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What to pack in carry on bag

Hi everyone. My husband and I are going on a two week trip around Europe and I'm wondering what to pack in my carry on bag for the plane. Just to be clear, I don't mean to only pack with carry on luggage. We will be checking a suitcase for our clothes, toiletries, shoes etc for the duration of the trip. I'm just wondering what you put into your carry on / purse / backpack for the plane ride and when you're travelling between cities. We are mostly going to be in Italy with short stops in Switzerland, Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris.

Also, on a sidenote, I'm debating about whether or not to bring along a laptop / ipad or both. I don't imagine we'd need to use the laptop much but I'm just thinking for getting photos off my camera etc. Better to do that and organise them into files on the laptop as you go or would you just leave the laptop at home and get several memory cards for the trip?


Posted by
987 posts

If I wasn't packing carry on only, I would bring a change of clothes in my carry on. In the bag I like to have with me on the plane, I keep my travel documents and money, my phone, iPad, ear buds, and chargers. A sweater, lotion, lip balm, and a snack. On a long overnight flight also a toothbrush and toothpaste. Once I get through security I will get liquids I want with me like my lotion out of my liquid bag. I personally never want to carry my laptop with me, so I just bring an extra memory card for the camera and leave the laptop at home. I do like to have my iPad with me, but I have run out of room before and then I was perfectly fine on the trip with just my phone.

Posted by
891 posts

don't forget that any and all medications RX or over the counter that you take should be in your carryon.
I also carry a couple of plug adapters in my carryon.

Posted by
1219 posts

I take extra memory cards and a case with one side for used and the other to be used. Way easier. Then sort them out when you get home.

As I am the "mom" in the group, I pack comfort items and essentials. Essentials are things that you absolutely must need immediately, in case your suit case gets temporarily lost for a day. Think passports, cash, med.s, a change of underwear/shirt, travel/hotel info., etc.. Comfort items include a small pouch loaded with packet size tissues, packet size flushable wipes, small zip lock bag for trash on plane, any med.s. Things to get you through a long flight when getting out of a seat is inconvenient. Think - if you sneeze, do you want immediate access to a tissue and trash bag or have to get up, crawl over a lap or two, and trek down to a restroom that is occupied.
Sugar-less cough drops can be a comfort as well.

Posted by
291 posts

Once, flying first class, unbelievably, the airline did not put my luggage on the plane! I now always pack two pairs of "ex-officio" lightweight, fast dry underwear in my carry-on so I know I am always covered if my luggage arrives after I do. Also, having these frees up much space in my checked luggage, so I now only travel with a few pairs of this brand instead of packing two weeks worth of the other kind.

Posted by
27072 posts

In addition to Karen's list, I travel with a rechargeable electric toothbrush, and it goes in my carry-on because I've had bad luck with those things not working after being in checked baggage; I wonder if they are a bit fragile. Reading material, inflatable pillow, bottle of water, prescription meds (all when flying; a one-week supply for ground-transportation days), and a small quantity of some key over-the-counter meds (including saline nasal spray for the plane). I never seem to remember to include a change of underwear, but that's a very good idea, as is a fresh top if there is room. And reservation print-outs, travel notes and guide book excerpts for the next destination.

All credit and ATM cards go in either my purse or moneybelt. I don't travel with jewelry of real or sentimental value, but if I did it would be in my purse or carry-on.

Posted by
11613 posts

I do take s rolling carryon, but I pack it as I would a checked bag in case I need to gate-check it. I consider my personal item my "essentials+" bag, so it holds my messenger bag, change of clothes, electronics and cords/chargers, meds, toiletries, neck wallet with docs,/euro/cards, tickets, vouchers, hard copy of itinerary, notebook, pens, + anything else that fits.

Posted by
528 posts

Since you are checking your luggage, you might want to put a change of clothing in your husband's checked bag, and vice versa packing a change of his in your bag. You never know, one of your checked bags might be delayed. I learned from experience. I agree with previous poster, I always carry on an extra pair of undies.

Posted by
695 posts

I agree pretty much with what others have said. Pack your electronics, travel documents and a change of clothes, especially underwear and sleepwear, in your carry on.

I usually bring my laptop and leave the iPad at home for two reasons. First, I am the IT person for a very small company. They rarely bother me while I am traveling, but at the same time I like to have my laptop available for emergencies. They are very flexible about accommodating my travel schedule, and I try to be considerate about being available should a real problem arise. Also, I really like to backup and catalog my photos at the end of each day. I find it overwhelming to wait until the end of the trip.

Sometimes, depending on how much time I have at my destination, I bring my iPad to use as a sketchbook (I am a part-time artist and part-time computer geek). It's lighter and logistically simpler than hauling art supplies.

Posted by
4806 posts

Debra made a good point. We go a step further and put half of one person's clothing in one bag with half of the other person's clothing. We do the same for both bags even if they are carry on size. This method means each person will have at least half of his / her stuff even if a bag has to be gate checked and is then delayed.

Posted by
345 posts

I usually have a carry-on bag plus a larger sized purse for the plane. As others have said...meds, camera equipment, Nook, various chargers, jewelry case (nothing expensive but I still don't want it to get lost), extra underwear, extra glasses, and a top or two go into the carry-on bag. Depending on what the temperatures will be when we arrive, I put my jacket or sweater in the carry-on bag.

I always put the electric toothbrush in the carry-on since I don't want it to start buzzing and sound suspicious. Of course, it could still start making noise in the overhead bins but at least, I could get to it more easily.

I do like one poster's idea for packing some of my husband's clothes and vice versa in our suitcases. Of course, I usually do put a few of my extras in his suitcase. Now, I just have to make some room for his things. We have been fairly lucky so far about lost or delayed bags but since I am writing this statement, it will probably happen on our next trip. Knock on wood!

We are leaving for France at the end of September for 3 1/2 weeks. I am also debating about taking my laptop. I know I can send emails on my Nook but a larger computer is easier for looking up other travel info such as hotels, etc. Plus, I hate the keyboards on the computers in the French hotels and Internet cafes. Way too different for my clumsy figures!

Everyone just has to make their own choices and be able to carry them or have a strong travelling partner. Good luck!

Posted by
489 posts

clorox wipes... The very first thing I do is wipe down all surfaces that I will be touching for that 9 hr. flight. Also a large pashima scarf that acts as my blanket, I should have had a shout spot cleaner in my bag and DH dribbled sauce on his shirt and we didn't try to get it out until we were at our destination (it didn't come out). I never take a laptop because TSA and other security points always want you to pull it out and separate it from your baggage.

Posted by
2602 posts

Going over my carry on includes a top, undies and socks, maybe a light sweater, since I always check a bag. Also a book, guide book, map and itinerary notes for trip, small knitting project, glasses, 311 bag, chargers and plug adapters. Coming home the spare clothes go in my suitcase and I put anything purchased on my trip that is breakable or valuable or just something I'd hate to not see when I get home. I only bring a small camera (with spare memory card) and my iPhone, no laptop or iPad.

Posted by
19092 posts

I like having along a computer. Every morning I download pictures from the day before to the computer and organize them by date and place while it is still fresh in my mind. But I use a netbook, which is small and easy to carry. Your use of the word "laptop" conjures up an image of a huge, heavy machine. I don't like pads because of their crappy faux keyboards, but in this case, for organizing photos, one might work.

Check the TSA restrictions. There are certain things that cannot be put in checked bags. Those have to go in a carry-on.

I put everything I absolutely have to have in the carry-on, then assume that I might have to live with just that, and leave the rest at home.

Posted by
5697 posts

I also carry my rechargeable toothbrush -- but I pack it in two pieces, so there's no chance of it buzzing (had it happen once in checked luggage.) Always a sweater and scarf and eyemask for sleeping comfortably on the plane. My rain jacket stuffed in the bottom of the bag. And an empty water bottle to fill after security.

Posted by
1585 posts

I always take a laptop with me. I take about 300 RAW (read large files) photographs every day. For a 30 day trip that would be a lot of memory cards with a big chance one or more would get lost. Also, every night I name that days files files so that when I get back home I know what they are. No way I could remember every thing for 30 days. One day is hard enough. I do take this opportunity to get delete the duds. Oh, I also bring along a portable hard drive, which is kept in a separate bag from my computer, to backup my computer every night .

Posted by
60 posts

I pack the usual toiletries and electronics. Last trip I took the iPad and now I won't leave home without it. If there's wifi, it's easier to look things up on it and I can connect and download books from my home library. (I used to take several books along, now just one or 2 for the flight and ebooks for the rest of the trip.) My husband brings extra cards and batteries for his camera.

A lightweight change of clothes: spills and accidents happen on flights, too. A tissue weight cashmere shawl from Nordstrom works as a blanket, pillow, or sweater replacement.
A small dry shampoo to use before landing and the little toothbrush/paste things to replace full size for in-flight use.

Posted by
2768 posts

To me they key is anything I will need on the plane and anything I couldn't live without in case my bag was lost.

So for on the flight - all travel documents and money/credit cards. Book/kindle, ipad and cords, and headphones for entertainment. Backup charger for the ipad. Water bottle. Snack like a granola bar. Cardigan or scarf for if you get cold. Earplugs and/or eye mask if you use these. Basic toiletries like toothbrush, lotion, and comb to freshen up.

For in case your bag is lost - all medications, camera, sunglasses, maybe a change of clothes (at least underwear!), and anything valuable you take. Never put anything you can't afford to loose in checked luggage.

Regarding photo storage - I store mine on my ipad. It's 64GB and I have it mostly empty. Each day I put the day's photos on it, delete all the mediocre photos from the ipad, and keep a file of the day's best pics. (The bad photos stay on the memory card, but not on the ipad - I can possibly fix them up with software at home, but storage is limited on the ipad!) So I do have several memory cards, but if any are lost I have the ipad files of the best ones. I upload these to the cloud etc daily, as well.

Posted by
3 posts

In addition to some of the items listed in previous posts, I've started also carrying a small spray bottle--about the size of 2 lipstick tubes end-to-end--filled with lavender-scented alcohol; I suppose lemon scent would be nice as well. It isn't as strongly-scented as perfume and easier for me to use on the go than Purell or wipes. I started carrying one when we were in Lisbon for a month in late Winter/early Spring and then travelling around Spain. I'd spritz my hands after using an escalator, railings, etc. and did not get sick at all until after the bottle ran out. Now I have a refillable bottle. On the plane, it was an easy way to clean a sticky tray table or fingers after eating that midnight piece of fruit on a long flight.

Posted by
3750 posts

Ear plugs. You never know when you are going to be seated on a long flight near a chatty couple of people. If that happens, you will need earplugs in order to nap or read a book.

Posted by
796 posts

Great topic! I have a packing list for my under the seat bag as my roll aboard goes above me in the overhead. I include snacks as I am gluten free and have experienced not having a meal even though I Booked it. I usually bring some crackers in a plastic yogurt container with a rubber band around it; I Continue to use this for picnics during my trip. Some nuts in a ziplock bag, an apple or dried fruit, if I have a flight leaving before noon, I pack a sandwich. Protein bars too. This helps me to prevent buying crap at the airport and have something to eat if the meal is awful.

A thick wide scarf that serves as a blanket, earplugs and noise cancelling earbuds. A small container of ibuprofen and mess for my sinuses/allergies. I pack my Pacsafe purse into the under seat bag, filled with most of my purse things and I use a very small cross body purse that I use in the airport and on the plane. iPad and IPhone, with an audiobook that helps me to relax if I cannot sleep on the plane. My liquids bag with toner and moisturizer that I use during the flight, toothpaste, face wash and deodorant. A small word search book and a few pens. A Baggie filled with meds (OTC and prescription) my water bottle, empty to go through security then I fill it. A Tourbook of the country I am visiting to review or catch up if I did not read it all before.

I put some things in the pockets of my Scottevest so they are easier to get to than under the seat.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
1625 posts

I think most posters covered all the basics. It really is about your travel needs and requirements. I need to be warm so I pack a big scarf and socks, I need to take my Meds, snacks, read (Tablet), gum, phone, All my travel docs (accordion folder), camera, chargers, lotion, my normal wallet (BIG, goes in my at home purse) and money and my make-up bag and toiletries and my travel purse which is packed with my travel wallet and anything I will need once I get on the ground. Then anything that did not fit in my carry on suitcase gets jammed into it also. This is my "personal item" bag which fits perfectly under the seat.