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Travel Essentials List: 25 MUST-HAVE Items for Your Carry-On Backpack

Are you planning a trip and wondering what travel essentials to bring with you? Check out this travel essentials list of 25 items you should pack in your carry-on backpack! Printable travel essentials list included below.

After not having traveled for 2 years, due to the ghastly pandemic, I was a bit frustrated every time I had to rummage through my carry-on bag for something.

Obviously, my passport was out and ready. Digital boarding pass available and ready-to-go. Documents printed, just in case. Then, of course, I get on the plane and realized I forgot my earbuds.

Literally, palm to forehead. How could I forget my earbuds?! It’s not my first flight. Can anyone relate to this feeling?

You’re probably thinking, who needs earbuds? Just sleep during your flight. Well, I’m one of those people that can never sleep on an airplane.

Thankfully, I did have a few books downloaded to my Kindle app on my phone to pass the time. Books are always a must travel essential item.

featured blog image | travel essentials list

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Now, I have compiled a list of items for us so we never leave home without any of these travel essentials again. Hopefully, it will help you when you’re packing your carry-on bag with travel essentials. This is a great list to help you round out your travel packing list.

What carry-on bag or backpack are you using?

First, let’s chat about the carry-on bag… or backpack…

Recently, I became the proud owner of the Brevitē camera bag – The Jumper. My, oh my, am I impressed. Not only is it top quality, but it also fits everything on my list below, including my DSLR and laptop.

What I love most about this camera bag is that transforms into a regular backpack. You can just remove the DSLR portion of it and voila.

Since I mostly will use it to travel, the DSLR will come with me. It’s one of the main reasons I purchased it. I needed a camera bag/backpack that made sense for me.

I’m not carrying a ton of camera gear, but I wanted my camera protected and also easily accessible. I also didn’t want to carry two bags… one for the camera stuff and the other for everything else.

The Brevitē camera bag has the function, look, and size that’s perfect to carry. And it fits right under your airplane seat.

Travel Essentials List for Your Carry-on Backpack

1. Pack your passport and any other important identification

A passport holder is a great way to store your passport and vaccination card. This one also holds a pen.

Pointing out first the most obvious travel essential that we should never forget… a passport. If you’re lucky, where you’re heading a driver’s license is enough. We definitely should not leave our homes without both.

Your passport is your golden ticket. If you’re traveling to another country, you will need it. Even when I travel domestically, I take my passport.

Make sure it’s not expired. If it’s a year from expiring, I suggest getting it renewed ASAP. Do not wait to renew it. We recently waited 3 months for passport renewal. These days it is taking quite of bit of time, so best not to wait.

2. CDC Vaccination Card

Do not leave home without your vaccination card. Put this at the top of your travel essentials list with your passport. As a matter of fact, you should keep it safe with your passport in a passport holder. If you don’t, then at least keep your vaccination card safe in a clear slip.

We recently traveled to New Orleans and they asked us for a vaccine card almost everywhere we went. Even though to enter the Dominican Republic you do not need to be vaccinated, they still asked to see it when we landed anyways. As long as we stayed within Hilton La Romana resort, we did not need it, but if we left the resort, we were expected to have it.

So this is important to have and travel with, especially internationally. At least domestically, here in the US, some places like Florida are not asking for it or you can still get by with a negative Covid test.

A digital copy of it is accepted in most places.

3. Have all travel documents printed and in your carry-on

In the digital age we live in these days, it seems old-school and wasteful to have to print out all your documents, but it’s a must. Do not leave home without having a copy of all of your travel arrangements. You never know when you have to pull them out.

Also, what if you were to lose your phone? At least those printed documents will help you get where you need to go.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Flights
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Cruise documents
  • Car Rental Reservations
  • Tour Confirmations
  • Travel Insurance

I print them all out. I also have all the most important things typed up in a quick-glance day-by-day travel itinerary that I print and also save to my phone as a PDF. It has definitely been super helpful when we are out and about and I need to check our itinerary, confirmation, address, or something of the like.

Want a template of my day-by-day itinerary planner? Subscribe here to our mailing list and we will email with a link.

4. Mobile Phone

mobile phone with boarding pass

Speaking of the digital age we are living in, we can’t leave home without our mobile phones. We certainly shouldn’t travel to another city, state, or country without one. I’d say, your mobile phone is one of the top travel essentials.

You’ll need your mobile phone throughout the entire vacation. Assuming you have a fancy smartphone, it probably is your go-to camera. You probably also love to use the internet for travel research, google maps and so much more. These days, a mobile phone is basically a mini-laptop.

5. Get a data plan!

While we are on the subject of phones… This is not exactly carry-on, but it’s part of your phone and in my humble opinion, it’s a travel essential. Make sure you have a data plan that covers you wherever you are traveling to.

Don’t rely on unreliable free and Wi-Fi or free map apps that work when they feel like it. I understand we want to save money by not paying for data plans – that used to be us- but there are options. You don’t want to regret it later.

Especially, when the gate agent asks you to fill out a form online, from your phone. In the present times that we are living in, the chances of this happening are high.

There are options now for data:

  1. Get a temporary data plan with your cellphone provider… ask them what they have available. We personally are with T-mobile and our monthly rate includes unlimited data in over 200 countries.
  2. You can be a local sim card with unlimited data when you arrive in the country you’re visiting.
  3. You can also invest in a Wifi hot spot.

Now, if you’re looking to completely disconnect while you travel, good on you!

While we are at it, I also suggest signing up for a VPN to keep your data safe and so certain sites aren’t blocked when visiting another country. We use Surfshark VPN: click here for more info.

Beach Packing List

Get beach-ready with this packing list! Whether you’re heading on a day trip to the beach or taking a beach vacation, this beach packing list comes in handy each and every time. Don’t miss packing any of these items. Printable included!

6. Wallet

Another item you think we wouldn’t have to remind people of, but how many times have you heard the story of someone leaving their wallet at home.

Many times! The horror. You could miss your flight this way.

Your wallet probably holds your driver’s license, credits, money, and other important and necessary items you need when traveling.

I get it. We usually keep it in our purse or on the side of the bed, it’s easy to forget to transfer it to a carry-on bag. So this is why I’m here to remind you not to forget your wallet.

7. Money | Cash

Don’t leave your home without some cash. Depending on where you travel to, not everyone takes credit cards. And believe me, I love paying for everything with a credit card because I get to rack up on those travel points. Having that bit of cash is important for gratuities and for anyone that doesn’t take a credit card.

And if you’re traveling abroad, exchange money before you leave the country. The exchange rates at international airports are a scam. Save yourself some time and money.

– Don’t Miss: How to Save Money to Travel

8. A Pen!

I can’t tell you, how many times I’ve been given a form to sign while online or on the plane and I don’t have a pen. Hubby always carries one because it’s part of his everyday life to always have a pen on hand. I, on the other hand, am always at a keyboard and so I always forget.

Bring a pen! This should not just be only on a travel essential list. We should always have a pen on us or near us.

Plus, with the big C, it’s best we have our own pen and not have to use one that 100’s of people are touching.

9. Bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer

With the pandemic, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are like a no-brainer these days. I always brought this with me prior to the big C, but it’s must travel essential item now.

Make sure you have enough with you for the time you’re traveling.

10. Extra masks

Bring extra masks with you for the plane and during your travels. Some destinations are more relaxed with the masks than others, but it’s up to you on how comfortable you feel wearing one or not.

In the end, I don’t believe the masks policy for planes and airports is going anywhere. Have extra with you just in case you lose one or you can change them out when needed.

11. Bring headphones or earbuds

Whether they are noise-canceling headphones or your favorite earbuds, you’ll want to bring your own to use on the plane.

Note, that if your plane has individual TV screens, you’ll need to plug in with a regular audio jack. So if you’re headphones are wireless, they will not work with the flight’s entertainment system.

Normally, we’ll bring a small 2nd pair of headphones that has an old audio jack plugin.

12. Lip balm

We can’t forget the lip balm! You’ll want to moisturize your lips because the air circulating in the plane dries you out.

13. Hand lotion

Don’t know about you, but because we are using so much hand sanitizer, hand lotion for me is a must. I always have hand lotion in my carry-on. I make sure to use it after I’ve sanitized my hands and I’m not going to get up or start touching anything I haven’t disinfected.

Whatever your favorite hand lotion is, bring it, but remember it has to be less than 3oz.

14. Eyeglass Cleaning Cloth

This is for anyone that wears glasses! You know that having a cleaning cloth for our glasses is an everyday essential. We can easily forget to pack it though, so it’s a must on this travel essentials list.

Nobody likes to look through smudged and dirty glasses. And, I can never carry enough of these with me because I do lose them.

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15. Tissues

Never know when you need a tissue. The carry-on packs sold in the $1 travel section of your local pharmacy are always perfect for travel.

16. Bring a book to read

Or make sure you have books downloaded to your kindle app. Download before you lose Wi-Fi.

I used to carry 1-2 books with me, but honestly, the weight of books with everything else on my back is not fun. I’m happy to read from my phone. If you have a tablet that’s great. Definitely helps to read from a device when traveling so there is less in your carry-on.

Of course, it’s all a personal choice. If you have the room, bring an actual physical book. Usually, when I do bring a physical book these days it’s in form of a travel guide book.

One of the best times to read is on a plane. You have nowhere to go. You’re either going to watch a movie, read, sleep or eat snacks. Perhaps if you’re traveling with someone you’ll play cards or something, but this is a great time to catch up on reading.

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17. Travel Blanket and/or Pillow

For those long flights, a travel blanket is an essential item for me. What about you? If I can bring the travel pillow, I will, but sometimes it’s just too much to carry. Definitely choose what is more important to you. Of course, now they have versatile options like the one shown above.

A travel blanket is lightweight. It can be easily rolled up and packed away in your carry-on backpack. It can double as a pillow, too. Being that planes are always cold, you’ll be happy to have it with you when you’re ready to get cozy.

You can always also pack a scarf or shawl.

Cruise Essentials to Pack

A cruise vacation is a perfect way to relax and escape from the everyday grind. But before you set sail, be sure to pack these essentials that will help make your cruise even more enjoyable. These items include everything from sun protection essentials to must-have medications. So don’t forget to add them to your cruise packing list.

18. Necessary Chargers and Adapters

Cause I’m guilty of leaving mine behind, this was sure to land on this travel essentials list.

Do not forget any charges you may need for your electronics. Set out all your electronics and see which charges and adapters you’ll need for each.

Note, on the plane you may have a place to charge your phone or plug in your laptop. Every plane is different. During my last set of travels, we experience it all. In one plane, we had a USB adapter and on another plane, we had regular US type B plugs.

We pack all of these chargers and cables in a travel case.

Tip: Have the correct cord to plug into a USB. Make sure you have a plug-in adapter for that cord, just in case.

19. Backup charger

A backup charger is one of the best things on this travel essentials list. You should carry this on during all your travels, you never know when you’ll need it.

It’s small enough that it even will fit in your purse or a small backpack.

20. Medication | Vitamins

If there are any medications or vitamins you take on a daily basis, make sure to pack them. It’s great to have some of those travel essential meds on hand like Advil, Tylenol, Immodium, and Zyrtec.

I do always recommend taking some extra vitamin C or some Airborne. Never hurts to keep your immune system high.

21. Easy Snacks

Always pack snacks. With the chaos of the pandemic, you never know now what will be open at the airport and if you’ll be fed anything on the plane.

Bring packaged and sealed items like protein bars, nuts, and freeze-dried fruits.

22. Travel Water Bottle

This is optionable.

You can’t bring water through security, but you can take an empty water bottle to fill it up before getting on the plane. It’s also great to have when traveling.

23. Laptop or Tablet

A tablet may be all you need to travel and that is awesome.

We always take a laptop. I used to refuse to, but now with a blog and all the photos I take that I need to transfer to a hard drive, it’s part of our travel essentials.

Just put some thought into it and decide if you need to bring one. Sometimes we need to go away and really disconnect.

Either way, you should always pack your electronics in a carry-on bag. Do not check in items like this.

24. External Hardrive

As we take photos and videos, with our non-mobile devices, we are transferring to an external drive. Then, I am redundantly backing up those files to SmugMug.

We only bring this with us when we pack the laptop.

Safe, secure and unlimited photo storage. Click here to find out more.

25. Cameras

Some of us travel just with our smartphones and that is our camera. That’s great. Use what you have.

We travel with a DSLR and a GoPro. There is no way, I’d check that in and it goes right into my Brevite carry-on backpack. These are items you do not want to check in with your luggage.

Travel Essentials List

featured blog image | travel essentials list

Packing for your next trip? Check out this comprehensive travel essentials list that will make it easy to bring everything you need with you in your travel carry-on backpack.


  • You'll need a backpack
  • 99% of everything in the list below


Set out all these items on the list to pack in your carry-on backpack:

  1. Passport
  2. Vaccine Card
  3. All your travel documents should be printed and scanned
  4. Mobile phone
  5. Data plan for that phone
  6. Wallet
  7. Money
  8. Pen
  9. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
  10. Extra masks
  11. Headphones or earbuds
  12. Lip balm
  13. Hand lotion
  14. Eye glass cleaning cloth
  15. Tissues
  16. A book to read
  17. Travel blanket or pillow
  18. Chargers and adapters
  19. Backup battery
  20. Medication and vitamins
  21. Easy snacks
  22. Travel water bottle
  23. Laptop or tablet
  24. External hard drive
  25. Camera


Happy travels!

Did you find this list helpful?

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We hope this list helps you pack your carry-on for traveling. As always, we welcome any additional travel tips or suggestions from our readers.

What are some of the travel essentials that you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments below!

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