• Lexi Nelson

The Essentials for Your Carry-On Backpack

This may be just me, but the idea of packing for a trip really gets me going – in a good way. I love planning my outfits weeks in advance, trying them on, making sure I know exactly what I’m going to wear and on what day so that I don’t have to get stressed out (I’m not OCD or some psycho path, either!). I genuinely do just like packing and organizing, but I understand that a lot of people absolutely hate it.

People often forget how useful your carry-on bag can be, and end up throwing a bunch of random items in there that are hard to find (yes, I have done this before). For me, I want my carry-on to be my most organized thing, because it’s my life line on a plane. I can’t stand the people who get up mid-flight and look for something in their SUITCASE overhead – it’s like you’re asking me to peak at all the things you brought. But, if you want to read about what type of clothes to pack, see my article What The Heck Do You Pack? here.

I always bring a backpack – never a purse because you don’t want one of your arms to feel like it’s going to fall off. A backpack can distribute weight evenly across your back, and walking through airports / waiting in lines, those carry-on’s get heavy! When looking for a backpack, I usually look for the largest one, and one that can fit my laptop. I look at the backpacks that are around 16-15” height wise and 12-11” wide. I personally don’t love the new bags that have a compartment for absolutely everything because they just aren’t practical. The one’s that specifically have slots for your pens and credit cards are useless – you’re not going to take your cards out of your wallet to put them loose in your bag. Every bag that I travel with, though, must have a front pocket.

The front pocket is everything! That’s where I put my:

  • headphones (air pods and the old-school headphones in case the plane doesn’t provide any for the TVs)

  • phone chargers

  • adaptors

  • chap sticks

  • gum / mints

  • hair ties

The front pocket is basically its own separate bag for me. Whenever you’re going abroad, you’ve got to check if the country you’re going to has a different charging outlet. It’s a good idea to bring a couple different options just in case you decide to take a random weekend trip somewhere. If you don’t remember – they’re not that expensive to buy at the airport or convenient store. On top of that, I always bring a portable charger because of those long travel days, and of course you want to photograph everything you see!

If I’m going on an international flight, I always bring a change of clothes in my backpack. I bring a sports bra, top, shorts / leggings, underwear and socks. The socks are the biggest deal to me, because sometimes your feet just feel gross after taking your shoes on and off during a long plane ride. I’ve never had to use it, but I bring a change of clothes in case my luggage gets lost. If your luggage does get lost, hopefully they will find it in a day or two, but while you’re waiting it’s nice to have a change of clothes.

I always bring my toiletries bag in my carry-on, my makeup can go in my suitcase. I make sure that I have a toothbrush (sometimes, airlines will give you a toothbrush on long flights, but they’re such bad quality and hurt my teeth). If I’m taking a red-eye, I like to wake up and brush my teeth. I also make sure to pack some rose water (or a basic facial spray). I recommend rose water because it calms you down and makes your face feel fresh. It smells like roses, naturally, so it won’t irritate your plane neighbors by the smell.

I also make sure to pack a good book. There’s nothing worse than having your phone on low battery on the plane and not being able to listen to music. Also, books always make me fall asleep – fast – and I find myself snoozing off easier on flights after reading. Another thing that helps you sleep, and it sounds lame, is a sleeping mask. You are a different person on those 13 hour fights, and if it takes a sleeping mask to help you get your rest, you should bring one!

You obviously cannot take this through security, but right when I get to the airport I always buy the largest water bottle I can find. The flight attendants only give you 2-3 cups of water and it’s just not enough for me. I’ve found that drinking a lot of water makes me a) less swollen and b) less dehydrated! The last thing I make sure I have is some type of protein bar. I would say snack, but a bag of chips takes up way too much room and just isn’t as filling as a good protein bar. Especially in a foreign country, you could arrive really late at night and everything is closed, having a granola bar handy can be a life saver!

Lastly, I always leave some room in my carry-on backpack for small trinkets and souvenirs that I end up buying. It’s always better to have more space than less. I hope this was helpful and made your upcoming packing a little less stressful than usual!

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