May 3, 2023

The Ultimate Carry On Packing List (+ 5 Packing Tips)

The Ultimate Carry On Packing List (+ 5 Packing Tips)

Planning to travel light and leave your checked luggage at home?

If so, you won't have to worry about the airline damaging (or losing) a checked bag. You won't have to wait around for baggage claim either. Instead, you can walk right off the plane and through the airport and start your vacation immediately.

But the last thing you want is to arrive at your final destination only to realize you left something crucial at home. To make sure you bring everything you need for your trip, you must be smart when you pack.

While we can't tell you everything you'll need without knowing more about your travel plans, we do have experience traveling light. So, to help you make sure your bases are covered, we've put together a carry-on packing list—plus a few tips for how to fit everything in your bag—to help you get started.

The Best Carry On Bags

Before you even begin packing, you'll need to choose the right carry-on bag. Most airlines allow bags up to 22" x 14" x 9"—anything larger than this may not fit in the plane's overhead bin. And that means whatever bag you bring as your carry-on will need to comply with your airline's regulations.

It's also crucial that the bag provides enough space for all your belongings and is durable to withstand wear and tear from travel.

Here are a few of our favorite bags for carry-on travel:

Essential Items To Pack In Your Carry-On Luggage

Traveling can be a hassle if you don't have the right supplies and equipment. Having a checklist helps ensure that you don't forget any essential items. Knowing everything you'll pack also helps you decide whether you can realistically travel with just a carry-on or if you'll need to travel with something larger. It also helps you plan how to pack everything so that it fits comfortably without exceeding weight or size limits.

While the specific items you pack will depend on your destination and how long you'll be there, the travel packing list we've created contains the standard travel essentials you need for any trip. You can use it as a starting point for your own packing checklist. Be sure to modify it to fit your own style and accommodate your needs on your trip.




Miscellaneous items

5 Tips For Packing Your Bag

Efficiently packing your carry-on bag is key to having enough space for all of your items. And the more organized you are, the easier it will be to find what you need in your bag when you're traveling.

1. Bring only what you need

The key to traveling light is to pack the right items and only take what you need. To make sure everything fits in your carry-on, avoid packing a change of clothes for every day of your trip. Instead, focus on packing versatile clothing items that you can combine together to create multiple different looks. If you can, you should also limit yourself to a single pair of shoes (or plan to wear the bulkier pair if you know you’ll need a change of shoes), as footwear is bulky and quickly eats up space in your bag.

If you are traveling for an extended period of time, consider leaving things like body wash at home. You can buy a small bottle of what you need at your destination rather than stuff extra items into your carry-on.

But if you do plan to bring your own toiletries from home, it's a good idea to look into dry bar shampoo and conditioners. These typically take up less space and eliminate the hassle of finding the travel-sized products that you like and comply with TSA regulations so you can bring them through airport security. In that same vein, it’s also smart to pack all of your toiletries in a clear organizer cube, which minimizes the chance that TSA will stop you to inspect your bag.

2. Roll your clothes to save space

Rolling your clothes can help you save a lot of space in your carry-on bag. Not only does it reduce the amount of bulk in your bag, but it also compresses your clothes and makes them easier to organize. Plus, rolling is a great way to prevent wrinkles when traveling!

Here's how to roll clothes before you pack them in your suitcase:

3. Organize your bag with packing cubes.

Packing cubes are an excellent way to save space and keep your carry-on bag organized while traveling. By compressing clothing items, they make it easier to fit everything you need in a small space. They also help you manage all of your items so that you can easily find what you need without making a mess of your bag.

If you're traveling for more than a few days at a time, you may want to bring a dedicated toiletry bag like our Spiff Kit to store all of your hygiene and beauty products. Selecting something durable and water-resistant will ensure that if anything leaks during travel, it won't damage anything else in your bag.

4. Pack large items first

Start by packing more oversized items first. That way, you can leave room in your bag for smaller items that may not fit otherwise. Not only does this help maximize space and prevent any last-minute cramming, but it also reduces the risk that something small will get lost or damaged in transit.

Plus, if there's still some extra room after packing large items, then you'll be able to easily fit other things like books or magazines into the same space without worrying about them getting squished.

5. Be wise when choosing a personal item

In addition to your carry-on, most airlines will allow you to bring one personal item. And choosing a bag like the Co-pilot will help you maximize your space by offering a little extra room for anything that doesn't fit in your carry-on. That way, you can ensure you have everything you need without exceeding weight or size limits. Plus, it can double as a daypack that you can deploy as needed on your trip.

If you're still looking for the perfect carry-on bag, look at our Travel Collection to find one that suits you. Then, peek at our Organizational tools to double-check that you have everything you need for efficient packing and travel.


Gary C - June 2, 2023

It isn’t clear to me why you recommend packing a portable wifi/router when most phones (certainly iPhones) can be used as a wifi hotspot.
TOM BIHN replied:
Hi Gary! From personal experiences, we’ve traveled to places where the hotspot from our phones was really unreliable due to poor service in certain areas, so adding that is why we’ve added the pocket wifi as a backup option!

Jessi - June 2, 2023

I lived for two weeks out of the synapse 25. It is the perfect bag to carry as a personal
Item. It fit a large packing cube, toiletries bag, as well as a laptop, and all related charges.
TOM BIHN replied:
That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing :)

Stephen Paskey - May 27, 2023

Your comment about the Synik 30 as a “personal item” is simply flat-out wrong. Most airlines limit personal items to 18 × 14 × 8 or smaller. The Synik 30 might fit under a seat, and you might get away with it if it’s not overpacked and you’re not asked to put it in a sizing obx, but “technically” the bag does not fit airline requirements.

Daniel - May 15, 2023

I have made two international trips to Asia so far with a Techonaut 30 as my carry on luggage and Daylight Briefcase as a personal item. The main thing to watch out for is the weight limit for the carry on bag which is 7kg/15.4324lbs. Since the Daylight Briefcase was considered my personal item, the airline I flew on did not scrutinize the weight. The DLBC still managed to pack in quite a lot of stuff! I even managed to bring back some souvenirs with this setup. I have managed to fit the DLBC under the seat with what I packed on the aircrafts that I have boarded so far.

By the way, was there a specific reason that the Techonaut 30 not mentioned in the blog post?
TOM BIHN replied:
No specific reason, we figure we just give the Aeronaut 30 some extra attention!

Andrew - May 8, 2023

The Synik 30 generally won’t fit under an airline seat. The Synik 22 will, but you probably need another bag. Alternatively, the Synapse 25 fits and is a little more roomy.

I’ve been able to comfortably live out of the Synapse 25 for a week when traveling somewhere warm. I think this is the perfect single bag carry on. In the US the Synapse 25 works fine for a personal item (under the seat), and you can use an Aeronaut 45 or traditional luggage as your carry on. For me personally, that combo is enough to live out of almost indefinitely excluding significant seasonal weather changes.

Some important points:
- I like to use all of the extra Tom Bihn packing bags, but don’t overdue it in a 1 bag travel scenario. They add weight and bulk. I’ll always pack the clear organizer cube for TSA liquids and standard spiff kit for bathroom items, but the others I skip unless I have 2 bags.
- Having a small, lightweight computer with a small, lightweight charger is critical. You can use smaller adapters than came with a given Macbook/MBP, they just charge slower.
- Have a way to get laundry done during your trip.
- I like to travel with a single pair of shoes, but this has gotten me in trouble more than once.

Leave a Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.