Pack with Me: Carry On Edition

Packing for any trip can be a stressful endeavor, which is why I usually like to get my packing done early. While I’m heading out for a trip, this is the process I always go through to pack the perfectly assembled carry on bag.

It’s All About the Bag

Finding the perfect travel bag is like finding your go-to moisturizer or holy grail nail polish shade. It’s essential to having a successful trip.

The right bag totally depends on your trip duration and type.

I strongly prefer duffels or totes if I’m bringing my luggage on the plane with me. The anxiety that ensues when you try to shove an oversized wheeler into the overheard bins is the absolute worst – embarrassing, stressful, difficult. I just hate it.

My favorite carry-on duffel is my Vera Bradley Grand Traveler bag. First, I’m a huge Vera Bradley fan because of the quality and uniqueness of each item. This bag is the perfect size, has an easily accessible outer zipped pocket, and it has a slip to fit over the handle of a large rolling suitcase (if needed).

This fits easily overhead, and I’ve even been able to squish it under my seat before (though you’d have to pack pretty light). Beautiful design and great for quick trips!

The Packing Process

I usually hate packing. It’s my least favorite part of traveling, but hey, it’s got to get done.

Usually I like to get a jump start on packing a week prior to when I’m leaving so there’s no last-minute cramming. This requires some outfit planning and strategizing for the week, but it keeps me really organized.

I typically start off with any essential outfits. In this case, I’m attending a wedding so my wedding-day attire is first to go in my bag. Along with the outfit, any accessories or special items I need for events go in next (shoes, handbag, gifts, etc.).

Now that the essential clothing is out of the way, I plan my outfit for the plan. That usually dictates what extra shoes, pants, and tops I’ll need to pack. I like to stick to one jacket for a weekend trip so my duffel has lots of room for other items.

My plane outfits almost always result in leggings, a long shirt, tall boots, and a light cardigan. Leggings are comfortable, a long shirt won’t move around much as I adjust in my plane seat, boots are easy to slip on and off for security, and a cardigan doubles as a blanket because I’m always freezing on planes.

Once that is settled I start packing some of my toiletries that I won’t be using during the week. My liquid-free toiletries usually jump in the bag first since I save those for traveling most of the time. Any freebies of makeup samples I’ve received usually go next so I have tiny perfume or primer ready to go. All of my toiletries, makeup, and hair products fit nicely into cosmetic bags I’ve accumulated from gifts with purchases.

After I finish packing my non-essential, weekly toiletries I move on to the rest of my clothing needs. This is all dependent on weather, but I like to have at least one complete outfit for everyday and a few extra shirts just in case of messes or different moods. I stick to a similar color scheme so I can mix and match items as much as possible.

The Finishing Touches

Phew! Event attire, check. Some toiletries, check. Clothes, check.

Next up are my “finishing” items including hair brushes, purses, jewelry, pajamas, bobby pins, sunglasses. These are last up because as I pack them on top of my bag I can continue using them throughout the week if needed.

And Now, We Wait

Since most of the packing is done, now I play a waiting game until the day before I leave when I can pack up my finishing items along with more of my everyday toiletries.

I like to run through a checklist again the night before my trip to make sure I have everything I need. Anything I use the day of my trip will go in my personal item typically, but I like to keep that bag pretty light so I don’t have to manage two stuffed bags around an airport.

My Personal Item Essentials

Last but not least, my personal item (tote, purse, etc.) is the last to get packed up. Here’s what I always need with me on a flight:

  • Lip balm: Traveling can be exhausting on your skin, especially your lips. I’m obsessed with lip balms to begin with so you’ll never catch me without at least two on a flight. My favorite is C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve. Great on your lips or any dry skin!
  • Headphones: A necessity for in-flight movies or just some alone time with your music.
  • Neck pillow: If I’m flying a long distance or overnight, I love having my memory foam neck pillow. It makes a stiff plane seat much more cozy.
  • Reusable water bottle: Save the planet and stay hydrated. Just remember to leave it empty when you go through security! Klean Kanteen and Swell are my favorite brands!
  • Nail clippers: This is absolutely weird and just a pet peeve of mine, but if my nails get too long or if I get a hang nail, I just cannot stand it. Tiny and a huge lifesaver!
  • Lotion: There is nothing I hate more than dry hands!
  • Reusable bag: You never know what you’ll need to carry or hold outside of your personal item and suitcase so it never hurts to bring an extra bag. Chicobags fold up so small and are so versatile. This is great if you’re bringing food but don’t want it directly in your bag.
  • Book and/or iPad: I like to keep myself entertained when I travel and it’s easy to bring your own content. Downloaded shows are great if you don’t have wifi in-flight, and you can never go wrong with a book.
  • Phone/iPad charger: Goes without being said, but it’s always good to be prepared for low batteries.

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