travel gear

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.

WHAT IS MY CARRY-ON?

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.

ORGANIZATIONAL BAGS

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!

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

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!

xx

Whitney

carry on essentials
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