Travel Tips

Carry-On Must Have’s For Everyone & Every Trip

I ran into my youngest sister at the mall yesterday and she is starting to prepare for her first big trip…Thailand! (I am BEYOND jealous right now!!). She’s applying for a new passport, buying her plane ticket, starting to make a shopping lists etc. As we we walked down the hallway she started buzzing with a bunch of questions, “What do I need to pack?!” – “Do I need to buy those mini shampoos & stuff? Or do you just fill those refillable bottles?” – “Do I need to bring a side bag?” – “What should I bring in my carry-on? Do I even bring a carry-on?!”

Take it from a girl who after being on more than 150 flights (domestic & international) and has been packing bags since the age of 5 tell you…I still don’t have it down 😛 – I should give myself credit, I have gotten a lot better & faster (although that’s mainly due to the fact that I always leave packing until the very last minute {doesn’t everyone?!})Naturally, I decided to use my everyday life as inspiration & my little sister gave me just that! So here it is: 

Carry-On Must Have’s

For Everyone & Every Trip

Packing a carry-on may not seem like a big or important task but let me tell you how it can truly make or break the start of your trip. When you arrive to your destination, if there’s anything you have forgotten there’s a high chance you will be able to find whatever it is there. In order to get to our said destination though we typically need to take an airplane where there aren’t stores and access to things you may have forgotten. Unfortunately I don’t think the airline with have sweatpants if the flight is extra cold, or gravol, or noise cancelling headphones, or an extra phone charge if your phone or tablet is dying on you. It’s not just on the flight where you’re carry-on can save you; it’s something we all hope, wish and beg it doesn’t happen to us but is a real possibility (and has happened to me twice! Luckily it was on my flight home both times!). Being prepared for the worst can help set your vacation on the right foot even when in the face of adversity.

The Necessities 


Of course! Always check the expiry date before you book your trip! 

Print out of Itinerary

I always like to print out all of our airline itineraries, accommodation reservations, and anything else that may have been pre-booked. You never know when the internet connection is going to be poor, or you can’t seem to find an email anywhere, or your phone glitches and dies on you. Rare do I actually have to use it, but I don’t want to be in the position of not having it the one time I need it. 

Credit Card

By a world wide creditor like Visa, MasterCard or Amex – I always make sure to have one credit card without any balance on it just in case something like our money gets stolen or you need to book a unexpected plane ticket or end up somewhere that accepts a different currency than what you have. I also suggest a world wide creditor because they will be accepted in most places…but definitely not at Kunming International Airport 😛


Many people travel in different ways. Some people put majority on their credit cards and just pay it off. I’m an all cash kind of gal. It can be risky & I know that but I haven’t had any problems yet! We always make sure that we split our cash up 6 ways (between myself and my fiancé) and place it in many different areas throughout our carry-on, wallets, and luggage. That way if something were to happen ex. Our luggage doesn’t arrive the same day as us, we still have money. Or if we did get pick pocketed (which hasn’t happened yet!) again, it would only be a small sum of our money. The trick is just remembering where it all is & keeping track of your spending (which is also why I like travelling with cash rather than a credit card – I find it easier to track how much I’m spending) 


This is a must for me as I suffer from horrible motion sickness. Definitely a curse considering my family situation (mom living in Western Canada & my dad living in Eastern Canada {5 hour flight away}) I always without a doubt will pop two Gravol’s when I get to my seat and settle in on the plane & if it’s a long flight then I will probably pop 2 more half way through. BUT!! There’s another secret…Gravol has two kinds – drowsy & non-drowsy. I will always buy the drowsy as it helps with two things: 

  • Falling asleep on the plane during your flight


  • Jet lag! That’s right, this is my secret to combatting jet lag. Take a couple Gravol at bed time and within 30 minutes you’ll be sleeping dreaming of your adventures ahead! My fiancé is lucky enough to be able to fall asleep on command – me on the other hand suffers from horrible jet lag for the first couple days of our trip & it can be a major bummer when your on day 3 and have only had 4 hours of sleep! 


Lots of gum! Although I am an avid gum chewer so it may be more important to me than you but I find you can never go wrong having minty fresh breath ☺


Now when we travel we go about food two ways: we pack some snacks and we buy some food at the airport once we’ve gone through security. Food at the airport is definitely more expensive so we do our pre-packaged goods at the grocery store a couple days before, along with some fruit and maybe some baked goods. Then because you can’t bring water through, we buy two 1 litre bottles of water then usually stop at a Subway, Starbucks, Tim Hortons or something of the equivalent to grab a sandwich for the plane. This also gives us the opportunity to grab a coffee or drink, a snack and get ourselves organized before the flight. Vacation has begun once you get to the airport in my opinion. 


Neck Pillow

I only went 23 years flying without a neck pillow…I finally committed to buying one 2 years ago and I’m so grateful I did! 


If you can find a blanket that folds/rolls up nice and tight so it doesn’t take up a lot of room thats perfect! You can usually find these type of blankets in the outdoors/activities section or travel section of a Walmart or department store as well you can go to a travel/backpacking store to get one. 

Evian Facial Hydration Spray

This stuff is amazing! All that re-circulated air completely dehydrates my skin. It comes in a small travel sized aerosol can, just a couple spritz’s to the face every hour or so will help keep your skin moisturized! 

Compression Socks

I believe these are a must have especially if your going to be on an extra long flight. Compression socks are designed to apply pressure to your lower legs to help maintain blood flow. Key when sitting in one cramped position for 5,8, 12 etc…hours straight. You can get them at any sporting goods store. I also like to pack slipper socks (those super thick, fluffy socks that have little grips on the bottom – you can find the cutest & softest ones from Bath & Body Works) but this is because I have bizarrely cold feet all the time! 

Just In Case Small Packing Cube

Packing Cubes! They are amazing, you can get all sorts of different styles, shapes and sizes. You will only need a small pouch or cube for your just in case items. These packing cubes help you to stay organized and use your space efficiently.


Pack 2 pairs (they take up no space at all so I say the more the merrier – either way you need underwear!) 


Now I know we have our compression socks (& possibly our slipper socks) but what if your luggage ends up on a different flight from you, do you want to be walking around touring on your first day in slipper socks? So I say, pack a single pair for sure! 


Something light, simple & easy to pack. This is a just in case shirt so it doesn’t have to be the prettiest thing in your closet. A simple plain tee should do the trick. 

Bathing Suit

Now this is totally depending on where your going and the type of trip you have planned. But if you’re going to an all-inclusive beach resort a bathing suit would definitely make it in my carry-on; but if you’re backpacking across Europe then a bathing suit doesn’t need to be packed (& honestly it may be a waste of space in your carry-on) 

Toiletries (everything travel size)

Our make shift “first aid kit” designed with our personalized necessities

A toiletries bag, double zippered large storage bag (Ziploc freezer bag) or one of your small packing cubes will again help you to stay organized, maximize your carry-on space & in case your toothpaste gets a hole in it, it won’t get everything pasty white & minty fresh! 

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Brush
  • Sanitizing wet wipes – airplanes, airports, cabs, busses, train stations, ferries….they’re all SO dirty. Sometimes countries were visiting have different standards for their washroom/bathrooms. There are various reasons I think you should always carry wet wipes!
  • Hand cream 
  • Deodorant 
  • Hair tie
  • Feminine hygiene product (ehem, for the ladies – even if its not your TOM, its better to be safe than sorry! Our bodies are complicated and sometimes surprise us. Just do yourself a solid and make it a habit to have that packed as your essentials).
  • Face wash 
  • Face cloth – I recommend something like Erase Your Face or Washdolly makeup remover cloths. They are like something from another planet! You don’t need soap or face wash or make up remover, it takes everything off with warm water, and to clean it? Just toss it in with the rest of your laundry. They last literally years! Best investment ever & changed my travel regime forever!
  • Advil/Tylenol/Ibuprofen  


First, let me say – I’m a believer in less electronics the better. Unless if you’re a videographer, photographer, or are a journalist etc. I say leave it behind. 

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Need I say more? Even if you don’t want to listen to music just the silence that they provide is worth the buy. If you don’t have noise cancelling headphone some good old classic earbuds work. Great for watching movies from your tablet or the plane and listening to music.

Phone Charger/External Battery Pack

I just recently got a battery pack for charging my phone on the go, but up until a couple months ago I have done fine without one as most airplanes have usb ports on the back of every seat that allows you to charge your phone. The only time I was on a long flight that didn’t offer that was our flight to Thailand with China Eastern Airline (I won’t ever fly with them again – it was quite the experience!) and it wouldn’t have made a difference as they didn’t allow phones, tablets, computers or anything that transmits a signal as its illegal by law to have them on during flight in China. 

Outlet adapters (if needed) 

I think its good to have these in a place that’s easily accessible at all times, you never know when you might need to charge something or what issues you may face when arriving in a new country. Ensuring you’re able to keep your necessities charged in case of an emergency is important!


You can pre-download movies, shows & documentaries from Netflix to watch offline for when you’re on the plane or resting in your hotel/AirBnB 

Cell Phone

Does this even have to be on the list? I’m sure most people will automatically bring their cell phone but if you’re one of the people out there that doesn’t see the purpose in bringing it check out my post on Top 7 Free Apps to Download for Travel. Trust me. I love getting away from people and secluding myself – but sometimes Google Maps or City Mapper are just a necessity! Also, if you don’t have a tablet, you can download the Netflix app onto your phone, books, music etc. 

Camera & Charger

I always like taking photos of th journey to the airport, at the airport etc. so for this reason I always pack my camera in my carry-on. It also makes me feel more at ease knowing how the bag it’s in is being handled.

I hope this list helps all you adventurers out there! Travelling can be daunting – especially when you’re new to it. We tend to over pack, but always end up feeling like were missing something once we’re there. Of course most places you travel too will have stores for you to buy things that you may forget so in the end. Breathe easy my friend. 

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