Personal Item

Packing a Personal Item

One of the hardest parts of traveling for me is deciding what to pack. I’m a huge fan of big purses and tote bags in general. The one downside of that though is there is much more room to cram unnecessary, heavy things. And no one wants to carry a heavy bag through the whole airport and security. For up to 5 hours of air time, here’s what I pack in my personal item!

For starters, find a purse/bag/tote that you are comfortable carrying and that fits under the airplane seat. I use a tote similar to this that I found at Old Navy many years ago. I like bags that have at least a few pockets so things aren’t just floating around at the bottom. 

1. Wallet. This may be obvious, but without a wallet, no one is traveling anywhere. Before I travel, I usually go through my wallet and clean out stuff that I don’t need to carry like random Kohl’s coupons or spare change. I like to bring at least 2 credit cards, cash, debit card, medical card, and a form of ID. I always have my state ID with me, but I’ve also started to bring my passport along even for domestic travel trips. I live in Illinois and my ID isn’t a valid form of identification for some airports. Plus I like that I’m in the habit of always having my passport with me for when I do travel internationally. 

2. Ticket. If you are somebody who likes to print out your ticket, this is the second most important thing, after your ID. If you don’t usually print out your ticket, make sure to have the digital ticket on your phone. Which brings me to the next item… 

3. Phone. In this day and age, need I say more? Generally, I try to download a couple of things to watch on Netflix just so I have some entertainment options on the plane.

4. Headphones. For music listening, podcasts, audiobooks, movies, or in-flight entertainment. Headphones are always a good idea to have with you. If you’re looking for something to listen to, check out my post on some awesome podcasts to listen to.

5. Laptop/tablet. My laptop is pretty lightweight so I don’t mind carrying it in my personal bag. If I didn’t download movies on my phone, I’ll definitely download some on my laptop to watch.

6. Chargers. Please, please, PLEASE don’t forget your chargers. 😁 You can’t do much with a dead phone or laptop. I bring my phone cord, laptop cord, and my portable charger. Before I leave home, I make sure that my laptop and phone are fully charged. Usually, between the time I leave and the time I board the plane, I’ll have another opportunity to charge my phone at the airport in case I was using it a lot en route.

7. Water Bottle. I always have a water bottle with me even when I’m not traveling, but for those who don’t, this is always a good item to have with you. You can fill it up at water fountains in the airport and throughout your trip. Plus it’ll make you feel good that you’re being more environmentally-friendly!

8. Snacks. Arguably as important as packing your wallet, is packing snacks. I like to pack a couple of different things to have some variety. Things like granola bars, protein/energy bars, chips, and nuts travel well and you don’t have to worry about longevity or refrigeration. And if they’re little enough, you can pack several and not have to worry about space in your bag.

9. Toiletries. I usually always have a toiletries/makeup bag with me. Some things to include in that bag are lotions, deodorant, Chapstick, makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, and medications. You never know when you’ll need something like this and they’re small enough to have just in case. 

10. Gum/mints. If you aren’t planning on bringing a toothbrush in a toiletries bag, mints or gum is a must have for fresh breath and the feeling of a clean mouth, especially after a nap. Or maybe even to offer to your neighbor if they need it.

11. Hand sanitizer. I’m not a germophobe by any means, but planes are literally the direst places. If you’d like more reading material on this, Forbes wrote an article about airplane sanitation. Just keep hand sanitizer with you, okay?

12. Neck pillow. If you’re like me and can sleep on planes, bringing a neck pillow is a lifesaver. They make so many different kinds of pillows now and you can buy them at almost any store. I suggest getting one with a clip/clap/Velcro that way you can just attach it to the handle of your bag and it won’t take up any precious space within your bag.

13. Eye mask. Also, a lifesaver if you’re taking a red-eye, or if you just want to ensure that you get some uninterrupted shut-eye. This can also come in handy for when you reach your destination and want to ensure you get some sleep.

14. Reading materials. I like to bring a book or magazine with me to read (just in case I’m not in the mood to watch anything on Netflix) for something to do on the plane or while I’m waiting. 

15. Sunglasses. It’s nice to be prepared for when you leave the airport into a sunny destination, so can’t forget the sunglasses.


  • If you usually get chilly, don’t forget to bring a large scarf, sweater, or an extra pair of socks.
  • TSA allows liquids in containers that are 3.4 ounces/ 100 ml or smaller
  • If you have questions about more unconventional items, visit the TSA website for what other items besides a bag can be considered a personal item

Keep in mind that all flights allow for a personal item, but not all tickets come with a carry-on item. I hope this list of what I usually pack in my personal bag helps you pack yours for your next flight!


Do you have any carry-on items that you always pack in your personal item when you travel? Share in the comments



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