(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

Just because I’m a trav­el agent does­n’t mean I haven’t made some rook­ie mis­takes over the years. Once I packed my dri­vers license in my checked bag and did­n’t real­ize until it was long gone. So, to save you the hor­ror of hav­ing to explain that you packed your dri­ver’s license, I’ve com­piled a list of things you should be sure to put in your carry-on. 


But first a mon­ey-sav­ing tip:

Some air­lines charge for car­ry-ons, but they should still let you bring a per­son­al item to put under the seat for free. I’m a cheap­skate, so I won’t pay for a full sized car­ry-on. Instead, I bought a duf­fle bag that was the max­i­mum size allowed for the free under seat bag. It has served me well, and has fit under the seat on every air­line I’ve flown. And it holds a lot of stuff!





Your Identification, Wallet, and Boarding Pass


It bears repeat­ing. Make sure you have your Pass­port, Dri­vers License, and Board­ing Pass with you. If you are using a mobile board­ing pass, make sure your phone is well charged. Check and dou­ble-check that every­one in your group has these items. In the event you real­ize you don’t have an ID with you, the TSA does have an alter­na­tive iden­ti­ty ver­i­fi­ca­tion process, so don’t pan­ic. But it’s bet­ter to avoid that prob­lem alto­geth­er. And make sure you have your cred­it and deb­it cards, as well as a small amount of cash, in case your bag gets delayed or lost. Or, you can’t pass up the Cinnabon.



Repeat after me: I will not check my pass­port, I will not check my pass­port. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Nicole Geri on Unsplash



Anything you need to make it 24 hours


I have noticed through­out my career that when lug­gage gets lost, it often turns up with­in 24–48 hours. While a small per­cent­age of lug­gage does end up lost for­ev­er, most of the time, lost bags turn up with­in a day or two. So: what would you need for 24 hours? I always have one com­plete change of clothes (includ­ing socks and under­wear), a swim­suit (if I plan to swim at my des­ti­na­tion) and trav­el-sized toi­letries in my bag. I’ve had a few times when my bag missed my con­nec­tion, the air­line found it pret­ty quick­ly, and I had my bag back the next morn­ing. Since I had a change of clothes and toi­letries, and I knew my bag was on its way, I did­n’t need to waste vaca­tion time run­ning to the store.  Even if your bag takes longer to turn up, if you have every­thing you need to make it a day, you can wait a bit to run to the near­est store. Or use some Tide sink deter­gent to wash your clothes in the sink and squeak through until your bag gets there. No one wants their first stop after a long flight to be Tar­get instead of the beach. Make sure you think about this on your way home too, and car­ry on any­thing you need with­in 24–48 hours of get­ting home. Exam­ples would include your keys, your lap­top, etc. 






I’d rather be here than in a Tar­get any day. Pho­to cour­tesy of Sean O on Unsplash


Don’t Miss! Tips for Fly­ing With Your Baby


Anything that will make your flight and layovers more comfortable


On my way home from Aus­tralia, I got stuck in Chica­go O’Hare air­port overnight and wound up sleep­ing on the floor. I was young and an inex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­er, and I was on my way home, so I had just kind of shoved things into my bags and had­n’t real­ly thought about what I would want if I got stuck in an air­port. I just hap­pened to have a tooth­brush and some deodor­ant in my car­ry-on, and that made a world of dif­fer­ence in terms of how gross I felt. If you have a long trip with lay­overs, think about what would help you sur­vive an extend­ed one. I hope you nev­er end up stuck in an air­port, but if you do, you’ll be glad to be able to brush your teeth and put on some clean under­wear. You’re going to want a cell phone charg­er, a change of clothes, some snacks, over the counter meds in case of a headache or tum­my ache, some gum for the plane and what­ev­er you need to enter­tain your kids. If you are on a long flight, these body wipes are a total game-chang­er. If you have a red-eye flight, bring more snacks than you think you need. I was sur­prised to learn that most of the food ven­dors were not open 24 hours, even at O’Hare.


Pro Tip: Any­thing you want on the plane should be in your per­son­al item bag, in case you need to gate check your rolling bag



Chicago O'Hare

I still hold a grudge against Chica­go O’Hare 15 years lat­er, even though I know it’s total­ly illog­i­cal to blame them for a thun­der­storm. Pho­to Cour­tesy of Clay Banks on Unsplash.



Anything that is hard to replace at your destination


In the unlike­ly event your bag gets lost or sig­nif­i­cant­ly delayed, you’ll like­ly need to make a run to the near­est store. So think about what you’re pack­ing that would be hard to replace. I always imag­ine myself brows­ing Tar­get, if I’m pack­ing any­thing I can’t buy at Tar­get I move it to my car­ry-on. If you are fly­ing for a wed­ding, make sure you car­ry on your out­fit, espe­cial­ly if you are a mem­ber of the bridal par­ty or anoth­er VIP. If you are fly­ing for busi­ness, make sure you car­ry on any­thing you need to work. Like Meghan Train­or, I have all the right junk in all the right places, which makes it hard for me to find a bathing suit that fits well. So, I always car­ry my bathing suits with me. If your child has a favorite toy, if you made spe­cial shirts to com­mem­o­rate this vaca­tion, or ordered cus­tom Mouse ears, car­ry it on with you! If you have tick­ets, mag­ic bands, or any­thing else that can’t be eas­i­ly reprint­ed at your hotel, you’ll want those in your car­ry on too.



Good to know: If you do find that you need some­thing reprint­ed, most hotel front desks will be hap­py to do that for you



Bridal Party

Unless you want to be the one brides­maid that does­n’t match, car­ry that dress on! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Amish Thakkar on Unsplash


Don’t Miss! The Only Things You Need to Pack in a Theme Park Bag




If you take any pre­scrip­tions you should car­ry them on with you. Pre­scrip­tions are a pain to replace if they got lost or delayed, and your insur­ance might not cov­er it. The last thing I want to do on vaca­tion is argue with my insur­ance provider. Pre­scrip­tions are exempt from the 3 oz liq­uid rules when fly­ing, so there is no rea­son not to keep them with you, just in case. 


Anything valuable, either emotionally or monetarily


If you are fly­ing with any­thing valu­able, please put it in your car­ry-on! And that includes items of sen­ti­men­tal val­ue. Your grand­ma’s ear­rings, your child’s lovey, any­thing in that cat­e­go­ry should nev­er be checked. Any­thing val­ued over $3500 should be car­ried on too, as that’s the most the air­line will pay you if they lose your bag. If you buy any sou­venirs on your trip that you espe­cial­ly love, pack it in your car­ry-on on your way home. I had a client whose bag got lost on the way home, and they lost all of their sou­venirs from their once in a life­time trip to Asia, includ­ing some pearls they had pur­chased for their daughter.




If your kid won’t sleep with­out it, car­ry that suck­er on! Pho­to Cour­tesy of Kel­ly Sikke­ma on Unsplash



I encour­age you to take some time to think about not just what to pack, but where to pack it. If you find that you can’t fit every­thing above in your car­ry-on, then get cre­ative with your checked bags! For exam­ple, my hus­band and I often pack one out­fit in the oth­er per­son­’s bag. We fig­ure the odds of both of our bags get­ting lost or delayed are slim. In that same vein, I often split our sun­screen stash and sou­venirs between sev­er­al bags. I hope you nev­er expe­ri­ence a trav­el sna­fu. But if you do, you’ll be so glad you were prepared! 


Free Down­load!!!! 6 Things That Should Always be in Your Carry-on



Pin this, so you’ll be ready for your next trip!




Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey is a writer, trav­el agent and mom based in sun­ny Cleve­land, Ohio. Emi­ly runs Aida’s Adven­tures trav­el agency while her son takes his after­noon nap. She has trav­eled through­out Aus­tralia, Asia and North Amer­i­ca and the rest of the world is on her buck­et list. Emi­ly and her fam­i­ly love a good theme park. They have annu­al pass­es to 6 of them! 


Dis­claimer: I recent­ly became an affil­i­ate for the Ama­zon web­site since, as a mom, it’s the most fre­quent way I shop now and it’s also how I rec­om­mend prod­ucts to friends that I’m using and love. You can’t hold back my love. Yet, I’m not an affil­i­ate of any of the oth­er prod­ucts I rec­om­mend­ed. See? Love.