keep my passport and itinerary with me in my Baggallini Cross Body bag. It has credit card pockets inside and zipper pouches for keeping items separate. I wear it across my body and it is small enough to fit in my carry-on so I don’t need to carry a purse when I travel abroad.
18. Toothpaste and toothbrush – Just be sure to pack the toothpaste in your quart size liquids bag.
19. Facial wipes – Give your face a refreshing cleanse as needed.
20. Hairbrush – Bring this along because nobody’s hair looks good after a long flight!
What to Pack in Your Carry-On for Kids
We don’t let the kids bring their own bags (just more to worry about), so all of their stuff goes in my bag (or my husband’s). Here is what goes with us when the kids are along for the ride:
21. Blankets/lovies – Lovies are stuffed animals they can absolutely not live without. They each get to bring one. They also bring a blanket to snuggle with on the plane for overnight flights.
22. Small Toys, Sticker Books, Paper Back Books, Paper and Colored Pencils – We bring one or all of these, depending on the length of the flight. If you need more ideas on how to entertain kids on planes, read this post.
23. Small changing pad for young children – Good to have when you need to make a diaper change.
24. Extra diapers, pull ups, and wipes – Pack enough for the length of the flight and throw in two extras for good measure.
25. Spare clothes – Depending on the age of your children, it could be an outfit, or just a shirt in case of spills. You know your child best so plan accordingly. Pack a hooded sweatshirt for each child. Not only can it work as a blanket, it can double as a pillow. In addition, bring a spare shirt for yourself in case you get caught in the middle of a spill.