Packing Tips: What’s In My Airplane Tote

While standing in line at the airport last week, Benson turned to me and said, “We’ve got this traveling thing down.”  For the most part, I think he’s right.  Though I’d honestly rather be at home in our regular rhythms, I travel on average about once a month either by plane or car for work or to visit family.  As a result, we have stuff like our packing lists and game plan for airport security lines down to a science.  We have a solid handle on what we do or DON’T need, at least for toiletries and our carry-on bags, and standard things that don’t change much regardless of destination, trip activities, and climate.

I thought I’d do a few packing and travel posts since many people travel during the summer.  If you have tips you’d like to see, let me know!

Today I’m starting out with a simple “What’s In My Bag” kind of post with my carry on tote.  This is what I pack when I’m traveling solo, and it pretty much stays the same for travel by plane or car.  Believe it or not, it’s been pretty much the same for the last 3+ years.  Like I said, my packing routine is down to a science!

  • This is when I travel solo.  Once a kid came into the mix the carry on list changed a LOT, which I can post about later also if anyone’s interested.
  • This is also NOT for an international flight.  I’d have a lot more stuff in here for that.  This is what I pack for up to a 4-5 hours of air time, even if there is a long layover in between flights.
I don’t like having a HUGE carry on tote to lug through an airport.  I don’t like when it’s heavy or hard to find things because I have too much stuff to wade through.  If I’m in a car I’m more tolerant of extra bulk since I don’t have to walk long distances through terminals, rather the bag just sits in the car.  But still, I’d rather just pack less if I can, and I’ve been packing pretty much only these items for over 3 years and haven’t needed to add more.
Here’s what’s usually in my carry-on tote:
1.  Laptop.  It always comes with me!  I have a Macbook Air for light traveling, and the sleeve shown isn’t sold anymore but I’ve had that for 3+ years as well and it is still in great condition.  It’s very thin and soft but protects my laptop.  I make sure my laptop is fully charged before I leave, and if I have a long flight or a layover I’ll pack my charger too.
2.  Purse hanger (shop HERE).  This is kind of random and not really a necessity, but since it lives in my little pouch that I carry daily and the pouch comes with me when I travel, the purse hook travels with me too.  I’ve tried several purse hooks and this one is my favorite.  It’s sturdy and holds even heavy purses.  I’m usually okay putting my purse down on public carpet flooring, but for some reason public tile kind of grosses me out, like in airport restaurants.  In those moments I’m glad to have the purse hook with me.

3.  Pouch full of toiletries essentials: (shop lookalike pouch HERE) small pill case with allergy medicine // travel Advil // Chapstick // travel lotion // travel tissues // floss (sometimes)The pouch came with the tote shown, and I carry this pouch with these contents daily.  When traveling I make sure to have lotion with me because my hands get dry on flights.  I also must have headache medicine.  I’ve once gotten a headache in flight and no one around me had medicine.  It was AWFUL.

4.  Reading material.  If I’m traveling alone I often take the opportunity to journal, read my bible, or read People Stylewatch (which I didn’t have a copy of to show in this pic).  Otherwise, I’m working on my computer on the flight.  If I’m driving I don’t carry these things in my tote and opt to pack them in my suitcase instead.
5.  Small wallet.  My daily wallet is much bigger, but when I travel I like to bring less.  This little pouch is all I need to hold cash and essential credit cards.  Edit June 2017: I’ve since updated to THIS wallet that I now use daily but is also compact for travel.
6.  Headphones.  I switch between the Sudio Sweden headphones shown (HERE) and a pair of Shure headphones (HERE).  While the sound quality on the Sudio pair is pretty good, I prefer the sound of the Shure headphones slightly more because the Sudio’s make more noise when the wire wobbles around.  If your music is pretty loud it’s not really a problem, but I don’t like listening to music that loudly to protect my ears.  However, the Sudio pair is easier to wear as the earbuds are simpler than the Shures.  The Sudios look cuter too and they come in a bunch of different colors!
7.  iPhone + charger.  I forgot to include my phone charger in the pic too, but it MUST be in my carry-on.  I’ve been stuck on long layovers one too many times with low battery and no charger to have learned my lesson.  Also, in case I had to check luggage and it gets lost, I don’t want to be without a charged phone.  Get my phone case HERE.
8.  Sunglasses with a little pouch or case.  Get my sunglasses for $16 HERE.  I really love these.
9.  Water bottle.  I talked about this in the post Husband’s Favorite Things (HERE), but to reiterate, this water bottle is our absolute favorite.  They are pricey, but definitely worth it in my opinion.  It’s stainless steel and insulated, keeping water cold (if you put ice in it) for up to 24 hours and hot up to 6 hours.  They carry a variety of sizes, colors, and lid/spout types.  Find them HERE.  I have a 32oz, Benson has a 40oz, and we got a 21oz to keep Addie’s milk cold on long, long trips.
10.  Snacks – because traveling hangry is the WORST.
11.  Pencil pouch- (Find HEREFilled with my favorite Papermate markers (HERE) and Sharpie highlighter (HERE), among other favorites.  This is also not an essential, and often times I’ll just carry a couple pens in the bottom of my purse.
12.  Light cardigan.  I get cold on flights, so I always bring an extra layer.  (I’ve noticed window seats are colder than aisles, BTW.)  But I try not to bring a super thick layer because like I’ve already said, I don’t like carrying heavy or bulky stuff through the airport.  My extra layer needs to fit nicely in the tote, along with everything else, without taking up the entire tote.  About 99% of the time I choose this mustard cardigan because it goes with everything!  Find an almost exact one HERE.
13.  Tote.  This has been the ultimate traveler!  It’s also reversible, so you can use the black interior, or whatever color combo you get.  I’ve had it for almost 3 years, and it’s great to travel with because it wipes clean easily.  Get it HERE.
Some things my husband would pack might include:
  • a very short and compact 4-outlet power strip (THIS ONE) to charge multiple things yet only take up one plug.  It’s SUPER handy, especially when both of us travel and need to charge our phones and laptops and other devices at the same time.
  • a dual USB car charger (HERE) to charge multiple things in the car, which again is really handy if both of us are charging.  We can both charge our phones at the same time in the car.
  • a dual USB charger for a normal outlet (HERE), for the same reasons as stated above.
His carry-on is full of tech stuff, haha!  And I’m always SO grateful to have them with us!
Anyway, there it is.  I’ve never needed more than this on flights when traveling without my kid.  Now, traveling WITH a kid is a WHOLE DIFFERENT STORY!  #somuchcraptocarry

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