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How to Pack Your Carry On Like a Pro

September 9, 2019

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Hello lovelies!

I am so excited because it is almost time for me to hop on a plane back home to Scotland! For those of you who don’t know, I have been taking a gap year back in my hometown of Denver. While it has been nice getting to be back in the place I grew up connecting with friends and family, I am missing Scotland more than ever. It has been a tough year, but I have learned a lot and I am itching to go back to school (nerdy, I know).

With less than 24 hours to go before I board a plane for a 8 hour flight, I figured I would share the contents of my carry on! I also want to go over how to pack a carry on and your personal item for easy travel.

I have done this trip a total of 6 times. Sometimes with at least three layovers (hey I am a sucker for cheap flights). Last time I flew back to the states, I had two lay overs and a total of 34 hours of travel. However, this means that I have had to become an expert in packing a carry on so that I have what I need for a very long day of travel.

Now a days, taking only a carry on and a personal item on a trip is a great way to save on plane fare. While I am bringing checked baggage this go around, I usually only bring my carry on and a tote bag. Either way, learning how to pack a carry on is an essential traveling skill!

Maximise your space

On most airlines, you normally have an allowance of a personal item and a carry on. I tend to push the limits on this and bring big tote bag as well as my carry on. Technically, as long as the bag fits underneath the seat in front of you, it’s fair game.

I decided to take one last gander through Target before I moved to a country that did not have it. I found this cute little backpack! It is super roomy and it fits most of my in flight essentials. Plus, it’s hands free!

Packing pods are also a great way to maximise space in your carry on, or any luggage you may be bringing. I love these ones because they fit perfectly into my suitcases and they let me group my clothes into organised sets.

Pack strategically

Some things I know I will need while I am on the plane, other things are helpful to have, but I don’t typically need them when flying (ie, extra clothes) I have learned to pack the things I will need in my personal item, so I don’t have to stand up and get things in and out of the overhead bin mid flight.

Learning how to pack your liquids and electronics will save you so much time at security as well. Especially if you have to go through security multiple times at different layovers. I always keep my liquids and electronics in bags at the top of my carry on and personal item for easy extraction during security. This saves me so much time going through security and repacking after getting through.

In flight essentials

The biggest thing for me is getting everything I need for the long flight into my personal item for easy access. I have a system now where I put my bulkier items in with my carry on, like my neck pillow and my blanket. But I dig them out before boarding and carry them onto the plane. Everything else I need for my flight is put in the personal item so I don’t have to dig in my carry on during the flight.

I have also learned my lesson about using a purse or tote as a personal item. I find that when you’re running amok from one side of the airport to the other, and when you have to squeeze through those thin plane isles with all your stuff, hands free is the only way to go.

In Flight Check List:

  • Makeup wipes
  • Face care Items
  • Headphones
  • Portable charger
  • Book
  • Neck Pillow
  • Blanket
  • Water bottle/Bottled water*

I always bring sheet masks on flights because airplanes are notoriously bad for your skin. I like to keep my skin as moisturised as possible.

I also keep some skin elixir and an immunity booster in my personal item in the flight. No matter what I do, I always seem to catch a cold after flying, so this immunity booster helps me get through the flight unscathed.

Travelers Beware:

Okay, so I had read an article detailing what not to use on flights because ew. So I want to save you some time and quickly let you know what to avoid at all costs during your flight for the sake of health, safety and germs.

Water, Coffee, Tea, and Ecoli..?

Apparently, on airplanes, the water is stored next to the sewage. After testing the water on the planes, it was found that 15% of samples contained fecal bacteria. Basically, stay away from any beverage not from a closed container.

I do not normally believe in using bottled water, however, for flying, I often break that rule. You can bring a refillable water bottle with you, however, in my experience, finding a water fill station in an airport is like finding a needle in a haystack. I always bring one with me just in case, but I am usually prepared to buy one after security.

Not to mention the fact that the tables and areas around you have been tested and they found traces of fecal matter on the surfaces of the plane. So don’t drink anything that is not in a closed container and bring some anti-bacterial wipes with you. Plus, it is just better safe to avoid the blankets, pillows or headphones, given they don’t wash those between flights.

Carry On Check List:

  • 2-3 days worth of clothes

I have had friends who have had their checked baggage lost. While they got it back, they were stranded for about a week with the same clothes they flew in. This taught me that even if you are bringing clothes in your checked bag, be sure to have at least 2-3 days worth in your carry on.

  • Emergency toiletries

Again if luggage is lost, you will need some back up hygiene products. But if a carry on is the only thing you are bringing, you will definitely need to pack some toiletries in a smart way. invest in travel sized refillable bottles for your toiletries.

Plus, I like to freshen up at my layovers, so I will always carry a tooth brush and some deodorant at the minimum. Also, Most of my skin care products comes in less than 100 mL, so they can just go straight into my carry on!

  • Smaller heavy items

One thing I like about carry ons is that as long as you can lift your carry on above your head, you can pack as much as you want in there. I usually take advantage of extra space by packing heavier items if I am checking a bag. This lets me stay under the weight limit for checked bags while being able to bring heavier clothes and boots!


I am so excited to be going home! I will see you all on the other side <3

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  • Reply
    Patricia @ Grab a Plate
    September 10, 2019 at 3:20 am

    Great tips! I have a trip coming up and will remember these! The thought of the communal blanket offered on flights grosses me OUT!

  • Reply
    Tinashe Jaricha
    September 10, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Great ideas and very comprehensive. I didn’t know about the sheet masks will try those next time. And l agree with extra clothes and toiletries I’ve since had my bags lost at one time and was stranded a few days. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Nicole Kauffman
    September 10, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Great suggestions here! I’m terrible at maximizing my packing space, but that’s also because I don’t plan ahead. This was super helpful!

  • Reply
    Ashley
    September 11, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Very great tips! I never thought about not drinking things from open containers on the plane. I always bring an extra bottle for the kids and I because we never get enough water anyway, but now I know not to get coffee. Thanks.

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