Organized Travel: Carry-On Bag

May 15

Anyone who travels understands how difficult it is these days to get to your destination by plane. It’s expensive, what you bring (on the plane and the weight of your checked bags) is looked at and scrutinized closely, you have no control of long layovers or plane issues, you may end up sitting next to someone that has a cold (talking from experience)…The list goes on. So when I travel (especially with children) I try to be prepared for anything.

Since I’m heading out to see our new home again this weekend – by plane – I thought today I would share how I organize my carry-on tote. Aaaaand I suppose I was pretty excited to load up my new bag too! 😉

The first thing I always do is lay out everything I need to bring on a table. If anything can be pared down to a smaller size or if I question whether I’ll really need it, it’s done. Then I load up my bag.

What do I bring on the plane with me? Read on….

Tote bag: There are too many options when it comes to tote bags. Way too many for me to share or talk about. I guess the one thing I am always careful about, however, is that it can hold up well with travel, it will fit under the seat or in the overhead, and it’s a material that cleans easily. Airplanes and airports are filthy…You never know exactly what is on the floor under the seat in front of you. eeek! When I go with a bag for plane travel, I make sure it’s easy to clean should something happen during the trip.

My new tote bag and my purse have an outer material that clean-up easily…

snacks: When you get delayed or you’re hungry in general, the airport is one of the worst (and most expensive) places to grab a snack. Sure – sometimes I have to eat at the airport. But if possible, and it’s a short trip, I bring along a small, high-energy, fill-me-up type snack. My favorite things to bring are my own trail mix and energy bars…

I rummage around the pantry to find almonds, yogurt raisins, pretzels, or small crackers and throw together my own little bagged snack. The kids and I both love z-bar’s so I usually pack a few of those too…

gum/mints: I love gum or mints but I  like to carry a smaller size. I love the small Altoids tin and I recently found these super cute and tiny packs of gum. Have you seen these?…

The pack has 6 small pieces and is the perfect size for a travel/tote bag. I’m all about downsizing so I don’t kill my shoulders or back. Anytime I can find smaller packaging, I go for it. Even if it’s mints or gum.

water: Airport security makes a pretty big deal about any kind of liquid going through their space – but even more so when it comes to water bottles or sippy cups. To avoid delays, I bring my own brita water bottle and fill it at the drinking fountain once I’m beyond security…

This also saves me from having to buy a $6 bottle of water. The bottle is small and lightweight too.

liquids/make-up: I like to bring lip gloss, hand sanitizer, hand lotion and other liquid-y types of materials, but these bring up red flags for security peeps. To keep issues at bay I load up anything like this into ONE small make-up bag. That way when I arrived at security, I can whip out the bag and have it ready for inspection. No digging though my purse for all of the various items. And no glaring looks from inpatient travelers behind you. This is when the sample section at your local target or drug store becomes your best friend – get small travel sizes just for your plane make-up bag. You don’t need to bring the full-size bottles with you 🙂 and these days you can find almost anything in a sample size….


It’s a good idea to bring a small package of kleenex, medicine and maybe even some feminine products…You never know. It’s just better to be prepared for anything…

You don’t even need to buy a special make-up bag – I found these zip baggies in the target sample section…They’re perfect for traveling…

Or use a regular zip-loc bag!

reading material: I don’t usually take the time to read magazines at home, so the plane is a great spot to catch up on my big stack. This weekend I’m bringing a few home-related reads as well as one celebrity-type magazine…

Bringing your own magazines or books is another way you can save money – you’ll pay a pretty penny for them in the airport book shop.

technology: Smart phone, kindle or iPad…All great ways to pass the time! I bring my iphone with headphones…

And my ipad with noise-cancelling headphones…

I like to rent a movie from iTunes as a treat (i never watch movies at home), play games, or write notes in the various note-type apps I utilize. What did we ever do without these gems?!

You can also bring a small charger – airports are getting better about supplying power outlets for travelers to charge up.

notepad/pens: Not sure about you, but great ideas or lost ideas seem to pop up on me while I’m driving or on a plane. Why is that?! I carry a small zippered bag with my favorite pens and a small notepad. Putting the pens in a zippered, secured bag ensures I won’t have any leaks…


Money, credit cards, your ID: Finally, I ditch my big bulky wallet when I travel and use one of the zippered inner tote pockets to secure my important items like cash or credit cards. I bring a credit card, my ID, medical cards, a little cash (tipping curbside check-in workers or taxi drivers), and any gift cards that would be helpful on my trip…

Leaving my wallet at home makes a significant difference in the weight of any bag I carry. My wallet tends to be on the heavy, bulky side.

Now that I have everything I need for the plane, it’s time to load up my carry-on bag…

Ready to go!…

Oh – You may notice that binder….That would be my moving binder. Normally this would not be in my tote bag, but since I’m heading to the new house this weekend, it’s making the trip with me. Even with everything else inside the tote, there’s still plenty of room for it! 🙂

I do bring along my purse as well when I travel…

Sometimes I pack it in my suitcase so that I have a smaller bag on hand when I arrive at my destination. And sometimes I carry it on. This weekend, I’m bringing my purse on board because it will hold my big camera. I’m planning to take high-quality house images because my cell phone won’t do the job. My sun glass case, not pictured, is also in my purse.

That’s it! Carry-on contents are a personal choice so while the images I shared with you today may not work for you, I hope the take-away from this post is…

1. Going smaller will always help you in the long run – and help your back!

2. Try to keep liquids to one bag. This will make it easier for you to quickly get through security.

3. Bring what you can so you’re not spending a fortune in the airport.

I’d love to know what your must-have carry-on items are. Share in the comments below!

comments +

  1. Gates 8105 says:

    My TSA is a great app for your phone! If you have any questions about rules/regs you can ck your phone! Have a great trip. Love the new bag 🙂

  2. Michaela says:

    I love these kinds of posts! Something so voyeuristic in them, but also so practical and helpful, haha!
    I fly domestic quite often, and I'm so glad that Australia ditched the liquids rule for domestic flights. I usually don't check in luggage so it would drive me crazy trying to limit everything into a limited number of smaller containers.
    Love the water bottle idea – can't believe I haven't thought of that one!

  3. Bear Girl says:

    Hi Samantha, I was told about, which has nearly every brand and item necessary in travel sizes. Hugs, Genah

  4. Crystal says:

    Great tips!! Thanks so much!!

  5. Thanks for sharing! Good tips! Visiting from It's Overflowing link party!

  6. This is a great list. Depending on where you're traveling, though, I would add a couple pairs of undies and a spare t-shirt. When I was 18 and traveling with a school group in Europe, the airport lost all my luggage, and we were on a specific touring schedule which didn't allow us to stop and buy more (plus I was 18 and hadn't budgeted a lot of extra money for additional clothes) so I spent two nights rinsing my undies in the sink and sleeping in the giant white t-shirt the airport gave us so I could preserve my clothes as best I could until they found it!

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