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How do you keep organized on the plane?

There is a thread about corralling stuff by bedside in hotel room that got me thinking about the difficulties of corralling stuff on the plane. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how I did this on flight this past May and wondered what others did. It just seemed like I was always looking for something!!

Posted by
2067 posts

Easy for me - the only thing I pull from my carry-on day pack is my tablet - that's it.

Posted by
517 posts

Small drawstring bag— I loop the drawstring through my seat belt. In it are my phone, earbuds, charger cord, pack of tissues, Wet wipes, lip balm, inflatable neck pillow, foam ear plugs, sleep mask, trial size tube of hand lotion, meds (melatonin and Unisom).

Posted by
2173 posts

I've struggled with this in the past and I found what works for me this year.

I 've started bringing a tiny, very lightweight crossbody bag to carry phone, tissues, and hand sanitizer down to breakfast on tours. Turns out this little bag is perfect to carry the short list of things I might need on a flight, too, as I no longer want to put anything in the seat pocket. And, I use it to go to dinner, too.

Posted by
13253 posts

I do a combination of things. I use a very small cross-body purse for the plane....which I put on after security and leave on. It holds my passport/money/CC as I travel solo and when I started traveling I was nervous about leaving my passport and money at my seat when I went to the bathroom so started wearing a very small crossbody. It also works well when I am out and about and it's raining and I want to zip up my rain jacket with a purse underneath.

Until this last trip I'd used this this back of the seat organizer which I picked up for less at Eddie Bauer Outlet:

I took a couple of plastic produce bags so I could put it in the seatback pocket in the produce bag then disposed of the produce bag on my way off the plane.

The last trip in September I was going really, really light so I did not take this organizer due to the weight so I used the knockoff TJ Maxx version of this set of Travelon mesh pouches. The large one accommodates my iPad Mini, a snack bar, some various OTC meds I might need in the air, package of tissues, extra mask. I had the small size filled with my charger cords so I kept both out.

Honestly, I am still looking for the perfect set up! Can't be too weighty or bulky. There is one that attaches to the tray table but it's WAY too expensive for what you get and besides I'm flying Delta One the next trip and they don't have seatback tables, lol.

Posted by
1895 posts


All I have is my day bag under the seat, I only get what I need-book, electronic device, comb and a change of clothes or at least a top. Other than I try to put everything in the seat pocket in front of me and always check to see if I have my passport and wallet.

Posted by
805 posts

A small size strong mesh bag (for my paranoid checking/rechecking) that holds what I need on the plane or in a hotel room separate from my clothes cubes and my toiletry cube i.e. electronics, chargers/cords in a smaller ziplock bag, on demand toiletries such as OTC meds, tissues in their own small ziplock bag, etc. etc.). A habit from multiple trips - everything has to be easily visible and in its place.

Posted by
2037 posts

First, make a list of what you’re always looking for.

My day bag (backpack) holds everything I’ll need on the plane and goes under the seat in front of me. In the backpack:

Sweatshirt (usually gets worn on the plane once the air starts flowing).

Zippered plastic pouch with itinerary, car rental reservation, passports for the family). Kept in a smaller pocket if the backpack so it’s easy to find.

Refillable water bottle, which I filled after going through security.


Zippered bag with: phone, charger, chapstick, lipstick, eye mask, earbuds, ear plugs, pen, candy, wet wipes. After going through security at the airport, I move from my 3-1-1 bag my eye drops and lotion.

Once I’m in my seat, everything I need for the flight is in that zippered bag at the top of my backpack. It’s easy to grab it and pull out whatever I need. I don’t use the plane pocket, since hubby left a very expensive pair of earbuds on a plane once!

Posted by
8264 posts

Easy peasy.

Before boarding the plane and after security I grab a piece of gum to chew. I place my foam ear plugs and Kleenex in my light Lands End jacket pocket. My lip stick is in my jeans pocket.

All the above items are in a small zipped pocket atop my small carry on backpack that goes under the seat in front of me.

When I’m seated and adjacent seat mates are settled I take then out my crossword puzzle book with pen attached from the back pack and place it in the seat pocket.

Then I wait for take off.

Posted by
2290 posts

I do wear a small cross body purse already.

I think the idea of a zippered compartment might be good. I bought some of those from Amazon for last trip for my suitcase and they made a world of difference. So much better than baggies!! Maybe could put that stuff in baggie in suitcase for trip over so don’t have extra zippered pouches. I am a visual person so color cues help me a lot.

I dropped stuff on the floor this past trip and so drawstring bag that you could put on seat belt might also be a good idea. But then maybe I just have to be less clumsy???!!!

Posted by
4500 posts

I have a clear plastic zippered bag that originally held a bed sheet set. It's the right size to fit inside the seat back pocket and sticks up an inch or 2. Once past security, I put in the items I will want for the flight, so I don't have to contort myself trying to get at the purse I put under the seat in front of me. It easily holds the tablet, ear buds, tissues, lotion, wipes, sanitizer, lip balm etc that I'm likely to need.

Posted by
3984 posts

I keep my stuff in my lightweight Scottevest, inside zipper pockets, but I know lots of folks here don't like those vests. However, they are perfect for me, and as a result, I don't carry a purse. Initially I have my passport and cc in my neck Wallet under my clothes, but as I relax, I put that neck Wallet in a Scottevest pocket also.
Safe travels!

Posted by
124 posts

I pull out of my Knackpack backpack or Lo & Sons tote my seatback organizer by Travelon and my small travel tray by Tom Bihn. In the seatback organizer I have my tablet, ear phones, wipes, a granola bar or candy bar and some money (I always stash money in different places). It is bright in color so I don't forget it. The Tom Bihn tray has some form so if I am flying Delta One I can put it on the side table and it also has a drawstring so if I am flying in other classes, I just sinch it and hook it to the back of the seat. In my Tom Bihn I put my phone, charger, cables, eye drops, chap stick, wipes, ear plugs, hair clip and tie etc.

Both items are on the top of my personal item so they can go back inside pretty easily. The bright colors remind me to put them back in my personal items. Since they hold all the "little things" I no longer have multiple things to remember or have fall all over the place. Both items also work to keep me organized in hotel room. The Tom Bihn tray smashes down to a smaller size. I find both items do not weigh that much.

With going on a five week Europe trip this past Spring and having some mobility challenges from a leg injury, I re-did my entire packing/travel situation. I am so much happier and wondering why I didn't do it earlier.

Posted by
10345 posts

I usually only remove my iPad and a charger from my carry on for most of the trip. I keep the bag on the floor, easy to reach if I need anything else. I am surprised by this post and all the answers! It had never occurred to me to have so much in reach.
Of course it depends on the length of the flight which have often been twelve hours to Asia, then I take other things out as needed, a book, pad and pen, but still, not much.

Posted by
6483 posts

For awhile, I used my cloth grocery bag that rolls up into a tiny ball. Then during our time in Europe or Hawaii, that bag was our beach bag or grocery bag. (I still bring it for those uses.). The negative was that it was an extra item in my hands as we were boarding, and items could slip out of the top of it while it was on the floor of the plane since there’s no structure to the material.

I also tried an old free Clinique makeup bag for just a few items - a pen, earbuds & Apple shuffle, mints, etc. It was small enough to just stay on my lap. That’s what I use on domestic flights.

Now, I just use my lightweight LLBean daypack since it’s under the seat anyways. It already has my raincoat (if I get cold) and the other items. (I also have a tiny crossbody purse that I wear during the flight, under my coat when I’m sleeping, since I travel solo half of the time.). I really try to either sleep, listen to music with my eyes closed as a pseudo nap, or just give up and watch some movies during the long flights, so I don’t need too many items.

Posted by
878 posts

I love my RedOxx PUP as my personal item. It has an outside zipper pocket for quick access things like my passport and phone. On the Inside I have my crossbody purse (filled with purse stuff like my wallet, sunglasses, hand gel, PowerBank).

Also, on the inside of the RedOxx PUP (in addition to my purse) are things I may need in-flight like snacks, my Bose Noise-Cancelling earbuds, a bottle of water, a Tom Bihn small snake charmer with any additional needs like cables, cords, meds.

I do keep a size 2 or 3 Tom Bihn DrawString Sack in the PUP and I use a carabiner to attach it to the back of the seat in front of me for things I use often on LONG flights like handgel, phone, etc -

Posted by
139 posts

I love to use a Tom Bihn Side Kick as a crossbody bag in the airport, and then as a plane seat bag. TB has nifty swivel-head double carabiners (lightweight) that can attach to the strap hooks on each side of the bag. The carabiners can clip the bag to the seat pocket. Works really well! For boarding the plane, I can clip the Side kick to the outside of my personal item, if it doesn’t fit inside.

The pockets and o-rings inside the bag are ideal for organizing iPhone, Kleenex, a small med pouch, chapstick, small wallet, gum, Air Pods, pencil, etc. The Side Kick can hold my small tablet. Everything I need is at hand, so I don’t have to root through my personal item at my feet. The TB bag called the Side Effect is a smaller version of this, but it doesn’t hold my tablet.

When the flight is done, I put the carabiner clips away, and reattach the crossbody strap. I have 2 Side Kicks: a Dyneema one and a Cordura one. Saw this idea on the TB forums, and have used it ever since. Brilliant.

Posted by
387 posts

The very first thing I do is remove all airline material from the seatback pocket and put it in the overhead bin. This allows uncluttered use of afore mentioned pocket.

Posted by
220 posts

Obviously, there are multiple solutions. I guess it depends on what you need during the flight and how much you are willing to shlep around. I put our trip info into 9x12 envelopes sorted by topic, e.g., travel docs, maps, accommodations... Makes it easier to retrieve. My Jansport day pack has several pockets to divide the other junk and goes under the seat. My wife comments that I carry too much. I do but I still do it.

Posted by
2874 posts

I take a small version of the more structured reusable/“bag for life”plasticized grocery bags.
It’s about 9” high, 6-7” across.
After security and before boarding I put into it my IPad, book, large scarf, pouch with toothbrush, lip balm, comb and tissues, my eyeglasses, and snacks.
It’s small enough to still give me plenty foot room under the seat in front of me.
My carryon goes up above and stays put.
My crossbody bag with papers, money, cards etc stays on me the whole time.
I never put anything in the seat pocket because…ewww…..who knows what has been in there.
I sometimes bring an old plastic grocery bag to line the pocket with first if I really need the space on a very long flight.
Two different friends forgot they had left IPads in there this year, and didn’t realize till they were home.
One got hers back, the other did not.

Posted by
1259 posts

Personal item is a backpack. I have a 12"x15" nylon bag that clips that to the seat back in front of me with two small carabiners. Into it go: water bottle/soda, headphones, iPad, snacks, notebook, pen, that's abou it. I never put anything in the seat pockets.

Posted by
8207 posts

I use the same personal item I use as my daypack while touring about - my RS Civita bag. I dont want another item that has a single purpose. But I dont have that much stuff I need to access on the plane. Largest item is a paperback or my e-Reader.

Posted by
5169 posts

tavapeak, I love your idea about the Side Kick! That's one of TB's bags I've been thinking about for awhile and I like the idea of clipping it to the seat pocket. I could potentially use it as an organizer insert in my personal item. Hmmm... something to think about.

Posted by
1655 posts

I take either my purse of candle daypack and kept that at my feet. I only ever take out my phone, charger and glasses do it’s easy enough to keep track of them. My glasses case is a bright color so I can find it in my purse as well as the seat pocket. This way it stands out and I don’t forget them.

Posted by
9145 posts

Omg now you all have had me on the Tom Bihn site for a good part of the afternoon checking all this out ....

Posted by
23 posts

My favorite thing to keep organized for a long-distance flight is a travel flight is an infinity travel scarf. The scarf has a zipper so you can put the essentials inside rather than digging around for stuff. I put things like lip balm, tissues, hand sanitizer, eye mask etc. A phone would work too but would be heavy. All the things you are need are easily accessible. That scarf is also handy for putting a room key if no pockets in clothing.

Posted by
2290 posts

That travel scarf is such an ingenious idea.

And the side kick-that is clever as well. I use a small travel purse that I wear cross body. Has anyone used this product instead? It is bigger but has thicker strap so might be just as comfortable to carry more.

I want to carry everyday at least my cell phone, my sun glasses, and credit cards and misc stuff like lip balm.

Posted by
144 posts

I like multi use items. I have a 8x11 wet bag. It’s a little stiff, zips on the long side and fits in most airline pockets. I once left my iPad mini in a seat pocket (luckily got it back) and this has solved ghat concern. It can hold my iPad mini and/or kindle, a battery charger and cord and a couple snacks. It’s hand to have on a trip and of course, packs flat. I will also use it in the room, by setting small items on it so they are in one place. Works for me….I actually take it in every trip, whether flying or not.

Posted by
9145 posts

The scarf is ingenious and would be perfect -- except I am usually too friggin hot on the plane, so it would be the first thing I would ditch !! 🤣🤣

Posted by
5169 posts

Omg now you all have had me on the Tom Bihn site for a good part of the afternoon checking all this out ....

Kim, it's addictive!

Posted by
139 posts

About clipping a bag to a seat pocket: This photo from TB Forums is the original post by the person who suggested it. The link shows the smaller Tom Bihn Side Effect with locking clips. She also clipped her collapsible water bottle next to the bag.

I find double-head swivel carabiners to be lighter and more effective for attaching to the seat pocket , and I prefer the larger Side Kick bag. I use bright green carabiners (so I don’t forget the bag!), and keep them clipped on an o-ring inside the bag when not in use. Works well.

TB Side Effect with carabiners

Posted by
5169 posts

Thanks, Tavapeak - I was looking through the forum the other day but didn't see this post. I already have some of the double carabiners from TB, so now I just need to get the Side Kick. I'm holding off a bit to see if any new colors pop up, but if not, I'll probably get the aubergine. And the more I look at it, the more it grows on me - it certainly would make it more difficult to lose. :)

Posted by
5169 posts

I use a small travel purse that I wear cross body. Has anyone used this product instead?

Beth, I've used a crossbody purse in the past (a Tom Bihn medium cafe bag) but was thinking for this next trip of using the Side Kick like tavapeak. So I would insert it in my personal bag, but remove during the flight and hang it from the seat pocket. But then I just add straps and it becomes a crossbody bag for daytime.

Posted by
139 posts

@Mardee. I have the Aubergine, and it’s gorgeous. I use it often at home too. Prefer the Nordic halcyon for the plane, since it’s lighter and more flexible. A Side Kick is a great organizer for a personal item.

I clip my TB clear organizer wallet to an inner o-ring. If I go to the loo, I just unclip the Side Kick and take it with me, if I’m traveling alone. I use a long strap from a LeSportsac crossbody bag. It’s also lighter and more flexible. The TB straps drive me batty.

Any lightweight, small bag with removable straps could be clipped to a seat pocket.

Posted by
156 posts

My stuff is in a midsized backpack stowed under the seat. I pull out my iPad , AirPods, and water bottle and put them in the seat pocket. Travel pillow if it’s a long flight.

Posted by
5169 posts

tavapeak, the halcyon was the one I was looking at - good to know. I think I'll go ahead and get it now - that way I can use it for a couple of trips before my big Scotland trip in May. Thanks!

EDIT: Just ordered it in Aubergine - can't wait to try it out!

Posted by
1261 posts

In my always useful BlueQ zippered tote bag ( which fits perfectly under a plane seat and stands up on its own:

my 7.5x9.5" pacsafe crossbody purse (passport, credit cards, euros, phone)

snack, extra-small water bottle

quilted vest, cashmere cardigan

chapstick, tiny toothpaste + brush, tiny hand lotion

disposable reading material (magazine articles)

2-gallon ziploc bag + binder clips for putting INSIDE the seat pocket (yeah, I am easily grossed out)

kleenex, glasses wipes, hand sanitizer wipes, Lysol wipes

old pillowcase (to transform BlueQ bag into a headrest on my tray even though I can never sleep)

10 masks for planes, airports, and train (I tolerate them better if I change them every few hours)

all documents, maps, printed travel info (less and less of this stuff every trip since it's on my phone)

prescription sunglasses, medications, comb, pen, 2 blank cards

earbuds, phone cord + Italy adapter

Next time, I may try some temporary bag dividers for it (like, a cereal box with the top cut off) and/or some lightweight containers that are not all ziploc bags (much of what's listed above is in ziploc bags of various sizes).

This BlueQ bag "passes" as my purse for boarding airplanes, and has many other uses while traveling such as taking essential stuff with me into (non-fancy) restaurants when we have to leave our luggage in a parked car (we very rarely do this!).

Posted by
2 posts

I have a small Maxpedition pouch that also has a small carabiner on the loop. It holds my earbuds, my charging cable, some sanitation wipes, a small battery for my phone / iPad, and whatever else I might need. I clip the pouch to the seat back pocket and have everything there ready to go.

For my bigger stuff (charger, small speaker, more batteries, etc.) I have a bigger Maxpedition pouch that easily fits in my backpack or luggage. If it's in my carryon, I can always access it during the flight if I need something. So far, I've been a big fan of both, and have bought some for family & friends.

Posted by
1149 posts

I think I have found as close as I can get to the best way to organize things on a flight. This lightweight bag, described in another thread (see Underseat Bag), has 6 zippered pockets: 2 on each end that are an inch or two thick, 1 flat one on the front side. 1 flat one on the top flap, 1 which is the main compartment, and 1 inside the flap on the main compartment.

I put things I will definitely want to access more than once in one end compartment (charger, cord, headphones cord), things I might need to access in the other end compartment (tissues, napkins, hand sanitizer), things I should need only at the start of the flight (alcohol wipes), boarding pass and custom declaration forms in the top flap, passport and other ID in the inside flap, and then in the larger main compartment, a travel pillow and over the ear headphone as well as packing cubes with prescriptions, other electronics, and things that I did not want to put in my carry on bag.

If things work correctly, I should never have to fully remove the bag from its spot under the seat during the flight.

Posted by
726 posts

I inevitably end up with a ton of stuff we need on an overnight flight- electronics, medications, eye drops, notebook and pen, paper and passports....I love my Flight 001 seat back organizer; got one for my constantly-travelling sister as well, and she loves it too. It's similar to the Travelon bag mentioned above, with a couple more pockets. Mine's bright orange; hers is purple, perfect colors for not getting left behind.