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And the countdown begins.....

We are 17 days away from taking our first overseas trip (well, MY first overseas trip but it's been 30 years since hubby has been so that doesn't count!!!) I have been re-reading all the packing tips and I am so glad to know that I am not too early when it comes to packing (not that I haven't been throwing things in an empty dresser drawer for months).

In the past month and a half we have taken a trip to MI, KY, and FLA so the toiletries just have to get refilled but I have been checking the weather, going through my closet, and today I actually took all the things I have been "collecting" for this trip out of the dresser drawer and put them on the bed in the spare room.

I am curious, what do you put in your personal carry on bag (the one you put under the seat)? We are checking a bag each (just because we can) so I want to know what you find useful to have on a long haul flight? Do you take anything frivolous or silly that others don't take? Aside from my Kindle, which I can't live without, I am taking a deck of UNO cards and a book called "Finish the Story" starts you out with a paragraph and you have to finish the story in one page.

Posted by
1194 posts

I always have my bag with me as a carry on. That said, the following items make the trip more comfortable:

  • sleeping mask
  • ear plugs
  • scarf
  • cardigan
  • pain meds
  • zicam packets
  • (optional) sleeping aid
  • slipper socks
  • inflatable neck rest
  • pen for customs forms
  • battery pack
  • wet wipes
  • toothbrush
  • spare undies
Posted by
870 posts

Unless you are traveling business class or first class, you are not likely to get an amenities kit. When I travel economy internationally, I create my own. It includes individual packaged make-up remover, small, folding toothbrush, small toothpaste, floss, sleep mask, ear plugs, mints, and sample-size essential oil spray (lavender is my favorite), and lip balm. I use one of my Sephora sample cases or their TSA approved case. It is light, small, and makes me feel like I am splurging. I also take a collapsible water bottle that I fill out the airport before getting on a plane. On long international flights, they give you water, but not often enough for my tastes. In economy the pillows and blankets are woefully inadequate, so I bring a collapsible travel pillow and wear pashima scarf that does double duty on my trip. Finally, noise cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver on long flights.

Have a great trip,

Posted by
3526 posts

After our last trip this past July/August, I have decided I take too much on the plane with us and will work on that for our next trip. We each have our earphones which are a must, but I took an IPad mini and hubby had an IPad. Next time, just one or the other, two was unnecessary. We can share the pad for reading as neither of us read on the plane, we watched 3 movies. We carried our chargers/converters, in the suitcase next trip; I carried snacks which we never ate, will pick something up at airport if needed; I carried some toiletries in case we wanted to brush, etc, never needed to, and 4 aspirins in my bag would be enough if we get a headache; I had a change of clothes in case suitcase got lost, % wise low risk and if it happens will deal with it; I had our walking around hats, again will put in suitcase don't need them on plane. I did use my sweater and cotton scarf, yeah. I can't even remember what else was in there, but I do remember I didn't need it. Every trip we go lighter and lighter and it is better and better then lugging around too much unnecessary stuff.

PS! Upon our return, I tried to give the customs form to the agent, he told me he didn't need it and said to throw it out. This was at JFK.

Posted by
13237 posts

I usually pack my crossbody purse so I only have a daypack as my personal item. I do wear a crossbody wallet with my passport/one cc, one dc, enough local money to get me in to town and my phone

In the small daypack:
-A packing cube to go in the back of the seat for easy access during the flight with
---iPad mini/charger
---ear buds (to listen to a hyposis tape that supposedly helps you sleep on long haul flights, lol)
---ear plugs
---eye mask
---blow up pillow
---hand lotion

And in the small day pack also:
-small cube with OTC stuff for headache, immodium, allergy, tiny pot of mentholatum and one of vaseline, dental floss
-small cube with charger cords for all my electronics
-snacks - I'm vegan so I generally have a couple of bagels, a couple of packets of nut butter, nuts, Clif bars, Belvita
-pocket packs of Kleenex
-document folder with boarding passes, hotel reservations, printed out google docs itinerary, pen/pencil for arrival documents
-empty water bottle that I fill up after security
-I usually travel with small binoculars so I have them in there even though I wouldn't need them on the plane.
-extra pr of unders in case my flights get delayed overnight somewhere

I'm glad you are starting early! Much of this stuff you can pack ahead of time. I will also tell you that I leave myself sticky notes to remind myself of what I've packed so I don't obsessively check on things. I print out my packing lists and check things off there too.


editing to add: Just read Barbara's post and I'd recommend you pack your chargers in your carry on. If your luggage gets lost it may take some time and effort to replace them. ALSO - car keys go in my carry on!

Posted by
6474 posts

I don’t check luggage, so don’t need these essentials at my feet in case of lost luggage: itinerary & reserved tickets, spare clothing, cholesterol med, phone, money belt w/ passport, credit card, ATM cards.

I do have at my feet: mints, OJ or apple juice, a protein snack and a sugar snack, pen, reading glasses, eye mask, iPod Shuffle for music to relax to sleep. And, a Burt’s Bees lip balm because my lips get dry on the plane.

Posted by
3134 posts

I do check my carryon bag, so I just have my underseat item on the plane like you plan to do. My underseat bag is 16 x 12 x 6. It will hold my small purse which has my financial and identification information, as well as my iPod. (I actually wear this small purse, but I make sure it will fit in the underseat bag for going thru security, etc.) In the rest of the bag I carry: tissues, bandana, DSLR, all electronics, chargers, cords, etc., noise cancelling headphones, prescription medicine, eye drops & lip gloss in a 311 bag, keys, US phone, travel documents, pen, small note book, journal, scarf, guide book if needed, one change of clothes just in case (tee shirt, unders, pjs, yoga pants), 2 energy bars or equivalent, and all eye glasses. If I'm traveling with someone else, I don't include a change of clothes as we will pack a clothing cube in each other's bag as both bags are extremely unlikely to be delayed. Actually, I've never had a bag delayed outgoing, but just in case. Basically, anything you can't do without, should be in your underseat bag.

Posted by
14149 posts

Remember, always pack anything of value in your carry-on bag and not your checked luggage. This includes electronics, prescription meds, jewelry, keys, money, etc.

Posted by
1194 posts

sample-size essential oil spray (lavender is my favorite)

Please don’t. Spraying an aerosolized allergen in a closed tube full of closely packed people is wrong and could be life threatening. You do not want to trigger an anaphylaxis over the ocean at 40,000 feet.

Essential oils contain haptens, which bind with proteins in the body to trigger deadly allergies.

Lavender and allergies

Smelly things do not belong on airplanes.

Posted by
8203 posts

Libby, just FYI all the planes I've flown over there for several years have computers in the seatbacks that have a bunch of movies, tv shows, and games you can play. So perhaps no need for the UNO deck. Some people spend the whole flight over watching movies, eating and drinking, and end up completely exhausted when they arrive. I put in my personal bag, the things I think I will need during the flight - meds, toothbrush, tissues, earplugs, neck pillow (inflatable) and an e-reader. Nothing frivolous. The time change and jetlag make me not want to do much but try and sleep. And a pen and paper.

Posted by
1056 posts

I hear you about your Kindle. I don’t travel anywhere without my iPad mini. On the plane I use the Kindle app to read, and on the road I use it to journal my trip, to face time my kids and to save photos. I take a charging cord and a spare battery charger in case there’s no place on the plane to plug in and charge. I also take a small notebook and pen, which I use for notes and a record of spending. I take a small toothbrush and toothpaste — I live on the West Coast, which is a 10 hour flight to Europe and by the time I land, I really need to brush my teeth. Also lip gloss and hand lotion. The air in the plane is very dry, and I find myself applying them all the time. My iPhone, a sweater or jacket, pocket pack of kleenex and a water bottle complete my must-haves. As far as frivolous additions, I usually take along some sock yarn and knitting needles, as knitting relaxes me.

Posted by
10338 posts

iPad, chargers, plug adapters, prescription meds, house key pinned inside one of the inside pockets, handi wipes, jewelry( mostly costume), list of RXs taken, copy of passport, small pad of paper, small umbrella in outside pocket( it has been raining at final arrival airport many times.)

Posted by
2115 posts

Personally, I would not bother with the UNO cards or the "finish the story" unless you are going to use them on your trip. Between your Kindle and the in-flight entertainment, you should be covered. Though may I make a personal plea for NOT playing any of the games offered on the in-flight entertainment screen. I spent the better part of a very, very long flight with the person behind me tapping madly on the screen (and as a result, thumping the back of my head through the seat) playing Tetris or Candy Crush. Your fellow travelers will appreciate it if you just watch a movie.

The only thing not mentioned above that I carry are one or two of these wipes. Getting cleaned up in the plane lav just before arrival really makes you feel human again.

Posted by
4362 posts

Although this list is not all inclusive, these are some of the things that are always in my personal bag. Ear plugs and sleeping mask so I can hopefully get some sleep. All my prescription meds and spare undies. Hand sanitizer wipes and / or liquid. Camera, cell phone, and paperwork related to reservations and such. Since you are going to check your main bags, consider putting half your stuff is his bag and vice versa. If one of the bags gets misdirected (and it sometimes happens) you'll each have enough to get by until the wayward bag catches up to you.

Posted by
1317 posts

CL, love the branding on those wipes "I've got troubles but being fresh isn't one of them"

Several have said yr preferred mint or gum, I like a snack size baggie w an assortment of about 10 individually wrapped pieces, right now it's a few ginger candies, some peppermints, and some citrus vitamin c drops. I carry it in my purse while traveling, and in my suitcase is a sandwich sized bag w a back up supply

Posted by
2560 posts

I always have a book & knitting project for in-flight entertainment in my personal item, along with reading glasses, eye drops and a candy bar. It all fits in a little drawstring bag that goes in the seat back for easy access. My purse has toothpaste and brush, small deodorant and wet wipes.

Posted by
9133 posts

We carried our chargers/converters, in the suitcase next trip;

I would strongly advise keeping your chargers and adapters with you in your carry-on. You never know what reroutings or delays you might undergo, where they might be, nor how long. There's nothing worse than having a dead device and hours ahead of you and no way to charge it (ok, I exaggerate, there are lots worse things; but this is an easy one to avoid.)

And, as someone mentioned above -- your suitcase sometimes goes wandering without you before you're reunited. Not very often, not all the time, but it does happen. It's happened to me both directions.

Posted by
2766 posts

Congrats on your trip!

If you are checking luggage then any absolute must-haves need to be with you in case a bag is delayed. So any medications, obviously. Also phone and camera chargers and appropriate adaptor. Basic toiletries like a toothbrush,. Ideally a change of clothes. If you can't easily live without it for 2-3 days then it needs to stay with you.

You want something to pass time - a book, kindle, phone with game, whatever. If it's a phone then a USB cord, because there usually is a place to plug it in to charge. Often the USB port is on the TV.
Usually there is a seat back TV with movies, and headphones are provided for it. However, I bring my own headphones because they are more comfortable (I have heard of planes with systems that don't accept regular headphones but have never run into this, it's always been a standard headphone jack).
Then contact lens case and solution to remove contacts to sleep. Some people bring earplugs or an eye mask if those will help them sleep.
One weird thing I bring is a plastic grocery bag or two for trash. All the wrappers and cups add up and I personally hate having the tray table down any longer than absolutely necessary to eat - makes me claustrophobic. But if I have things to throw out and want to put the table up I have to wait for them to come around with the trash and that can be a while. So I just put the trash in my own bag, keep it on the floor, and give it to the attendants (and sort out the recyclables) when it's time

Beyond that I don't like to bring a lot of stuff. I try to sleep and just find I don't use anything beyond a book and the movies.

I have my toothbrush and such in my overhead bag, and I use it in the airport not on the plane, with rare exceptions.

Posted by
1221 posts

Do keep in mind that loose lithium batteries (and portable rechargers that use them) can be a fire hazard so reputable airlines these days require that they be in only carry on bags where the risk of crush damage is lower and any fires can more quickly be put out.

If you're bringing a smartphone (and they are useful tools for many things) make sure to go through and load any apps for maps and mass transit routes, the airlines you're flying (push notifications of gate changes and flight delays are v. good to have), and hotels you're staying at that have them, and the Mobile Passport app to hopefully speed the return into the USA. And there are probably a few Uno apps that can be downloaded onto a phone and played offline as well.

Posted by
1620 posts

Think of your carry on as your place to be organized for your travel between your house and your first hotel.
You will need the following to board the plane so they should be in an outside pocket or easily accessible :

  • Passport
  • Boarding pass
  • If you need to access your boarding pass at the Airport, know if you will need to put the credit card you purchased the tickets with in the machine or if you need to know the card number, make sure that is handy (this happened to us flying between countries in Europe)

If your doing Carry-on only, your 3-1-1 bag should also be on the top of the bag, not something you need to dig for.

Once you land you will need the name and address of hotel and cash for the cab. These items should also be in a logical place that are easily accessible in your bag so you don't need to be digging. After a long day of travel (maybe more than 24 hours) You may be tired, hungry and maybe in a country that you don't speak the language, getting organized at home, has helped me so much.

Then think about what needs to be on you at all times, for me that is my Medication, Jewelry and Money so these items are my #1 priority for my carry on.

My Carry on is BIG, but fits under the seat just fine. I use the Kipling Sherpa bag. It has a Large bucket area, a zippered pocket and a tablet sleeve inside. Outside are two big pockets (very important) and a pocket that runs along the outside of the bag. These features are VERY important for me during long plane rides. Anything I need to access to board the plane and goes in one outside pocket which will have my passport and boarding pass. The other outside pocket has my meds (which are taken at night), lip balm, candy/gum, Eye Glasses, Sun Glasses, Cell phone, spending cash (US only, I don't want to dig in the bag to get a cup of coffee), ear buds, hair ties, scarf, hand sanitizer. In the long outside pocket goes my tablet and book. In the bucket part of my carry on is my Itinerary folder which contains all train tickets, hotel reservations, itinerary, just everything I need for each day, my toiletry bag (It is a flat bag so it just sips into the bag standing up), My US Wallet which has all my credit cards and Foreign Cash and drivers license, makeup bag, camera, batteries, adaptors and anything that did not fit in the suitcase, sometimes that is one shoe, my husbands belts, whatever. I also pack my small purse I will use for my daily travels around Europe, In it is my small wallet with about 100€. My 3-1-1 bag is the last thing I pack and it goes right on top so I can grab it when needed.

So basically my carry on is my most important thing I will carry, my suitcase has my clothes and shoes, all which can be replaced. I always plan on carrying on my suitcase, but sometimes you get to the gate, they say the plane is so full they will need to check your bag for free and then I am separated from my case,

Once we land and are on our way to the taxi stands, we find a corner. My husband stands above me, I pull my small purse out of my carry on and put that on, open my travel folder and pull out my first hotels details (which have been organized at home, I know exactly were it is) and put that in my purse, move my sunglasses and seeing glasses from my carry on into the small purse. Zip up and off we go. Once we get in the taxi, sometimes there is no room for my carry on, everything will go in the trunk, so I have our hotel info and cash to pay the taxi, which is all in my little purse.

Posted by
13237 posts

Doric8's post mentioning Vitamin C lozenges reminded me of something. The last couple of times I've traveled, I doled out 2 doses (total of 8 chewables) of Airborne into a small ziplock from Michaels. I chew the first set after I'm on the plane and settled and then the next set as things are being buttoned up prior to landing - so that's about 8-10 hours apart. It may be mental but I'll be prepared to swear it helps me from catching stuff on the plane!

Let's're down to 15 days now and we've given you enough ideas for about 3 months of research and trial packing, hahaha!!

Posted by
1620 posts

Pam- We do airborn daily a week leading up to the trip then each do a drink of it while waiting to board of the plane. I have no idea if it works or is just a coincident that we do not get sick.

Posted by
13237 posts

Letizia, when I went to England and Scotland this spring I did little swag bags for my brother, SIL and her sis and included the little ziplocks of Airborne. I kind of made them take them (well didn't force them to but reminded them - I AM pretty bossy) and none of us got anything. We also started about a week out. Just think it helps your immune system especially when you may be excited and not sleeping as well as you normally do!

Posted by
2868 posts

Congratulations on your first (of many) overseas trip!
I take a daypack sized backpack as my carryon (I like to check my suitcase, as I'm usually changing planes mid trip to get to Europe.
I take:
A spare pair of undies and bra and a thin t-shirt.
I put these in a ziplock bag and squish it as flat as it will go; this is in case your checked bag doesn't get there when you do.
It takes up little room.
(Note: crosspack your clothes with your husbands, if you are checking bags.
That way, if one case doesn't make it, each of you will have some clothes !)
My Ipad, phone, earbuds, and chargers.
One paperback book.
If I finish it, I leave it on board for someone else, or offer it to the flight attendant.
A very light small zipup makeup bag with a tiny flashlight, tiny preloaded toothbrush, tiny hair comb, tissues, a couple of sachets of facecream and handcream, and a tiny lipbalm (some dentists give those away.).
A few snacks such as granola bars and an apple and some mint candies.
Any and all medications .
My regular camera and charger.
My glasses.
A light pashmina scarf.
You could add a blowup neck pillow, eyemask for sleep, and earplugs.
Just before boarding and after security; I will transfer the things I like to have near me on board into a small plasticized reuseable grocery bag.
That way, it can go under the seat in front of me, and I never have to keep jumping up and down to get something out of the larger backpack in the overhead compartment.
Plus, there's more room for your feet.
I also order a special meal in advance.
You get served first, and you get finished first; then you can get to the bathroom first after the meal service without the lineups.; and get settles in quicker for the rest of the flight.
My purse is separate, and has my documents, itinerary, money ID , pen, etc in it.
It always goes with me even if I'm getting up to the washroom or stretching my legs.
Hope you are going somewhere great; have a good trip!

Posted by
47 posts

Since I travel with my kids (13 and 7) we usually have uno, cards, kindle, phones, computer, mad libs, sketchbooks/journals, pens/pencils, etc. - provides entertainment beyond the back-of-the-seat options. We also usually have some snacks, and something warm to put on if the plane gets cold.