What Do You Really Need in Your Carry-On Luggage?

If you know you’ll be checking luggage anyway, what do you really need in your carry-on luggage? Some travelers are content to jet off with virtually no carry-on bag, while others frustrate cabin crew and fellow passengers with heavy, unnecessary baggage. This article gives tips for the best things to pack to make sure that you’re bringing the essentials on your flight, while leaving the kitchen sink safely at home.

Spare Clothes

If you’re flying away from home for long enough to need a suitcase full of clothes to change into while you’re gone, you’d be wise to bring one set of clothes with you in your carry-on suitcase. This will come in handy if your luggage is lost or delayed in getting to you, or in case you arrive at your destination tired and unwilling to unpack your big bag.

Bring a change of clothes, or even just a spare top or undergarments, for long-haul flights, so that you can put on your fresh togs right before landing, or on arrival. Overnight flights are exhausting, and changing your clothes can help you feel better in the new time zone, while also helping you to make a good impression on whoever is meeting you at the airport.

Electrical Chargers

If there’s one thing that makes a normal-length flight seem long, it’s running out of battery power on your laptop, tablet computer or phone. Put electrical chargers in your bag so that you can top up right before boarding the plane. It’s also wise to have your chargers with you in case your checked luggage goes missing, and you need to use your phone or computer to access documents when going through procedures to get it back. A word of caution: Larger power boards and extension cords may not be allowed through security. Stick to the lightest versions of your chargers, and ask staff before checking your luggage if you’re unsure about any item.

Anything Irreplaceable

Items that can’t be replaced, or that you would hate to lose, should always go in your carry-on luggage. It’s unlikely that anything in your bags would be stolen, but suitcases are sometimes misplaced or accidentally taken by the wrong passenger. Since anything you put in your checked suitcase is at risk, it makes sense to put objects of sentimental or monetary value in your carry-on bags. This includes jewelry and watches, personal mementoes, the memory cards for your digital cameras, and personal documents.

In certain situations you may have items that fit this description that are too large, heavy, or unwieldy to bring in the cabin with you. In this case, you need to think carefully about your options. It may be wiser to use a reliable shipping company or courier service for these objects, even though the cost will be greater.


Never leave your identification or credit cards in your checked bag. You may not think you’ll need them on your flight, but it’s better to carry these small items with you on board the plane than to risk having to go through the headache of replacing them later.


Flying can be a stressful experience, even if you’re embarking on a vacation or other trip that you’ve been looking forward to. So, it makes sense to bring a few small objects in your carry-on bag that will help you enjoy your journey. Most people bring some kind of entertainment with them on a flight, such as a laptop, paperback novel, a book of crossword puzzles or items for knitting. However, if you have something that makes you feel more relaxed, like a lavender-scented neck pillow, a favorite chocolate bar, or even a smallish pet rock, tuck it in your bag to help the trip begin and end more smoothly.


Carry all prescription medicine that you will need to use on your trip with you on board your flight. If you need syringes or other tools to administer this medication, check with your airline or with airport security to see what will be allowed on board. Be mindful also of restrictions on liquids. Sometimes these can be waived for medicines, but other times it’s easier to pack two bottles of liquid—a small, travel-sized one for the plane, and a larger one in your checked suitcase.


About the Author: Lola Byrnes is a travel writer and Spanish teacher in Toronto. She has perfected the art of travelling light during her trips to more than 20 countries.


  1. I’ve flown many times around the world and I’ve lost my luggage before so I know what it’s like. I always keep important items in my carry on and an extra change of clothes, just in case. It’s better to be safe than left having nothing or having to go and buy new stuff.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..The Grocery Game Challenge June 10-16,2013 #2: Grocery Store Self CheckoutsMy Profile

  2. I don’t even trust that I’ll get to keep my carry-on with me because I’ve it relegated to the underbelly of the plane at the last minute too many times.

    And so, in my personal item, I have: reading material, writing material (because what if I think up something brilliant mid-flight?), chargers, toothbrush (I always have this), deodorant, printouts of all tickets, receipts, and directions (wallet and passport are in the pants), and a clean set of socks and underwear.
    Debt Blag recently posted..Making my own almond milkMy Profile

  3. I try to avoid checking baggage at all, but if I must, I pack a full change of clothes in case my suitcase gets lost.

  4. Great post! I always put a pair of fresh socks and underwear in my carry on!
    Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) recently posted..4 Ways to Start Saving for a New CarMy Profile

  5. I’m to the point where I am putting everything in the carry on and buying toothpaste when I get there.
    kathleen recently posted..I’m Debt Free*!My Profile

  6. I try to just travel with a carry on. On my last monthly trip to France I did and everything fit in there. You save a lot of time at the airport and money if the company charges for luggage.
    Pauline recently posted..Financial independence: do you have a plan?My Profile

  7. I agree. Always put your important documents on your carry-on luggage. It would be a real inconvenience if your baggage got lost and there are some important stuff on it. Chargers are quite important too. Again, you may never know what will happen.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..How to Start Your Own Business With No MoneyMy Profile

  8. I like your tip about not putting irreplaceable items in your check-in luggage. As you said, luggage can occasionally be misplaced or otherwise damage, so it’s best to put valuables in your carry-on or use a courier service to ship it. While shipping the item may not be your first thought, it can give you peace of mind that your item is safe. Thanks for the tips!


  1. […] I am all for packing lightly – I usually travel with only a carry on bag on most international trips. Plunged in Debt looks at what you really need in your carry on. […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge