Top Travel Essentials for Women: Carry on Edition

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Is packing one of the hardest things for you when traveling? I’m here to help with this travel essentials list for your carry-on! Here are all of the items I consider travel essentials (for women) to include in your carry on luggage. This female packing list will help ease your mind so that you’re not forgetting anything important!

After traveling to over 41 states of the 50 in the United States and 29 countries packing is always the hardest part for me! I always aim to visit at least one new country each year. (More about me and my travels here.) I have definitely learned and gotten better at packing the more and more I do it. But, if you need some help, I’ve got you!

Whether you’re a carry on only type of gal or you like to check a bag (it’s a huge travel debate as to which is better) but honestly, to each their own and whatever works the best for you and your travel style! For me, it completely depends on the trip, what I’m planning on doing, and if there are any essential things I need to bring with me (ie: hiking gear, etc.) Regardless of what your packing preference is, I’m going to share my list of plane essentials for women. 

But overall, I usually check a smaller to medium-sized bag because I frequently bring craft beer home with me as a souvenir. Read more about how I pack beer in checked luggage. Let’s review all the key items on my travel girl packing list I ensure I have in my carry on, but more importantly, why!

two small bags packed as carry on luggage with womens travel essentials

Top Travel Essential: Portable Power Bank

A portable charger or portable power bank is an absolute game changer! You don’t have to worry about your devices draining their batteries during long travel days or when you’re finally at your destination and out and about taking videos, and photos, and using your smartphone to help you navigate. 

It’s so easy for your phone battery to get drained when you’re constantly using it like this! I always keep a portable charger on my person because it’s an essential at the airport, during your flight and once you arrive and are ready to explore.

Travel Essentials Women: Reusable Water Bottle

No matter where I’m traveling whether it’s a long haul flight to Europe (especially when you’re on a long flight) I always bring a reusable water bottle with me! It allows me to not be overly dehydrated while flying and also reduces waste by not buying water! Plus, cost savings!

So many airports have specific water bottle fill stations to encourage more people to do this. Just be sure you have your water bottle in your carry on luggage EMPTY before going through TSA and security! 

Sometimes, I specifically will bring a Blender Bottle water bottle. This helps if you want to take collagen in water daily or if you’re feeling a little run down and want to take some Emergen-C.

Travel Essentials Women: Lightweight Luggage Scale

If you’re traveling carry on only, this item is a moot point domestically in the USA, but many European airlines and flights do have limits to even hand luggage! But especially when I plan on checking a bag and anticipate bringing beer or heavier items with me having a lightweight luggage scale has been a lifesaver for me!

This allows you to weigh your luggage before arriving at the airport planning ahead and not causing anxiety getting to the check in counter and being told your luggage is above the allowable weight limit. This way, you can do all of the shuffling of items and packing things securely in your hotel and there are no surprises at the airport.

This scenario would always cause me so much anxiety and unnecessary worry. I can remember specifically a few times when I had to shuffle items before checking my bag on the airport floor causing me to become embarrassed and so flustered. This inexpensive gadget has taken away this worry for me and has been an amazing travel accessory to invest in!

Travel Essentials Women: Lip balm

Lip balm is essential while traveling! Especially during air travel when you’re likely to be in dry air for an extended period of time. I always pack one in my carry on/on my person in my handbag for easy access and usually, I will throw an additional backup lip balm in with my toiletries as well just in case I lose my other one in transit.

I swear by the original Burts Bees brand chapstick but I know many people are partial to one brand or another. However, depending on what destination you’re traveling to and what activities you’ll be doing an SPF lip balm may be a good idea for you! But, regardless be sure to pack at least one in your carry on luggage and another if you decide to check a bag.

Travel Essentials Women: Compression Socks

Not necessarily something you’ll travel with in your carry on, but compression socks are plane women travel essentials in my opinion! Especially for longer haul flights they help with blood flow, swelling, and overall feeling better once you reach your destination. They have been a lifesaver for me, and are definitely a female travel essential item! 

The best part is there are so many different styles, shorter socks or ones that go up to your knees. The rule of thumb I use when deciding which to wear is if the flight is 3 hours or less the shorter socks are OK. Anything more than that (uninterrupted) warrants the tall compression socks!

In addition to wearing compression socks, I always wear on the plane comfortable walking shoes. Having a sneaker or a shoe that will help with compression while in transit is essential on flights. I will also wear or pack a light packable rain jacket. Longer flights can get cool and it’s always a great thing to have!

Travel Essentials Women: Travel Jewelry Organizer

Whether you travel with costume jewelry or bring some of your favorite high value pieces, definitely bring them with you in your carry on! Having a travel jewelry case to organize the items, because let’s face it you don’t want to arrive at your destination and spend hours untangling necklaces instead of exploring a new city or country.

A small compact travel jewelry case is a female travel essential! It takes up a small amount of space but keeps all of your accessories organized.

Travel Essentials Women: Theft Safe Wallet

I always recommend traveling with a wallet that has RFID protection. RFID blocking technology is just another way to protect yourself financially while traveling. It will eliminate the risk of someone using scanning or skimming devices to access your information without your knowledge.

This RFID Theft Safe Wallet is not large, but it will help to protect your information while traveling. Many people also choose to purchase theft travel purses. While I don’t usually buy or use these, some believe it gives them more peace of mind if you’re concerned about your money and valuables while traveling.

Travel Essentials Women: Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones are so amazing I have a few pairs! They’re both different styles, but whether you want to zone into some work or a good book and block out all noise or just really get into that inflight entertainment, noise cancelling headphones are an absolute must for travel!

The over the ears more “headband style” noise canceling headphones are great because of the longevity of comfort. They’re less likely to become annoying than the “in ear” earbud style. (Just my opinion based on my usage!) 

I have had these Beats brand headphones and the same exact model for over 7 years. They’re great because you can use them via Bluetooth, but they also come with a cord. I typically use them with the cord for inflight entertainment because then you don’t have to worry about the battery life and ensuring they’re charged!

I also have a pair of the BOSE Quiet Comfort Ear Buds but since these don’t have a cord, I don’t have a Bluetooth adapter they’re less user friendly for in flight entertainment. (But amazing for pairing with my phone and Mac Book.)

carry on only luggage filled with womens essential travel items. a hardsided piece of luggage, small handbag, backpack and comfortable walking sneakers.

Travel Essentials Women: Snacks

Different airlines offer different levels of service and food availability. You can totally bring your own food with you on the flight! In fact, I encourage it! As long as it isn’t liquid (soup etc.) you can bring any solid food items from outside of the airport even to carry on and eat on the plane. You could pack a full dang sub sandwich or grab takeout somewhere en route to the airport. 

If you don’t have lounge access via Priority Pass or through airline status, definitely bring your own food to avoid paying for expensive snacks bought at the airport. 

I love putting together a little grazing/charcuterie snack for in flight! You can get really creative with dried fruit, nuts, candies, cheese, meats, and crackers. Whatever you want as long as it’s not liquid. Putting it in a nice little organized container or “snackle box” keeps all of the items separate and it’s easy to tote along on your adventures!

Travel Essentials Women: A Change of Clothes

I always travel with at least one fresh pair of clothes in my carry on. But, especially if you’re trying to maximize space or go on a more extended trip with only carry ons, these compression bags for packing come in clutch!

Think of a long weekend 5 day trip to view some fall foliage, you have limited time so you’re definitely not checking a bag but you have some cute puffers and sweaters that have to be in your vacay rotation to look Instagram perfect. Enter compression packing cubes or compression bags, and maximize the items you bring but not the size of your luggage!

Travel Essentials Women: Essential toiletry items

Even if you have larger liquids in a checked bag, I always travel with a TSA approved toiletry bag full of my most essential toiletries. (Facewash, face lotions and creams) these are the items you want to ensure you have even if your larger luggage gets lost! 

These TSA approved travel clear bags are a game changer! They’re easier to work with vs. a standard quart sized zip bag and you know you’re going to be compliant in your carry on luggage. 

Again, items that can alleviate any type of travel anxiety, I’m all for it! Travel is absolutely amazing but especially for type A people (like myself!) certain things that may seem miniscule can stress you out for no reason! Some items aren’t available in a travel size but you can find small refillable containers to use as well!

Travel Essentials Women: Hand Sanitizer Wipes

Not only is liquid hand sanitizer a good idea, but having a small container of wipes is really helpful for on the go as well! I like to wipe down my tray table and armrests, especially during the winter when people are more likely to be sick. 

It’s easy to become run down and tired from traveling, but exposing yourself to unnecessary germs isn’t fun! You don’t want to return from your travels to then get sick after flying. Or worse yet, get sick on your way to your trip! Having hand sanitizer wipes on hand for your flight will help to ensure the germs stay at bay.

Travel Essentials Women: Vitamins

Adding onto the above about germs and getting run down. Ensuring you pack your vitamins and are sticking to that normal routine while traveling helps to 

Emergen-C is something I will bring with me as well! If I’m starting to feel tired or run down, usually having the boost of vitamins will help my immune system. 

Travel Essentials Women: Small First Aid Kit & over the counter medicines

I always have on my person while traveling (and even in my day bag or purse I’m taking around with me while on the trip) a small first aid kit and several OTC medicines just in case. (If you have any critical prescribed meds, please include these as well!)

List of OTC (over the counter) medicines I always travel with:

  • Antacid (Tums) tablets
  • Ibuprofen
  • Pepto tablets
  • Acid reflux medicine
  • Allergy medicine & allergy eye drops
  • A+D first aid ointment

I usually keep smaller bottles of all of the above medicines in an easy to grab makeup bag. Then when I use some I refill it and always take it on all of my trips to ensure I’m prepared.

Travel Essentials Women: Packable Tote Bag

If you don’t already have your carry on and personal item or one of them can easily be checked, a packable tote bag is something I always bring on my travels. Just in case, you might need some extra space and you purchase something you weren’t planning on you’re not stuck and you can easily shift some items around into different bags to make it work.

A prime example of this is on a recent trip to Hawaii the difference in Kauai coffee you buy there and in the mainland USA, so I had an almost full tote bag of just coffee!

carry on luggage packed for a flight full of womens carry on travel essential items

Travel Essentials Women: Passport or other form of ID

Regardless of where you’re traveling, you’re going to need some form of ID with you. If you’re traveling internationally you’ll need to bring your passport but if you’re taking a domestic flight your driver’s license will suffice. 

Especially when traveling internationally, carrying a passport wallet so you know where your ID is helps to keep me organized. I’m not used to carrying my passport as often as I do my driver’s license so don’t accidentally forget it at home (or in one of your hotels while traveling!) Having this specific RFID pouch will help to keep your items safe and tucked away while in transit.

Travel Essentials Women: Eye Mask

Especially for long haul flights, having an eye mask to help you relax and get some shut eye is great for arriving at your destination fresh and ready to explore. Some airlines will offer these as an amenity, but the ones they provide generally are thin and not as nice fabric in my experience. So, if you’re planning on getting some rest and not dealing with the lights around you, definitely pack an eye mask in your carry on bags! 

There are many different preferences for eye masks including a silk sleep mask, however, whatever you use at home and will make you feel the most comfortable during your flight is what you should pack. Many people travel with a neck pillow. (I typically don’t, but it is a common item many women will carry on, especially for long haul flights.)

Travel Essentials Women: Hair Ties

I usually will fly with my hair down because it’s just easier when wanting to rest my head against the seat. However, having some hair ties with you in your carry on baggage or handbag is something I always do because you never know when your hair gets wild and you want to get it out of your face!

Especially after a long travel day and arriving home in Texas to wind, my hair blowing around is the last thing I want to deal with!

Travel Essentials Women: Travel Insurance

While this isn’t a physical item that you need to pack, it’s something to be aware of if you travel frequently and spend a significant amount of money on travel. You want to ensure you’re covering yourself from any potential loss while abroad or away from home. 

You can either purchase specific travel insurance for your specific vacation plans or trips through an insurance carrier, or travel agent, OR if you have a travel credit card that has insurance coverage be sure to understand the fine print in what it covers.

Let Travelex Insurance protect your trip investment starting at $20!

FAQs: Travel Essentials Women

What are the essentials for travel for women?

The essential items to pack depends on where your trip is and the weather you’ll be encountering—the activities you’re doing impact it as well. Going on a trip exploring large cities will look different compared to a more remote hiking trip. However, there are several things you will always pack such as medication, electronics, and personal care toiletry items. 

What should a girl carry on a trip?

In your carry on, especially for longer flights a girl should carry many essential items. From a change of clothes, electronics, medication, and vitamins to start. My top item I never leave home without is an external charger. Plus any items that will make the journey and your time en route to your destination more comfortable. 

women's travel essentials inside of packing cubes in hard sided luggage

Final Thoughts: Travel Essentials Women

I hope this travel essentials list for women (carry on edition) was helpful in packing your carry on or hand baggage for your next adventure! Learning to pack efficiently and appropriately can significantly make your trips more enjoyable. Not only learning how to pack, but how to dress when traveling is important! 

Another tip, especially if you have an iPhone, curate your packing list as a note on your phone that you can use to check off and refine as you travel. That way you know YOUR personalized needs and ensure you aren’t forgetting anything. But you can use this carry on travel essentials women list as a great starting point!

The more and more you travel, you learn what you need and what you don’t. This list is for travel tips and what works for me. I hope it helps you to get into a better packing rhythm for all of your adventures near and far. Travel essentials for long flights or international travel essentials can look a little different than shorter domestic travel but I’d rather be prepared than not. 

However,  I just laugh thinking about a few of my first longer trips when I lugged too much stuff around and wasn’t thoughtful about what I packed. I don’t want that for you! Let me know what your favorite must have travel items are by reaching out via email or DM me on socials!

Here are some additional packing resources linked below:

Minnesota Packing guide

Air Travel Must Haves: Amazon List

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