Must Have Carry-On Travel Essentials

Hi friends!

I’m planning a mini trip to Disneyland this year.  It’ll be my first time so I’m very excited but also very scared of heights…I figure it’s now or never & after paying around $300CAD/ticket, I’ll just have to suck it up and enjoy it. We will likely each only take a carry-on since it’s a pretty short trip from Vancouver to California but this got me thinking! How to pack smart and what are a few things to never go without…

I wouldn’t say I’m well travelled but after being on a few trips, some with a language barrier, I now know what to ALWAYS bring with me.  Unfortunately, some of these lessons I learned the hard way so I make sure I never travel without these basics again.  Although, in hindsight, there’s always a funny story that comes out of every travel disaster but let’s try not to go there on this post shall we?  Do you have any essentials you like to bring on a trip or any funny stories that resulted from not bringing something you should have?

  1. Passport & itinerary – The passport is a no brainer but don’t forget to email a copy  of it to your own email as well as a family member or friend.  If you lose or damage your passport, this will come in mighty handy with any Consulate you may need to deal with.  On longer vacations, I will do a table with all the dates listed in the left column and what we have planned, any confirmation numbers, addresses of places etc. in the right column. It really helps to organize your trip and have all the details in one place instead of constantly checking confirmation emails and getting dates mixed up.  The way I see it, I want to enjoy every second of a vacation instead of worrying about dropping the ball on something.
  2. Money belt – If I’m going to a country where I’ll be taking trains, staying in hostels or anything like that.  I always bring my money belt, which is similiar to this one.  I usually only wear it while in transit but it gives me the peace of mind while my stuff is up in the overhead compartment or further down the car in the train.  That way I don’t look at everyone like they are a criminal the minute they get near my belongings 🙂 . I’ve had both the one that goes around your neck and the one that goes inside your waist band.  The latter is definitely more discreet and comfortable for a woman compared to the neck one which creates a large bump in the middle of your chest that is obvious unless you’re weather loose/bulky clothing.  However, the neck money belt is more comfortable for men and could be a better option for a woman if you wear a lot of dresses.
  3. Scarf – This is a must! Airplanes are usually FREEZING and combined with sitting down for extended periods of time, it doesn’t really get your blood flowing.  I love having a light scarf in my carry-on/purse to keep me nice and cozy.  Once you arrive at your destination, it’s great to use as a shawl/scarf on a cooler day or as a sarong at the beach and can dress up your outfit in a flash for a night out.
  4. Medicine – Bring any prescription medication as well as cold, diarrhea (hey it happens!) and allergy medicine (both for seasonal and Benedryl-type medicine for unexpected reactions).  Airplanes/airports have basic medication but don’t expect to get what you want…I would know since I’ve experienced this first hand when I got so sick at home and just got progressively worse as the day went on.  By the time we arrived at our destination, I was feverish, shaking, cold and really wished I hadn’t packed medication in my checked luggage!  Additionally, if you’re travelling anywhere outside of North America, your local medicine may be called something else than what you call it, labels won’t always be in English and it’s just an utter mess.  Plan ahead and think about what season it is.  I was dying from seasonal allergies in Italy when we visited in May 2015 even though at home I was fine. By dying I mean my eyes were constantly watering, I was so stuffed up that I couldn’t breath at night and I had to take someone else’s prescription allergy medication to just get through the day on an excursion! (do not recommend).  You don’t want to interrupt your plans by trying to find medication so seriously, save yourself a trip and some money by just bringing what you may need.
  5. Reusable Water Bottle – I LOVE my S’well Teakwood Water Bottle.  It keeps my drinks perfectly crispy cold for hours.  Many countries have safe drinking water or filtered water readily available.  Instead of wasting money & impacting the environment by buying plastic bottles/looking for vendors to buy bottles, I just bring my S’well bottle along and refill whenever I am able.  Alternatively, I’ll buy a massive plastic water jug from the drug store and refill this water bottle.
  6. Phone Charger – You never know when you’ll end up having downtime at the airport and these days many airports offer free WiFi.  Do yourself a favour and pack your plug adapters and charger in your carry on.
  7. Extra Outfit – Call me paranoid but I always bring 1 full outfit with me in my carry-on.  If you are checking bags, airlines lose luggage all the time… things happen, flights get delayed and all of a sudden your luggage didn’t arrive at your final destination.  Usually they find it but you don’t want to be smelly AND angry.  It’s easier to just be one 😉 .  I usually pick the outfit that is closest to what I’ll be doing the first day or two.  For example, for a beach vacation, I’d bring a swim suit, underwear, shorts and a basic t-shirt in my carry-on.  Hey hey, I can’t lose out on precious beach time waiting for them to find my luggage now can I! Keep it basic but this is essential since whenever I leave Vancouver, I’m in jeans and a sweater.  If I had a beach vacation in those clothes…well you know how bad that would go!  Plan ahead & if it ever happens, you’ll be happy you did!
  8. Pen – It may be old school in the world of technology with laptops, tablets and smartphones but I still always carry a pen for those dang customs forms or to write down directions.  It’s much easier to have these things on hand rather than fumbling around.  This one time we went to Mexico, for some reason we weren’t given customs forms until we landed and NO ONE had a pen…like I swear there were maybe 3-4 pens for the flight of people.  It’s ever since then, I never get caught without one 🙂 .

To purchase any of the items mentioned in this post, click the links below:
Money Belt
S’well Bottle

I hope this list helps you wherever your next travel takes you.




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One Reply to “Must Have Carry-On Travel Essentials”

  1. thank you for sharing with us

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