best bags to carry on airplane

What to Pack in Your Carry-On for International & Domestic Travel

what to pack in your carry on for international travel

Regardless of whether I'm spending several months abroad or just escaping for a quick weekend away, my carry-on bag contains some "tried and true" items that I never leave at home. Recently, I've really optimized how I pack this particular bag by using some new organizational tactics that I'm really excited about. So whatever travels are on your horizon, here are some items I think will help make your carry-on less cluttered, more organized + filled with items you'll actually benefit from.


Before I dive into what’s in my bag, let’s talk about the actual bags I use. Most (not all) airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item per passenger. Depending on the length of my trip, I typically use one of the following combinations:

I love these bags because they’re high-quality and polished without costing a fortune. I will caveat that this Calpak suitcase (which has held up for over 2 years now, so I can’t complain!) does feel a bit more on the trendy side and not quite as much of a timeless piece as I would prefer. My plan is to use this luggage until it breaks/wears out- then I plan to switch to the AWAY luggage (which comes with a lifetime warranty, but still falls in a great price range).

If I’m carrying on the Calpak suitcase, the contents inside that bag don’t really apply for what’s needed for a flight (it’s either alleviating weight from my checked bag, or it’s serving as my suitcase for the entire trip). That bag will either be gate checked, or stored overhead during the flight. So let’s focus on what’s inside my Cuyana Classic Structured Tote or my Leatherology Kessler Duffle Bag.

Cuyana Classic Structured Leather Tote

A lot of people love Louis Vuitton or other designer carry-all bags for travel days. While I may splurge and pull the trigger on an investment piece like that eventually, at this stage in life while I’m traveling non-stop, I still prefer to spend that sum of money on an actual trip versus a bag alone. With that said, I am a big believer in high-quality products (contrary to the seemingly disposable fashion world we live in). This Cuyana carry all is a perfect middle ground: it’s not a cheap bag that will fall apart and need to be replaced quickly, but it’s also not going to cost you what a trip to Paris would! Furthermore, Cuyana is an ethical brand that sustainably sources their materials, and I’m always happy to support them.


Inside my Cuyana tote, I’m now incredibly organized thanks to a few organizational bags I recently acquired that sit neatly inside:

Let’s start with the Truffle Clarity Jetset Case. First, I love this brand because they offer thoughtful, eco-friendly bags that are stylish and functional. This particular bag is TSA compliant to serve as your liquids bag (so you’re not throwing away single-use plastic bags every time). The clear plastic components of a TRUFFLE are made with biodegradable TPU, a solvent-free material that is certified for safety by the FDA and NSF.

Inside this particular bag, I store my liquids that I carry on every flight, including:

carry on liquid bag

The next bag I use is another Cuyana one. This is actually the smaller bag in a set (I use the large bag for my toiletries, which is checked in my suitcase). In here, I keep all my tech-related adapters and cords. Everything from my computer charger, phone charger and external charger, to the different converters and plugs for each respective country I’m visiting. Cords can be the culprit of incredibly cumbersome and tangled messes in your bag if you don’t keep them tucked neatly away, so I’ve loved having this bag to hold them all in one place.

This bag set is great quality (again, from Cuyana). I’ve had them both for over 3 years now and they’ve held up beautifully. I love the pebbled leather and the option to add a simple monogram detail for a bit more customization and polish.

cuyana tech bag

Looking for a great external charger to tuck in this bag? I actually have two I can recommend! For a long time I used this Yoobao power bank, which I still swear by. I will say, it’s not the best for portability (it’s about the size of a brick except flat and not as thick). But I swear, the thing just never dies! I can sometimes go an entire trip without ever needing to recharge it.

Haley gifted me a much more portable option (which is what I now pack in my carry because of its weight, but I actually still check the Yoobao power bank). Now, I love having this Anker Powercore as a more lightweight option to keep on me. While it definitely doesn’t last as long as the Yoobao power bank, you still get a few charges out of it before it needs to be recharged- which is plenty for a carry-on companion.

Again, I always bring both on trips (personal preference: it’s just easier to have one recharging while one is with me) but I think both are great options depending on your personal preferences.

cuyana tech bag

Moving onto my next organizational bag, this clarity clutch is another piece by TRUFFLE. Again, this is TSA compliant for your liquids (although I don’t really use it for that). Between this piece and the Truffle Clarity Jetset Case, I think the latter is better for your liquids, as it doesn’t lay flat and can hold more bulky pieces.

With that said, I love this clarity clutch for holding some other miscellaneous items that typically would float freely throughout my bag, causing clutter.

carry on essentials

I like to think of this as my “refresh” bag. In here, I have everything from antibacterial wipes (because I always wipe down my airplane arm rests, window and tray table), breath spray, mints— even underarm deodorizing wipes for moments on-the-go where I wish I could take a shower. I also use it to hold some items that provide a little “in-flight pick-me-up”: whether that’s a healthy snack like almond butter or under eye illuminating patch masks to brighten the eye area. Finally, it has a handful of travel-sized beverage options I can easily dissolve into water or coffee, like this goopglow skin superpowder, or Vital Proteins collagen creamer.

what's in my carry on
carry on essentials

My Cuyana tote also carries my laptop, glasses, wallet, etc. so sometimes (usually for longer trips) I need a bit more space than what it can hold. For this, I’ll turn to my Leatherology Kessler Duffle for larger, more bulky items (and anything else that can’t squeeze into the tote).

leatherology duffle bag

In here, I’ll usually carry some sort of layer- no matter the season! Temperatures on airplanes vary so much, and I tend to get cold rather easily. This Cuyana alpaca cape is a great way to cozy up in style (while feeling like you’re in a blanket). Another article of clothing I’ll throw in here (especially for long flights!) is compression socks, which not only keep your toes warm, but they also help reduce swelling and that pins-and-needles feeling you get when sitting still for long periods of time.

If I’m planning to sleep on the flight, I’ll pack my Trtl neck pillow, which I love so much more than traditional travel pillows (it properly supports your neck and takes up a fraction of the space).

If my bag is overweight, I’ll usually stick a pair or two of heavy shoes in here to help alleviate my weight allowance. Otherwise, I use the remaining space to store a book (see below for some current reads I’m enjoying), some snacks, and a few other miscellaneous items in here or my Cuyana tote- it just depends on the trip and how much space I have in each bag!


TRAVEL WALLET: I love having a place to keep my cards, currency, passport and travel documents all in one place.

LUGGAGE TAG: This technically goes on the bag and not inside, but nevertheless, I love this added detail to make my travel ensemble more elevated and polished (plus, it’s better for the environment not to use those single-use paper options!)

TRIANGLE POUCH: I love this little pouch for a variety of reasons (I personally keep my AirPods in here, but it’s also great for coins, hair ties, etc.)

PASSPORT CASE: Depending on your travel wallet, this may not be a necessity, but nevertheless I personally love this little detail (if you can’t tell by how many times I’ve used the words “elevated” and “polished” already, I’m clearly a sucker for anything that creates this aesthetic).

CARD HOLDER: While I love my travel wallet, I love having a smaller card holder option to use once I’m at my destination so I’m not carrying around quite as much every day.

NECESSARY SUPPLEMENTS: I like to keep all my prescriptions and supplements in one place (I actually use a TUMI case that Delta provides in Business Class, which also came with a sleep mask, however this Truffle Clarity Pouch would be a great alternative). Some supplements I recommend that anyone can benefit from include NotPot CBD gummies (which offer anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-anxiety effects - all great for flying!) If you’re looking to catch some z’s, I swear by these Bulletproof Sleepmode Softgels (I got the best sleep of my life on a plane using these and had no groggy after-effect). I also recommend always traveling with some type of pain relief should you have a headache or anything like that.

travel supplements

While there are slight variances in each trip, hopefully this post helps you optimize the way you pack to not only be more thoughtful about the items you bring along on a trip, but to stay more organized along the way!

Did I leave anything out that you swear by bringing in your carry-on? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Thanks for reading + happy travels!



carry on essentials

Best Bags for Travel


Summer has officially arrived, which means the most popular travel season is upon us! As you prepare to pack your bags for your next holiday, I thought I'd share the ones that have become my personal favorites after I've dragged them all over the globe. 




I suppose a travel wallet isn't a bag, but I felt compelled to include this essential because I often carry it as a clutch (which is kind of a bag, right?) This Cuyana pebbled-leather travel wallet is honestly one of my favorite everyday items I own (I've pointed several friends to this piece and they're now advocates for it as well!) It's perfectly sized to fit in any purse or carry on bag without being too large and bulky. It neatly compartmentalizes your credit cards, travel documents, passport and spare change (plus there are plenty of other compartments where you can keep business cards, a lipstick or other essentials if that's all you want to carry out one night).




Selecting a single purse for travel is a daunting task, but here are some things I definitely recommend. 

-Zip-able compartments to protect against pick-pocketing. 

-A strap you can wear as a cross body to make yourself less susceptible to theft.  

-A size that's small enough to not be cumbersome to carry all day, yet large enough to hold everything you need. 

-A material/color that wears well over time and won't get dirty easily. 

-Something classic that can be worn with a variety of outfits - regardless of what you pack in your suitcase. 

My "go-to" purse while traveling that ticks all of these boxes has been this Fashionable Menbere Foldover Bag in black. It comes with a removable strap so you can wear it as a cross-body for daytime security but also as a clutch at night (and it holds the travel wallet I mentioned above perfectly!) There is also a large zip-able compartment to keep valuables in and a pocket in the back that makes your phone more easily accessible. I also love supporting Fashionable because they are a brand that's focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. They employ these women both locally in Nashville,  but also globally. 





This Cuyana classic structured tote is my most recently acquired travel bag, and I've absolutely loved it so far. I often use it as an everyday purse when I'm trekking around the city (it holds all the essential items you'd have in your purse, but also my laptop sleevewater bottle and whatever book I'm reading). It's also perfect for an airplane carry on or any occasion where you want to carry a little more than what you could fit in a purse. Cuyana also recently launched this tote organization insert that fits into it perfectly if the idea of digging for your belongings stresses you out!



I've had this Le Sud overnight bag by Cuyana for about two years now, and I still carry it all the time (they don't make it in this color anymore, but it still comes in black and I've provided a similar bag with the same color options). Similar to what I said about the carry-all tote above, this is a great bag when you need something to carry a little more than "just the basics." Whether you use it as a gym bag or one to carry the essentials you need for a quick overnight jaunt, this sleek canvas tote has been a staple in my travel repertoire. 



Everyone needs a good duffle bag, and I've actually found two that I love. Both are great for weekend trips or a larger carry-on option to bring on the plane, but there are a few reasons I like having either as an option. For a classic canvas bag that can be thrown around or checked if need be without too much worry, I've loved my Cuyana weekender (they actually don't make this exact bag that's pictured anymore, but the Le Sud weekender is essentially the same thing!)  When I'm traveling for work or any kind of elevated occassion, this  Leatherology large Kessler duffle is beautifully made and adds a bit more polish.


The bags listed above are all fantastic and I can personally attest to their quality after trying them out myself for several years. None of this is sponsored-- just trying to pass along some expertise to fellow travel enthusiasts in search of a good bag! Hope you find these recos to be helpful and if you have any questions about them, feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Thanks for stopping by, and happy travels wherever you're off to next!