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Updated on November 10th, 2019

Having a well-packed carry-on is essential for any trip. Firstly, on a long-distance flight, you don’t want to wish you had something that is now locked away under the plane for the next 17 hours. You also need to make sure that you have all of your valuables nearby.

Packing is such an important part of any trip. I personally love having a backpack as my carry-on bag. I find it much easier to reach in and grab documents like flight information and my passport. There’s nothing that frustrates me more than having to open a suitcase when I’m at airport security to take out my laptop and liquids. You can also read my European summer packing post here which includes a free downloadable checklist.

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information on my disclaimer click here.

Read on for my essential carry-on packing list items

1. Travel Backpack

As previously mentioned, I love a backpack as my carry-on. The one above meets all the specifications for travellers. A couple of my favourite features include the water-resistant material, the USB charging point and the anti-theft back pocket.

Have you ever been travelling in the tropics and been caught in a downpour? Yep, that happens! Especially in Asia and Central America. While this bag isn’t completely waterproof, it will give you peace of mind that your valuables aren’t getting ruined by water damage while you find some shelter. The USB charging point allows you to connect your power bank through the bag and eliminates the need to go searching for an outlet.

The bag also has lots of storage sections designed for the things us traveller use the most. Like, a pouch for your laptop and a front side pocket for your Kindle or tablet.

Do you know the best part about this bag? It’s only $29.99 USD.

The essential carry-on backpack

2. Kindle Paperwhite

I love reading. I still prefer the feel of holding a real book but there’s no denying travelling with a bunch of books just doesn’t really make sense. I’ve now had my Kindle for years and I love it!

I’m pretty sure they all come with wifi by now and this makes it really easy to get a new book. Since owning a Kindle I read way more books on average than before. Previously when I finished a book, it would take me time to get to a bookstore and then fingers crossed I would find something that sparks my interest. Now, I have the entire online Amazon library at the touch of a few buttons.

There are a few types of Kindle available, but the new Kindle Paperwhite is my favourite. It has the paperwhite screen which eliminates glare and looks like you’re reading a book rather than a screen. This one also features a completely waterproof design.

Kindle paperwhite from Amazon

3. Wireless Earbuds

Ben bought me these Dacom Wireless Earbuds for my birthday last year. They are the first pair of wireless earbuds and not having the cord which always seems to get ripped out so so convenient. I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about having a pair of wireless earbuds but after trying them out for the past few months I will never go back.

Pairing them to your devices is super easy via Bluetooth and the battery lasts hours. I usually charge them once a week when using them for a couple of hours or more a day. The case they come in doubles as their charging port (the red line in the image has a USB charger at one end).

I’ve had a few friends compare their wireless earbuds with mine and these Dacom ones have seemed to be the winners based on battery life and cost. You can pick these ones up for $35.99.

Dacon wireless earbuds for carry-on on a long-haul flight

4. Face Moisturiser

One of my best travel hacks is to pack a face cream or moisturiser in my carry-on during long flights. As I’m sure you all know by now flying is super dehydrating due to the air within the plane. During a long-haul flight, I make sure to drink plenty of water – double what I would drink during a normal day and I also apply moisturiser to my face two or three times.

I’ve never had great skin and before I started doing this I would always feel gross and have breakouts a few days after a flight. Now, my skin and body stay hydrated.

I like the Loreal range as the cream comes in a compact jar which is spill-proof. Even though it is a cream you still need to ensure it fits within the liquid limits at security. The maximum amount of liquid you can carry per bottle is 3.4oz or 100ml.

Loreal face cream from Amazon

5. Carry-on Neck Pillow

Another essential carry-on item for me is a neck pillow. If I don’t have my neck pillow I’m totally the person who falls asleep and wakes up to the head jerk – I know you know the one.

I prefer to have a microbead or memory foam pillow rather than an inflatable one. Depending on the trip I am on I will either carry it around with me or ditch it and buy a new one before I head home.

This neck pillow from TravelMate is great because it comes with an elastic strap to connect to your bag or suitcase (Tip: You can use a small carabiner to hook to your bag by its tag or a carry hook if yours doesn’t include a strap). The one above also has a removable insert to adjust for comfort behind your neck. Currently, the TravelMate Memory Foam Pillow is on sale for $11.96.

memory foam travel neck pillow

6. Compression Socks

Yep, so I’m officially getting old. Do you know how I know this? Because my feet swell during travel now. I always thought this was reserved for grandmas but hello, guess not!

A year or two ago I bought myself a pair of compression socks. They were a little expensive for a pair of socks but they definitely help keep my foot swelling at bay. Plus I still own the original pair I bought.

compression socks for travelling

7. The perfect Universal Adaptor

This universal adaptor is great. Not only does it have prongs to go into a plug anywhere in the world, but it also is universal at the source. Having travelled as much as I have and replaced items or bought new items around in different countries. I now have devices which have EU, AUS, USA plugs. Prior to picking up a universal adaptor that was more than a little bit inconvenient.

This particular adaptor also has dual USB charging ports and a built-in surge protector. Buy this one for a steal for under $20 here.

universal travel adaptor for carry-on luggage

8. Deodorant

While this may seem like a silly addition, deodorant is a must for my carry-on. I’m not sure why but sitting and doing nothing on a plane for 10 hours always makes me stinky. Huh?

I always use a stick deodorant. 1. They’re better for the environment than aerosols. 2. They last forever and 3. They don’t spill or leak like the roll-ons. This Dove antiperspirant deodorant comes in a smaller travel size perfect to fit in your carry-on toiletries bag and comes in a pack of two.

dove deodorant

9. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

As with the above, I like to feel fresh after a long flight. The best way for me to do this is by having a fresh-tasting mouth. I love these toothbrushes where the cover extends the brush or even the fold-out ones. Brushing your teeth with a half-length toothbrush always feels funny.

This cute little pack is made for airport travelling and includes toothpaste and mouthwash which again, fits within the liquid guidelines.

travel sized toothpaste and toothbrush

10. A Killer Spotify Playlist

When I left home on this trip last year I cancelled my Spotify membership thinking it was an unnecessary monthly expense. That didn’t last very long. I renewed my membership within a month of travelling.

I love Spotify and if you’re at home and don’t mind ads the free version is just fine. What makes the premium version great for travellers is that you can create offline playlists.

While I’m the first to admit travelling long distances with me is not fun. I can literally sleep the entire journey. I do enjoy listening to music as I sleep. It keeps the other noises at bay.

Download your free Europe packing list here

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Hello! My name is Erin, the lady behind Curiously Erin. After more than 10 years of travelling and working abroad, I wanted to create a platform where I could share my stories and travels. My goal is to help you live the life you desire and inspire you to travel more.

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