Carry-On Packing Guide: Your Personal Item Carry-On

Carry-On Packing Guide: Packing tips from a former flight attendant on how to pack your personal item carry-on bag for your next flight. You will be organized and stress free for a great trip!

Carrying packed carry on bag over shoulder.
Pack everything you need in a large tote bag!

How to Pack Your Personal Item Carry-On

After being a flight attendant for almost 15 years, I learned how to pack efficiently and I learned how to pack only what I needed. Packing too much is a sturggle that most of us have when traveling.

Before I was a flight attendant I was definitely an over packer! One of the reasons that I learned to pack lighter was because as a flight attendant I didn’t have the option to bring everything in my closet and put it all into a checked bag. I had to bring my bags on the airplane of every flight and I had to hoist my own bag up into the overhead bin. If my bags were too heavy to lift, I couldn’t get them up into the overhead bin. Also, a slightly heavy bag wasn’t good for my back and could result in a back injury.

Learning to Pack Less

Packing less became a necessity and it became a good habit to learn. I realized that I don’t really need to pack every pair of shoes that I own or every item of makeup in my cabinet. If I can pack and get by with less while away from home, I know that you can do it too! I so hope this carry-on packing guide for your personal item carry-on will help you pack less like I learned how to do.

For this packing guide, I am focusing on packing your carry-on bag that you will put underneath the seat in front of you which is referred to as your personal item carry-on bag. Even if you are checking a bag or two, you should still make sure that you put this carry-on bag underneath the seat in front of you. Why? Well, because this under seat bag has a purpose during the flight. This personal item carry-on bag will have everything that you need in it that you might need during the flight.

If you put the bag up in the overhead bin then you will likely be up during the flight, pulling your bag out of the overhead bin, and then digging around in your bag for whatever you need.

Take it from me, a former flight attendant that this whole scenario is not fun for you or anyone else on the airplane. Just put your personal item bag underneath your seat. Your flight will be so much more enjoyable because you will have everything that you need already there for you at your seat!

Now let’s talk about some things you will need to pack in this personal item carry-on bag.


As you know, when you travel on an airplane you are going to need to show a government form of personal identification several times. You will need your identification out and ready to show during the check in process at the ticket counter and when going through the security check point to get to your gate. You may even need to show your identification when you arrive at your gate.

You need to make sure that you have all forms of your personal identification in this carry-on bag. If you have a passport, be sure to keep it in a secure location inside the bag such as an interior zippered compartment of the bag.

After showing your identification take a minute to put your identification back where it belongs so that when you need it again you will know right where to go to find it. You will most likely feel rushed when going through security and may want to just throw your driver’s license or passport in the bottom of your bag to fish out later. Trust me, don’t do this! There is nothing worse than digging around for your identification at the bottom of your bag and possibly panicking because you can’t find it. Just take the time to put your identification back into it’s place so that it will be there when you need it again.

Reading Material

When you are on an airplane you may want to bring a book, magazines, newspapers, etc. to read during your flight. Place any reading materials that you may want to have with you inside of this personal item carry-on bag, not inside of a bag that is up in the overhead bin.

If you need glasses for reading, you will also want to put your glasses in this bag. Placing glasses inside interior pockets of the bag is best so that you can find your glasses easily when you need them. I always seem to be looking for my reading glasses. I’m pretty sure they have legs and walk away! Sometimes I bring 2 or 3 pairs of reading glasses.


Most of us have several electronics that we like to have with us on the airplane. If you have a laptop, Ipad, tablet, etc. that you are planning on using during the flight, then you will want to put these items inside of this carry-on bag. Your phone will also be placed inside of this bag when you are not using it. If you have earbuds, you will also want to have them inside of your carry on bag. And again, an interior pocket is best for storing both your cell phone and your earbuds so you know right where to go when you need them.

If you have any other electronic devices that you are not going to be using on the flight, you don’t have to pack them in your personal carry-on item. You could pack them inside of your roll-a-aboard that you place in the overhead bin. I do not recommend packing electronic devices in checked baggage. If your checked bag became lost, then you would be without your electronic device until your bag was located.


Any medication that you need for your trip will most definitely need to be in this personal item carry-on bag. Never, Never, Never pack your medication in your checked bag! So many times I had passengers on my flights that needed their medication that was in their checked bag. When traveling, always keep your medication with you. You never know when there will be that lengthy delay. I wouldn’t want you to be stuck without access to your medication.

Contents of personal carry on item shown.
How I Organize My Personal Carry-On Bag
Showing all contents of the personal carry on item outside of the bag.
Contents of My Personal Item Carry-On Bag


Whatever you do, don’t forget the snacks! As you know, most domestic airlines do not have food onboard. Please bring plenty of snacks for the flight and extra snacks for the unexpected delays that airlines can sometimes have.

It’s also a good idea to buy a bottle of water once you have cleared security. Flying will dehydrate you quickly. You will be well hydrated if you have your own supply of water.

Choosing the Best Bag

Here’s my bag that I absolutely love! I bring it with me on all of my flights. It holds everything that I need while on the airplane. It’s also a great every day tote bag to hold all of the things! I own this bag in 4 different patterns!

Standing in front of front door with large tote bag over shoulder

I hope this post was helpful to you for packing for your next airplane trip. Here’s a video where I go through everything that is inside of my personal item bag. Please leave me a comment and let me know if this information was helpful or if you have any packing questions.


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