What’s In My Carry On Bag

woman arranging her carry on bag

Because I’ve pretty much perfected my travel routine by now…

As someone who has traveled on an airplane 14 hours from New York to Tokyo (direct), 19 hours from LA to Australia (Direct! Kill me, I know), and 20 hours from LA to Thailand (one stop), I feel like I’m definitely more than qualified to write this blog post. 🙂

You might know this about me already, but I rarely check my luggage. I hate wasting time, and I REALLY hate waiting for my bag at the baggage claim; honestly, I find it to be one of the worst times to be alive, and this is exactly why I’ve spent almost 20 years absolutely perfecting my carry-on game.  Enjoy.

And please comment and let me know if you have any tips to add!

P.S. – here’s my blog post on my travel beauty organizers.

What’s in my carry on bag

Carry-on luggage

Here’s my hot tip: Check discount stores like Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx.  I’ve never paid full price for luggage. Like ever.  Back in college when I did my first study abroad (in Venice, Italy – sigh), I was tasked with having to buy a suitcase large enough for a month plus worth of clothing.  I went to the local T.J. Maxx and found an absolutely GIANT suitcase (my dad nicknamed it “big red”- and it can be seen here cause I also used it for my Iceland trip in 2017) for about $75. I kid you not.  Those stores get really nice (and sometimes even designer!) luggage in every week and it’s worth looking.

If you’d rather not bargain shop, I get it. I’ve heard really good things about this carry-on suitcase from Beis; it has great reviews and comes in a bunch of cute colors!

Skincare essentials

Ok, so there’s obviously your beauty products that you bring in your carry-on suitcase, and then there’s the this – the skincare that you bring in your tote bag/backpack that you have easy access to while in flight.  For me, I like to have these on hand (all travel-size, of course):


Even though this is technically face moisturizer with SPF, I like to use this one from Neutrogena in my carry-on backpack since it’s small, has broad spectrum SPF protection, AND it also has retinol (your key for wrinkle prevention).

Hand cream

Cheap, it is not. But I loooove this hand cream. It smells rich AF and it really does do the best job when it comes to hydrating your hands and cuticles.

Under-eye masks

If you want my POV, under-eye masks are your most VIP carry-on item.  I get sooo puffy when I fly and I usually apply these at least one to two times per flight to give the area some hydration.  I have a handful of favorites when it comes to under-eye mask patches, but these gold foil eye patches are my go-to for travel since they aren’t goopy and stay perfectly in place.

Lip balm

Again, I rotate quite a few favorites, but lately I’ve been really loving this one from Rare Beauty!  It’s super hydrating and stays on well.  I use the clear version, but they also have a bunch of really pretty colors as well!

Hand sanitizer and extra face masks

COVID necessities deserve their own section, in my opinion.  I became an absolute loyalist to Mega Babe’s hand sanitizer at the beginning of the pandemic but, sadly, they discontinued the travel size (still def get the big pump for your home though!).  I recently tried out this chic AF hand sanitizer spray that smells like rich girl perfume and I love.

When it comes to face masks, you know I still wear them on planes and in the airport, and I like to have a few extra in my bag since I’ve been known to sneeze in my mask.  There’s nothing more gross than having to them wear that mask for another five hours, btw.  Bring extra face masks.  I like these cause who doesn’t love a fun leopard print?

Apple airpods

No explanation necessary, right?  But here’s how I upgrade my system…I found this little genius device that allows you to use your wireless headphones to watch the TV on the airplane!  No more dangling chord that falls out every five minutes.  When I saw this on TikTok, it was an immediate add to cart.

High tech sleep mask

Speaking of wireless, I am also very obsessed with this high tech sleeping mask.  If you want to listen to music or a podcast while resting your eyes, this mask synchs up to your iPhone and, get this, you don’t even need to wear your AirPods!  I’m still shocked that this is only $22…

A lightweight scarf

I also always keep a large (but lightweight) shawl/scarf in my bag – a listen I learned the hard way after going to New Orleans and realizing it was, in fact, not summer weather there in February (it was hot in LA that week – don’t judge, lol).  Also, sometimes I can’t regulate the temperature of that little fan above the airplane seat and this scarf helps so that you can just wrap it around your face or arms.

My laptop

Obvious reasoning here. I will sometimes do work, or even watch a movie I’ve downloaded, etc.

Phone stand/charger

This cell phone stand/holder is my latest GENIUS find for travel; basically, it will allow you to watch movies/shows on your phone without your phone flopping over and falling.  This holder works as a stand on any flat surface but, get this, it also clips on to the airplane folding tray! I’m obsessed.

And, of course, you’ll also want a charger with a long chord.


Make sure you download any episodes that you want to watch on the plane, this way you won’t need the wifi (which is always weak) to listen.  Cough, cough, here’s a link to MY PODCAST.

Clear pouch

I was gifted one of these clear Truffle travel pouches maybe 10 years ago and it has been a staple in my carry-on backpack/tote ever since!  I use it to store all the my skincare essentials, Advil, hair ties, etc. – basically all the small stuff that you need but don’t want getting loose.  It’s truly the best and worth the investment over cheaper versions that fall apart.

Compression socks

I feel like an old woman when I wear compression socks, but they are honestly and truly important for any long flight.  When I flew to Tulum a few years ago, I was fresh off a foot sprain and, let me tell you, when I landed in Mexico my foot was even more swollen than it was when I had the FULL sprain.  Compressions socks help with swelling, circulation, and also prevent blood clots from forming (which DOES actually happen on flights and can cause sudden death).

Tennis ball

This is a trick that my old physical therapist told me about.  I was flying 20+ hours to Thailand and I was absolutely terrified what the flight would do to my chronic hip and lumbar pain.  He suggested I bring along one tennis ball that I could use to massage any tension and, my god, I’m glad that I did.  You can sit on it and roll your body around – it really did help me a lot, and HOW EASY, right?!



Photo by Azusa Takano

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