13 travel essentials that make flying with a carry-on totally doable

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There are a few things in life that make me feel like I am Beyoncé (aka absolutely fabulous, fierce and capable of running the world/multiple empires). One of them is finding an onion ring in my french fries (a true gift from above). Another is unexpectedly reaching into your pocket and pulling out a $20 bill. And the last? Strutting past the line of tired, soul-less travelers miserably waiting around the baggage carousel as you roll past with your carry-on and head straight to the pool.

With all the chaos of checked bags that have been delayed, lost and damaged, there is no peace of mind quite like having all of your things with you. Add in the fact that you save money and time, and it’s basically a no-brainer to skip the checked bags.

That being said, it’s not always easy to pack entirely in a carry-on, especially if you’re traveling for a longer period of time or, you know — are like me and like to pack things “just in case.”

Here are 13 things that will instantly make traveling with a carry-on easier:

Away The Carry-On, $345

Credit: Away

The key to traveling with just a carry-on is picking the right bag for your style of travel. I personally love a lightweight, hard-shell suitcase, and I own a version of this Away bag. The 360 spinner wheels roll easily, the compression system kicks butt, and it fits in the overhead bin of most major airlines. This suitcase is definitely my go-to for most trips.

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack 45-Liter, $349

Credit: Tortuga

If you’re looking to replace your roller bag with one that you can carry on your back, this number from Tortuga is an award winner for a reason. This backpack is super comfortable to wear and height-adjustable, and it gives you major flexibility no matter where you’re traveling to.

Monos Metro Duffle, $230

Credit: Monos

My key to forgoing a checked bag is making the most of my personal items. This duffle comfortably fits under a seat and holds my passport, cards, essential medication, phone, chargers, laptop, etc. Most importantly, this duffle has a trolley sleeve, which allows it to easily sit on top of a roller bag as you head through security.

Calpak Packing Cubes, 5-Piece Set, $68

Credit: Calpak

The one thing I never travel without is packing cubes because they keep your things organized and also allow you to fit more into your luggage. They fall under the holy grail category for me, and I sing their praises like they’ve been #sponsored for a million dollars. I divide my clothes by category and roll them tightly into these small, lightweight bags as I pack my suitcase and then drop them into drawers as soon as I check into wherever I’m going. They’re a game-changer. 

Container Store Compression Bag, $7.99

Credit: The Container Store

If you haven’t had to sit on your suitcase and say a prayer or two for it to close: 1. Consider yourself #blessed, and 2. You are 100% lying. That’s where these compression bags come in. These babies are easy to use and will definitely help you pack more into your carry-on.

Cadence Capsules, $76 for 6

Credit: Cadence

The most challenging part about traveling exclusively with a carry-on can be adhering to the liquids rule; TSA requires all liquids to be less than 3.4 ounces each and fit into a single 1-quart bag, so it’s a must to keep your toiletry bag light. Decant your favorite products (and simultaneously cut down on plastic waste) in these leakproof, airtight, magnetic containers and never look back.

Bite Fresh Mint Toothpaste Bits, $32

Credit: Bite

It’s time to replace your travel-sized plastic tubes of toothpaste with these vegan-friendly toothpaste bits. This package will last you four months and is sure to cut down on plastic waste and simultaneously free up a little space in your suitcase. Plus, these toothpaste bits count as a solid and not a liquid. It’s a win-win.

HiBAR Soothe Shampoo Bar, $14.99

Credit: Hi-Bar

Don’t use up your liquid allowance with shampoo and conditioner. Replace them with HiBAR’s solid travel-friendly products. This color-safe, plastic-free bar is the equivalent of a 16-ounce bottle of shampoo and will last months.

Calpak Tech Organizer, $38

Credit: Calpak

Take the pain out of packing electronics in your carry-on with this tech organizer. This number from Calpak will keep your electronics and charging cables tangle-free, organized and protected throughout your travels.

REI PackTowl Personal, $28.95

Credit: Calpak

I live and breathe for a good, quick-drying, packable travel towel. This one from REI absorbs four times its weight in water and comes in clutch whether you’re camping, cleaning up after a long hike or just need a quick refresh in an airport lounge during a long layover.

TRTL Travel Pillow, $42.49 (Orig. $49.99)

Credit: TRTL

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to travel pillows. The super-comfortable ones tend to be bulky, while the slimmer versions rarely offer support and have my neck aching after a long flight. Enter the fleece TRTL Travel Pillow that changed it all. This compact pillow features hidden internal support and is lightweight, compact and even machine-washable.

Lazy Coconuts Eco Friendly Laundry Detergent Strips, $14.95

Credit: Amazon

I’ve been able to pack for month-long trips in a carry-on thanks to detergent strips. These allow me to use laundromats or even hand-wash pieces in a hotel sink in a pinch, which means that I can pack less, re-wear pieces and come home with a suitcase that doesn’t absolutely reek.

Kindle Paperwhite, $139.99

Credit: Amazon

Swap your paperbacks for a Kindle that can hold thousands of books. This e-reader alone will save you tons of space if you’re a big reader! Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing day at the beach or are 33,000 feet in the air, this e-reader will come in handy again and again, especially since it can hold a single charge for up to 10 weeks.

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