How To Pick The Perfect Carry-On Bag + My Packing List

carry on packing

For most people, the absolute worst part of a trip is packing. They’ll spend hours on end pinning tips and photos to Pinterest and will gladly relish in an 8-hour train ride, but watch their expression change when you ask them about packing. Luckily, as I’ve made travel my living and after visiting 26 countries, I’m happy to report that I finally mastered a seamless packing technique for both my carry-on bag and checked luggage.

Now: this is NOT a post about how to travel with just a carry on bag. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you’ll know that carry on travel is a ludicrous concept for this notorious over packer (I like having options; plus, you can’t buy wine when you’ve only got a carry on, so there). This is simply a piece about what I bring on the plane every time I travel, how I organise everything, and why each item is important. Consider this my useful, minimalist, and efficient guide on what to pack to enjoy your plane ride.

Breaking news: you really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.

* For more of my favourite travel products, have a look at my travel shop!

Carry On Packing: The Best Bag

carry on packing

My absolute favourite carry on bag is the OG by Lo & Sons. Not just because it looks incredibly luxe and sturdy (although that definitely helps); I like it because it’s just plain brilliant.

In terms of comfort, the OG bag features a handy and adjustable back panel sleeve that secures the bag over luggage handles as well as a detachable messenger strap. It was also designed to be roomy and yet compact enough to fit right under a standard airplane seat, which means I don’t have to get up and awkwardly rummage through my bag in the overhead compartment every time I need something (you know exactly the situation I’m referring to, eh?) or stress about the compartments being full.

And at just 2.2 pounds, the bag is lightweight—just how I like my luggage.

carry on packing
carry on packing
 
carry on packingcarry on packing

See how orderly this is? Everything—laptop, entertainment, essential items, and extra clothing, yes, all of it!— that was laid out on the bed in the above pictures now fits snuggly in the OG bag, and this is why I like it so much: it’s got just enough sections and pockets for everything to have its place and yet not so many that you are overwhelmed with options. Small knick-knacks are organised in pouches and are, therefore, much easier to locate and clothing is rolled and placed upwards for easy access. Shoes are stored in the separate compartment underneath for an even roomier and tidier space at your feet.

Just pack everything, zip your bag, and you’re good to go.

Carry On Packing: My Essentials

carry on packing

1. Toiletries & first-aid kit

 

2. Extra clothing

 

3. Entertainment

 

4. Essentials

Here’s what I never leave home without, whether it’s for a short or a long flight. There really isn’t much, but as it turns out, you just don’t need a whole lot.

Side note: I always pack an extra pair or two of underwear just in case my luggage gets lost in transit, which would allow me to keep my personal hygiene to a minimum until I get my luggage. But I didn’t think anyone would want to see my underwear so I’m just mentioning it here.

1   Toiletries & First-Aid Kit

carry on packing

These are super important. I’m not a high maintenance kind of gal —more like medium maintenance if that’s a thing?— but I’m adamant about staying presentable and keeping the cute at a bare minimum. What’s in my carry on beauty bag (note that almost everything is travel-sized):

  • Pressed powder + mirror (I have oily skin so this is an absolute must)
  • Mascara
  • Concealer
  • Rejuvenating and refreshing serum
  • Sunblock
  • EOS lip balm (long flights are incredibly dehydrating!)
  • Hand cream (again, never underestimate the power of moisturising on the plane)
  • Perfume
  • Toothbrush + paste
  • Gum (also good for when your ears get blocked)
  • Hair band
  • The pouch is from an amenity kit I got on my most recent Air New Zealand flight
First-aid kit

carry on packing

There’s no point in looking pretty if you’re hurt or you’re feeling unwell, am I right? Over my eight years of travel I’ve learned the hard way that I should be prepared for as many options as my pouch will allow. My first-aid kit reflects issues that I personally have to deal with on a regular basis but your reality may very well differ; make sure you pack medicines for what YOU are prone to suffer from.

2   Extra clothing

carry on packing

In my experience, planes are either numbingly cold or swelteringly hot, never anywhere between; which is why I always make room for an extra pair of socks and a sweater (I usually go for something loose that won’t make me feel constricted) whenever I get in carry on packing mode, just in case it’s the former option instead of the latter.

3   Entertainment

carry on packing

  • Noise-canceling headphones: this is the one thing in all of this list that is worth splurging on. They not only dampen the shrieks of tired infants but also the noise of the plane’s engines. Truly, these are life-savers.
  • Travel-related books: one of my favourite travel rituals: reading a travel-related book while I’m on the plane. It energises me and makes me forget that I’m having a rather awful time on what is essentially a flying bus. It also helps me relax and even doze off, something the blueish light of the monitor simply cannot do.

    And if you’re worried about going over the weight limit of carry-on bags, download any or all of these books to your iPad or your Kindle for a stress-free flight.

  • Laptop: I often get a head start on sorting and editing photos while I’m on the plane back home. We all know easy it is to procrastinate this task—ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Pen, notebook, newspaper: the pen comes in handy when it’s time to fill out the goddamned landing card (can’t wait for border agencies to get rid of those), while the notebook allows me to write down post ideas or itineraries. Last but not least, I always bring the games page from my local paper as well, which usually keeps me busy for well over an hour.
4   Essentials

carry on packing

  • Passport: best not forget this one!
  • Foreign currency: frankly speaking, I normally wait until I’ve arrived at my final destination to withdraw money from a local ATM. But if I’ve got leftover bank notes or coins from a previous trip, I make sure to bring it along in order to not be stuck with it for eternity. And obviously, don’t ever pack anything else than toiletries and clothes in your checked luggage; anything that even remotely has value should be kept close to you.
  • Business cards: because you never know who you’re going to meet on the plane!

carry on packing
carry on packing
 

And if, you too, are the proud owner of a cat, the only challenge in packing for a tidy and efficient carry on bag will be to deal with your furry ball throughout the process ;-) Surely you’re already familiar with the cat vs luggage situation.

carry on packing list

* Disclaimer: this post was written in partnership with Lo & Sons, which I personally contacted because I love their bags. All opinions are my own.

28 Comments on How To Pick The Perfect Carry-On Bag + My Packing List

  1. julie Prafke
    November 24, 2014 at 11:36 pm (3 years ago)

    I pack antibacterial wipes to wipe down the seat belt, tray table, etc. I also pack the ones to clean my hands periodically through the long flight and after I’ve touched railings, doors, and God forbid, gone to the restroom on the plane.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      November 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm (2 years ago)

      That is SUCH a good idea! I’ll definitely pack some for my next trip.

      Reply
  2. Sable
    January 10, 2015 at 12:36 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Marie,
    I am absolutely appreciating your blog. I am curious…I am reading into your travel lists before my summer travels…for a 2 month trip to Europe, do you feel a carry-on and a checked bag is plenty? Any more would be ridiculous right?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres
      January 12, 2015 at 6:09 pm (2 years ago)

      Hello Sable! Yes two bags will be plenty. Any more would cost you a fortune to transport! Keep in mind that when you travel for two months you are bound to do laundry at some point. Most hostels have laundry facilities and hotels will be happy to do it for you for a fee. There’s no need to pack your entire wardrobe ;-) Especially if you stay in climates that are relatively similar! Pack a couple of tops, dresses and bottoms and enough underwear to last you two weeks. That way you’ll only have to do laundry eight times in two months!

      Reply
      • Arnie Jacobsen
        March 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm (2 years ago)

        My wife and I travel for as long as 6 weeks at time in different parts of Europe. Each of us only with one roll-aboard and an additional shoulder type bag, mine for my Macbook and my camera gear. So, as you say, just do some laundry every few days and your good to go.

      • Marie-Eve
        March 31, 2015 at 8:09 am (2 years ago)

        Wow, you have my admiration! I can’t go for more than 2-3 days with a carry-on, I need my suitcase. But then again I am a notorious over packer!

  3. Angie
    February 20, 2016 at 7:21 am (1 year ago)

    Planning a trip to Scotland this summer and wondering where you found your beautiful, gorgeous passport holder?

    Reply
  4. Hayley
    May 9, 2016 at 11:40 pm (1 year ago)

    What style is your handbag?

    Reply
  5. Françoise
    August 9, 2016 at 9:06 am (10 months ago)

    Je me demandais où était la caméra et tous les fils et adaptateurs? Dans un autre sac, j’imagine mais je voulais vérifier avec toi!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 9, 2016 at 10:07 am (10 months ago)

      La caméra était utilisée pour prendre les photos! Mais c’est une caméra sans miroir plutôt compacte, elle entre facilment dans le sac (en comparaison à un dSLR). Les adapteurs et fils sont toujours dans mon baggage enregistré, comme ma batterie dure plusieurs jours.

      Reply
  6. Rochelle Kurtz
    November 10, 2016 at 2:09 am (7 months ago)

    What size laptop do you have? Will it fit a 15in?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      November 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm (7 months ago)

      I have a 13 inch but this bag is made to fit 15 inch laptops.

      Reply
  7. Jaye
    December 1, 2016 at 5:52 am (6 months ago)

    I just received the black OG bag recently – for the unbelievable price of $177 during a holiday sale. I’ve been looking at the bag for some time but didn’t want to spend the money. After all of the continuing good reviews I’ve read and that big discount I took the plunge. I was a little afraid that the OG would be too big to be used as my personal item on a plane but it is perfect. It’s large enough to carry my essentials yet not at all bulky or heavy. It fits nicely on top (and matches!) of my 19-inch two-wheeler Lipault bag. I stopped traveling with my laptop years ago after I found that my smartphone and Kindle Fire can handle my communication and entertainment needs. In addition to underwear I pack a pair of lightweight pants and a t-shirt or a jersey dress so I’ll have at least one change of clothes. Though I do travel carry-on only I have occasionally had to gate-check my wheeled bag and even those can get lost.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 1, 2016 at 10:45 am (6 months ago)

      So glad you agree Jaye! The OG is a great, great bag.

      Reply
      • katie
        March 22, 2017 at 9:45 am (2 months ago)

        How tall are you? I’m 5’5″ and curious if the OG will be too large on my frame. Do you find it to be bulky? I wish there was somewhere close to me where I could compare the OG to the OMG!
        Thanks for your review, by the way.

      • Marie-Eve
        March 24, 2017 at 5:48 pm (2 months ago)

        I’m 5’8″ and I don’t find it bulky at all. It’s quite narrow so it doesn’t feel huge.

  8. Diana
    December 27, 2016 at 5:41 pm (5 months ago)

    Where did you order the bag from? They currently only ship in the US on their website :(

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:19 pm (5 months ago)

      Oh no! I ordered it from their website but perhaps they’ve changed the delivery methods?!

      Reply
  9. Jennie
    March 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm (3 months ago)

    I have this bag too and I love it ! Also – what is the model of those black NIKE shoes? I want them !! :D

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 13, 2017 at 8:17 pm (3 months ago)

      I get them off Asos a year or so ago. They have polka dots on them!

      Reply
  10. Linda Ledette
    March 12, 2017 at 1:26 am (3 months ago)

    Love your chat! Looks like mine. Please a site so I can order the black “OG” bag. Lovely; very helpful. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Priscila
    March 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm (2 months ago)

    Hello! I’m curious to know, has TSA ever told you anything about having 2 bags with liquids?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm (2 months ago)

      I actually put the hand sanitizer in the TSA bag for security but take it out right after.

      Reply
  12. Grace Arce
    April 30, 2017 at 8:19 pm (4 weeks ago)

    Hi Marie-Eve,
    What type of Nikes are on your photo? I really love them, they look leather to me. Can you provide what style of shoe it is, thank you, Grace

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm (3 weeks ago)

      They’re just regular fabric trainers that I got from Asos a while ago. Not leather.

      Reply

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