Hand Luggage Essentials: What’s in My Carry-on Bag?


I’ve been travelling for a few years now and a good part of my travel life has been full of forgetting to pack essential things or sometimes packing too many  unnecessary things in my hand luggage.

Most airlines restrict economy class passengers to one carry-on bag with a weight limit of 7- 10 kgs which is why we’re going to talk about carry-on bag travel essentials. These are things that you don’t want to forget when boarding that plane.

Many budget airlines charge for checked-in bags. Some street smart travelers like me know how to get away with it, for free because of knowing what to pack and what to leave behind.  If you can avoid checking in your bag with the below tips, then go ahead and save the dollars.

Although what you pack is highly determined by your destination, and especially the weather, there are standard things one must not leave out of your hand luggage.

Read: How to survive long-haul flights and layovers

Here’s what’s in my carry-on bag:





You won’t get far without this. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your return date, with a valid visa on it (if you need one).

Boarding Pass

You’ll be required to show your boarding pass at every check gate – security gate and check in gate, as well as when boarding the aircraft. Slip it inside your passport.

Yellow fever certificate

This is mostly required for African and Asian citizens, travelling to Africa and Asia. Just like the passport, you won’t go any far without this, if it’s a requirement at your destination. I have made a habit of packing my passport together with my Yellow fever card, even to destinations where it’ not needed.

A copy of your itinerary

Some countries won’t let you in unless you show your trip itinerary during your stay. For Africans, sorry, we need to show this almost everywhere. Just get used to it.

Confirmed hotel bookings and return flight ticket

This depends on your destination. Again as an African travelling to Europe or Americas, you’ll be asked for this. Keep a print or a copy on your phone just in case it’s needed.

Copies of important documents

Passport, ID, debit cards – This is just in case you need them. I tend to only keep a copy of my passport and have the rest on soft copy in my email. If travelling to a remote destination, a paper copy could be useful, you just never know.

Extra passport size photos

This could be useful if you need to extend your visa or God forbid if you lose your passport. Although this is not a big issue especially if travelling to big cities where you can easily get one done, it’s essential if heading to a remote destination.

Cash and Cards

Nothing much to explain here. Some petty cash to foot smaller bills before you can access cash overseas.





When passing through airport security screening the liquids in your carry-ons must meet the TSA rules I.e in 100ml containers all packed in a single TSA approved clear re-sealable plastic bags.

The bag with the liquids must be taken out of your bag and screened separately.

If travelling with a baby, you’re allowed to bring baby milk, baby food and sterilized water for the baby with no quantity limitations. These do not require to be packed in the TSA approved clear plastic bags but have them ready for inspection.

This also applies to prescribed liquid medicine.





Lighter laptops keep your hand luggage weight at a minimum. Recently I had to change my laptop because my old one was too heavy and it’s become bae since I started blogging.


I use my Ipad to read and watch movies especially when on a long layover.


Always carry my camera in its camera bag in my hand luggage. Of course, you can’t check in your camera.


This is obvious. Most young people in the world cannot stay without their cell phone for two minutes. Looks like I’m one of them 😛


Laptop, Ipad/Tablet, Camera, cell phone charges should not miss in the list. Gadget manufacturers have made life easier for us by making it possible to use the same charger for Iphone/Ipad/Ipod and Tablet/Phone.

Don’t forget your laptop charger.  Unless I have a long layover, I always check in my laptop charger to reduce my carry-on weight.

Travel Adapter

I use a Travel Inspira Universal All in One Worldwide Travel power plug meaning I can use this tiny, light adapter in all destination except South Africa.



Eye mask

Gives you a dark space for that revitalizing power nap.

Ear plugs

Helps to reduce the engine noise, another power nap essential.


For entertainment.

A pen

To fill in those health/immigration/customs forms.

Book or magazine

I usually carry at least one book in my hand luggage, most of the times my current read.



I pack depending on the weather at my destination and length of my trip. The trick here is to pack an extra set of clothes to change during your 20 hour + flight or in case the worst happens, the airline misplaces your checked-in bag.

  • Outerwear – Jacket or stylish coat
  • Tops – light shirts, T-shirts, vests
  • Bottoms – Pair of Jeans and shorts
  • Socks and Underwear – No explanation required
  • Shoes – Light walking shoes and Sandals
  • Accessories – scarfs, hair bands
  • Extras – Painkillers. Just one or two. Some countries require you to show a prescription for any kind of drugs so keep that in mind.


Additional Tips

If you’re travelling to a winter destination, packing a winter jacket could fill your bag by itself. What to do? I always wear it.

You could also wear your winter boots. I know it could look silly arriving at the airport in a winter jacket and boots on a sunny Nairobi afternoon but hey, ask me how much space I save in the bag 😉

My feet get so cold at >35000 Ft, therefore, I always carry a pair of fur socks to keep me warm.


Do you have any other carry-on essentials for a long-haul flight that is not on my list? Please share them in the comments box below.


Happy Travels!

Carolina | My Global Attitude

Comments (29)

    1. Thanks Mbugua, and welcome 🙂

  1. Very informative…always proud of you and eager to read more!!

    1. Aww. Thank you dear. Stay at it.

  2. Great article! Very helpful. I bring exactly the same as you, apart from I always bring an empty water bottle with me. In some smaller airports I’ve been to they don’t have shops past security so I always carry one with me to fill up!

    1. Thank you Danielle, and thanks for the additional thoughts.

  3. Will definitely take note of this so that I don’t need to carry a lot of things during travels! Thank you for this blog! 🙂

    1. Hi Ani,
      Thanks for stopping by. Yes sometimes we pack too many unnecessary stuff in our hand luggage. Glad this article was of help xx

  4. Thanks for the useful tips!

    1. You’re welcome, and thanks for stopping by.

  5. Very good post, we always travel just with carry on and we use all the tips you are talking about 🙂 I love your blog, it has a good design and other posts are also very informative 🙂 nice 🙂

    1. Thank you fellow backpackers. I also enjoy reading about your road trips and camping adventures around Australia xx

  6. You are so details. I never carry hand luggage. Just my sling bag.Practically my passport, cash , cards, wet tissue , paper works and phone. I think need to practice that just in case my luggage got stranded elsewhere.

    1. You’re my hero! Just a sling bag and you survive a long flight, wow! Guess i always have too much stuff to carry, including my camera kit.

  7. That’s a very useful post. I think everyone should travel light. 🙂

    1. Thank you Andrada.
      Travelling light really gives you a peace of mind.

  8. Nice essential tips.
    Well articulated post. I agree, checking laptop charger can reduce your hand luggage weight.

    1. It does Bhanu. Always counts to save an extra pound if you can 🙂

  9. Definitely bookmarking this post for future reference! Usually I prefer to carry a hand bag and keep alll my documents and travel eassentials in the bag. This will be of great help when I pack hand luggage.

    1. Thanks Suma. Travelling light is the way to go.
      Happy Travels!

  10. Thanks for this! Now I have some kind of a checklist when packing 🙂

    1. You’re welcome May. Packing made easier 🙂

  11. Never thought to have extra passport photos, great idea! And a pen is a must for me. Great list! 🙂

    1. Yeah Jen you never know when you need the passport photos. I used some in Bangkok to get an extension stamp. And a pen really helps to save time at immigration.
      Happy travels!

  12. Rich stuff there! Kudos and thanks for always hustling for us to find it easy.
    Can’t wait to pack for my next trip 😛

    1. You go girl and have fun! Always so much joy to write about my travelling experience.

  13. What a beautiful post on hand luggage packing tips! I’ll definitely be saving this for future travels. Thank you!

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