Don’t Leave Home Without It- The Carry-On Must-Have for Every Trip

You’re leaving to fly away to your dream trip and you pause before locking the front door. Did you forget anything? I’ve done this every time I’ve left on a trip and, call it mom-brain or just plain forgetfulness, I usually end up running back in to grab something I forgot. In spite of my spacey tendency, there are some things I double and triple check before zipping up my carry-on to walk out the door.

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase on Amazon through my links, I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Passport and Visa


Of course you’re going to need your passport if you’re leaving the country, but did you look at visa requirements for the country(ies) you’re visiting? Depending on your country of origin, you may be able to take care of the visas upon arrival, but there are some that need to be obtained months in advance. Also, if you’re traveling with a group, especially with children, make sure to coordinate and double-check that the required travel documents are up-to-date and packed for each individual.

A few years ago, we took a road-trip with another family and when we got to the border they realized that they didn’t have their children’s documents. Each of the parents assumed the other had packed them. Luckily, they lived just an hour away, but imagine missing a flight or being turned away once you’ve landed in a foreign country because not everyone has the correct documents. Double and triple check!

Winding, Scotland Road
You wouldn’t want to miss the chance to see beautiful countryside like this

Driver’s License

I thought about combining this with passport and visa, but decided to give it it’s own line. Even if you’re not planning on driving while away, it’s just a good habit to keep a second form of ID with you. Passports can get lost or stolen, tucking your driver’s license into a separate pocket is good insurance. When Nate and I went to Roatan, we were grateful to have brought our licenses. Once there, we decided to rent a scooter and were able to drive all over the island, away from the resorts and tourist traps.

US Currency


The amount you should take is dependent upon your destination, but I’d suggest at least $100, in smaller bills. Hopefully, you’ve contacted your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling (otherwise they could freeze your cards, leaving you without access to your money). Still, there are situations where cards aren’t accepted- taxis, street vendors, places away from tourist centers. There are some developing countries that you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere that does accept cards. You’ll also want to do you’re homework and know how and where to exchange your cash for the local currency.

Digital Map
Download maps ahead of time and never get lost

Off-Line Directions and Information for Your Trip

There’s no guarantee that you’ll have access to wi-fi when you get to your destination. You can download off-line maps or take screen shots of contact information you may need. I had a layover in the Honolulu, HI Airport and I was shocked when I found there was no wi-fi. I was told by an airport employee that I couldn’t even pay for any. Luckily, that instance was more for entertainment, than for necessity.

Laptop, Tablet, and Phone


The romantic idea of completely unplugging while traveling is beautiful, but not always practical. Technology is a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. We use it for making arrangements, finding directions and translations, entertainment during long waits and flights, taking pictures and videos, keeping up with e-mails and projects, or Face-Timing with kids left at home. Someday, try planning a completely unplugged trip, but until then, be sure you don’t forget your devices.

Nalgene 32 oz Water Bottle

Re-Usable Water Bottle

Okay, this one’s not strictly necessary, but I always make sure everyone has a water bottle. If flying, empty it before going through security, then find a drinking fountain and refill it before the flight. You will be prepared, as you never know how long it will take for drinks to be passed out. Bonus: When you bring your own re-usable bottle, you won’t be to tempted to pay the inflated airport prices or create more waste buying single-use. Win-Win! A couple years ago, Nate gave me this Nalgene bottle for Christmas and I love it!

Carry-on with Extra Shirt

Extra Outfit

Accidents happen. Checked bags get lost. Drinks get spilled. Babies have blow-outs. There’s no way to know what will happen while in transit. If you can’t fit a whole outfit in your carry-on, I suggest at least bringing an extra shirt and underwear. My baby niece spewed on my sister’s shirt at the beginning of a flight and she had to sit in the slimy shirt all the way through her flights, until baggage claim. In case of lost luggage, I know I always feel better if I can change into fresh intimates and shirt.

Scarves to Help Stay Warm on Chilly Flights


Planes, trains, or automobiles, they can all vary drastically in temperature. Having an additional layer to throw on when the temps are too chilly, can make all the difference.  Instead of spending your journey shivering, you’ll be able to sit back and relax. If you don’t need the extra layer, you can roll it up and use it as a pillow. Wraps (sarongs/lava lavas/over-sized scarves) can also be used once you reach your destination. They work well as towels, picnic blankets, make-shift sheets (for the extreme budget travelers), or can be tied up to work as hobo-style bags. They may even be able to replace the extra outfit I mentioned.

Honorable Mentions: Headphones/Earplugs, Snacks, Magazine/Book and Dramamine

So, next time you’re getting ready to take a trip, double check that you haven’t forgotten anything. And before you head out the door, triple check, just in case you suffer from the same mom-brain as me. And because of that mom-brain, I know I’ve forgotten something. Tell me what are your must-haves?

Don’t have time for an extended trip, but you’re dying to get away? Check out 7 Advantages of Taking Short Breaks with Kids from Seeing the Lighter Side Blog.

Pin this for later. And for more travel tips follow my Pinterest Board, with articles like this from Flip Flop Globetrotters.


Pinnable Carry-On Packing Image

2 thoughts on “Don’t Leave Home Without It- The Carry-On Must-Have for Every Trip”

  1. When I was touring Europe in a choir, we always brought our performance clothes, shoes, and our MUSIC as a carry on. Heaven forbid we be without those things if our luggage got lost. A toothbrush is also quite handy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *