Sandy Ground ,Anguilla

Packing: Carry-On Essentials

We’re now a week out from our trip to the Middle East and I’m finally in packing mode. I’ve begun to mentally note all of my last minute to-dos before we leave, which clothes get to make the journey with me, and which products get stuffed into my hanging toiletries bag (more on that in another post; it’s maybe my best purchase ever). With packing and planning on the brain, I thought I’d share some of my carry-on essentials; a variety of items that have become staples in my travel tote and that have made traveling a much more comfortable experience.

Packing List

Unlike my packing list for the Middle East that I shared last week, this visual list isn’t numbered so you’ll have to bear with me as I give you the run down:

  • The Tote > I actually switch up my carry-ons fairly frequently and adjust them based on my trip. I have a rolling carry-on that I love when the items are too heavy to lug around; a leather weekender that’s gorgeous and spacious but that begs to be overpacked, then does a number on my shoulder when it’s too heavy; and then I have a simple, big neutral-colored beach tote that I’ve converted into a carry-on. If I were to invest in another carry-on, I’d look for one like I’ve pictured above; something big enough to open into two sides, with compartments to stay organized and enough room to carry my key items. In reality, if you’re loading up your carry-on, a rolling version is the most practical and will keep your back and shoulders from screaming at you after a long day (or days!) of travel.
  • Scarf/Shawl > I’ve traveled far too many times without a shawl or scarf and now finally realize how essential they are to staying comfortable. Planes are freezing, and I always find that 10 minutes into my flight I’m far too cold to get comfortable. I usually keep a shawl with me to a) throw over my shoulders, b) throw over my body like a blanket, or c) use as a pillow if I’m falling asleep. Functional!
  • Snack > Nearly every flight we’re on is an international flight, and many are long stretches on a plane with nothing but airplane food nearby (if we’re lucky). I should say that I think airline food is actually not all that bad, but many flights now offer incredibly limited options, especially so if you’re looking for a healthy snack. When I’m coming from the US, I try to throw a Luna bar (or three) in my bag just in case.
  • iPad + iPhone > My iPhone is a necessity in that it’s my line to the world when we land, but for the most part it’s tucked away in my purse during a flight. My iPad, on the other hand, is my lifesaver. Depending on the flight, I’ll use the Nook app to read a book, the Newstand app to read a magazine, the Games section to occupy myself with something mindless, or I’ll attach my bluetooth Zagg keyboard and actually use it as a laptop and get some work done. I always travel with my laptop (and camera!) in my carry-on as well, but generally keep my laptop tucked away since it can be rather bulky considering the space constraints. God bless the planes that offer outlets in coach, though – that’s always a pleasant surprise and a game changer.
  • Magazines > Quite honestly, I don’t need paper magazines when I travel anymore because my iPad has made paperbacks obsolete. Still, there’s something about buying a magazine in the airport, and actually thumbing through the glossy pages that I love. It’s the only time that I ever buy physical magazines anymore and it’s become a small part of my travel ritual.
  • Sunglasses > These may not be a total necessity depending on where you’re going and time of year, but I never leave home without a pair (or two) of sunglasses. Even if they’re unnecessary, they help mask tired eyes.
  • Water > Newsflash: airtime is dehydrating! I find that after a long flight, my skin, eyes, nose, lips – everything! – are so parched from being in the air. Naturally, water is key to fighting that issue, so I try to keep a bottle to sip on throughout the flight.
  • Lip Balm, MAC Fix+, Eye Drops, Moisturizer, Toothbrush > Building off of my last bullet point: flying makes me impossibly dried out. I used to just deal with it (and feel terrible when I’d finally land), and now I’ve started prepping to effectively battle post-plane parch. First, I don’t really wear makeup on a plane; I go through my normal morning routine (wash, tone, vitamin C serum, eye cream, face cream) and head to the airport. During the flight, I keep my lip balm handy so I can reapply, and I do the same with eye drops (my eyes get painfully dry after a few hours). I keep MAC’s Fix+ spray with me to keep my skin hydrated; it’s incredibly refreshing during a long flight (I know people probably think I’m some high-maintenance flyer when I’m spritzing myself, but I’ll deal with it). Before landing, maybe 30 – 45 minutes before we’re scheduled to arrive, I head to the restroom to brush my teeth, give my face a quick rinse, and apply eye cream and face cream (sometimes I’ll slap on some mascara so I look more awake). It’s a total pick-me-up before you land and head off the plane.

Beyond those items, I always try to carry a change of clothes with me in the case of missing luggage (ugh). While I’ve been very fortunate every time we’ve traveled, I’ve seen many people have to deal with lost luggage and contend with the fact that they have absolutely nothing to wear as backup. Travel with just enough to keep you successfully functioning for a couple of days. When I do remember, I also like to throw a pair of socks in my carry-on. I nearly always wear wedges or flip flops when we board the plane and my feet freeze. A simple pair of socks make it a much more comfortable experience!

Those are my must-haves that are prepped and ready to go before we depart on a trip. What are your carry-on essentials? Any items that make your travel experience more comfortable?

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.