25 November 2019


How I pack my carry on bag and why

Last month, I shared my Top to Toe packing technique.  This month, I'm sharing my carry-on packing technique. I keep the most important items in my carry-on bag, including medications, technology, and, most important of all, back-ups in case my suitcase goes missing in transit.

I don't use packing cubes for my clothing, but I do a sort of version of packing cubes in my carry-on.  For some, it's just a Ziploc bag, but for other categories, I use actual bags.  Liquids are decanted into TSA-approved bottles and jars and those bottles and jars are kept separately from the non-liquid items in a TSA-approved, quart-size Ziploc bag. 


This category includes prescription and over-the-counter ("OTC") medications.  I keep these in a Ziploc bag, so I can see them easily.  I also pack a back-up of the OTC in my suitcase, if it's a long trip. 

I also pack a mini first aid kit, including regular bandages, blister bandages, antiseptic cream, and anything else I might need, depending on the location (e.g., aloe if I'm going somewhere sunny).  Right now, my first aid kit is stored in a Ziploc bag, but you could also find a small bag to hold everything (except the liquid items that will be in the above-mentioned clear Ziploc bag.


I keep most of my tech in a separate bag in my carry-on.  My travel tech includes:

  • My laptop
  • Power adaptors (I use a universal that has a couple of USB ports, too)
  • FireStick
  • Chromecast
  • Power packs
  • Extra headphones, batteries, etc.

I keep my regular charging cord in my pocket, for easy accessibility, and in my technology bag, I keep a 10' charging cord. 

Why do I need a ten-foot charging cord? I prefer to have my phone near my head, especially if I'm getting up early and really need to hear my alarm go off. I also do not want to be rushing across a strange room to turn the alarm off. If the only suitable outlet is on the other side of the room, I use that 10' cord so I can keep the phone near me.


I keep a change of clothes and spare toiletries in my carry-on, just in case.  If my checked bag goes missing, I've got a set of clothes to get me through at least one day. 

If I'm on a red-eye (overnight) flight, especially if it's a transfer stop, it's nice to have a change of clothes to wear on the second day of travel.  I keep each "outfit" in a separate gallon-size Ziploc bag, so the clothes stay clean no matter what else I've got in my bag.

Random items

I also bring:

  • Pencil puzzles (I'm partial to killer sudoku and other logic puzzles)
  • A pencil case full of pencils and pens
  • A notebook
  • Extra change purses for swapping out currency (snack-size Ziploc bags work, too)
  • Any ongoing craft project (I like cross stitch best)
  • Any printouts I have related to my travel (travel and accommodation confirmations, places to visit, etc.)
  • A collapsible water bottle
  • A gallon-size Ziploc bag full of more gallon-size, quart-size, and snack-size Ziploc bags (there's another Ziploc bag full of Ziploc bags in my suitcase, too).

And one last thing

Did you notice the missing item in my last post?  I pack my toothbrush in my carry-on bag, because I brush my teeth often and because I want to make sure it doesn't go missing.

How does it all fit?

This might seem like a lot of stuff to put in carry-on, but I use a standard backpack (a Disney Mickey Mouse backpack that was a purchase with purchase deal, so it's not especially large, but definitely not a mini) and there's also room leftover for adding magazines or snacks or souvenirs. 

Over to you

What do you think of how I pack my carry-on bag? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Reach me on The Career Break Site's Facebook page or Twitter account.