Sometimes it seems like travel is my life.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

One of the pleasures of my job is the fact that I get the opportunity to jet across the world quite regularly. More often than not, those awesome travel adventures require a quick prep to head out the door to the airport. This is why I love to have my carry-on ready for when the moment strikes.

As you may know if you read my recent post, I’ve partnered with Alamo Rent A Car once again on a series of posts to help families get the most out of their travel opportunities. Alamo shares my belief in the importance of leisure travel for both individuals and families.

Today, I’m excited to share my ultimate carry-on packing guide with you to help you be ready to zip out the door, with enough clothing and toiletries to last you up to a week! I’ll be covering the four-wheel roller bag, a weekender tote and what to wear while traveling to save space in your bags, but still be prepared as prepared as possible.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

Four-Wheel Roller Bag

The four-wheel roller bag is where the bulk of your travel essentials will be packed.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide


The best part about packing your clothes into a four-wheel roller bag is that they keep everything in its place and optimize space, because it’s pretty much a well-fitting puzzle. Here’s a quick list of what you should put in those packing cubes:

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

  • 1-2 pairs of slacks or jeans
  • 1-2 pairs of leggings or tights (Stick with neutral colors that can be easily mixed and matched with tunics and tops.)
  • 1-2 tunics
  • 1-2 tops
  • 1 blazer or denim jacket
  • 1-2 long camisoles
  • 1-2 tank tops
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 2-3 bras (white/gray/black)
  • 1 set of pajamas

You’ll also need some footwear. One pair of wedges or heels for any special occasions or a night out on the road and a pair of sandals, depending on the climate, are great choices to keep you (and your feet) covered.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

Toiletries + Hair + Makeup

I’ve found that the best way to keep my toiletries, hair essentials and makeup tidy is with a trifold, hanging beauty bag. This thing is a lifesaver if you need to freshen up quickly in the airport bathroom before or after your flight, at a roadside rest stop, and especially when you’re at your hotel or final destination. Here’s a list of the items I keep handy in mine:

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

  • Toothbrush in case or cover
  • Hairbrush
  • razor
  • Travel-size deodorant
  • Make-up remover wipes
  • Beauty scissors (blades must be shorter than 4 inches)
  • Nail clippers
  • Bobby pins
  • 1-2 hairties
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Eye shadow
  • Eyeliner
  • Eyebrow filler
  • Blush
  • Makeup brushes
  • Jewelry (in press ‘n seal wrap, folded)
  • Fashion tape
  • Lint roller
  • Ear plugs

*Remember to pack a curling iron or flat iron for hairstyling. Don’t bother with a bulky hair dryer. Most hotels have those at the ready!

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

Weekender Tote or Large Purse

The weekender tote or large purse will be home to your access-while-traveling necessities. Things like electronics, small liquids and purse essentials.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide


There are so many bits and pieces that go with my electronics so I like to gather them all together in a cute clear, zippered bag or, in a pinch, a large Ziplock bag works great. Here are some of the things I’ll toss in there:

  • Phone charger
  • Portable mouse
  • USB cords
  • Portable phone charger
  • Headphones or earbuds

*This large tote is a great place for your laptop & charger and smartphone as well.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

Small Liquids Bag

I’ve found it much more convenient to have all of my small travel liquids in a clear, zippered pouch or Ziploc bag for going through security checkpoints at the airport. These are the go-to items I pack in that small pouch:

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

* Remember that liquids and gels must be in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers and fit in a single, 1-quart plastic bag, according to the Transportation Security Administration.


I enjoy traveling because it turns out that exploring new and different cultures breeds a ton of inspiration. I like to have these items in my weekender tote to entertain me during longer flights or to capture the things I’m experiencing around me:

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

  • Notebook
  • 1-2 pens
  • A good book (or two)
  • Snacks
  • A file folder with important documents (hotel confirmations, car service, event itineraries, etc.)


Let’s not forget the essentials! Finding pockets here and there in the large tote for these things so they are the most easily accessible is key. Consider these the items you know you’ll likely need to pull out often.

The Ultimate Carry-On Packing Guide

  • A small purse or bag for your final destination
  • 1 pair of fuzzy socks or compression socks (for international travel)
  • Passport, ID, cash, credit/debit cards
  • Medications in a case or pillbox
  • Travel tissues
  • Neck support travel pillow (strap this to the handle to save room inside the tote)

What to Wear When Traveling

I’ve discovered a few things in my travels about what you wear while traveling. Comfort and function play major roles in what I wear on a trip. Here are a few of my suggestions to save space in your bags and stay comfortable throughout your travel day:

  • Soft, comfortable clothing (i.e. tunic & leggings)
  • Heavy coats + jackets (these can double as pillows or cozy blankets on the plane)
  • Bulky shoes or boots (switch into those fuzzy socks when you’re settled in your seat)
  • A hat (if they are your thing or your getaway is a sunny spot)
  • Scarf

With these tips you’ll have your carry-on ready at the drop of a hat! You should spend your time being excited for the adventure that awaits you rather than stressed and worried about what to pack.

For more packing hacks to make it easy to head out the door, check out these 10 genius hacks for packing your carry-on.

10 genius hacks for packing your carry-on

I also urge you to join Alamo’s Insider Program. It’s a great loyalty program that saves you 5 percent on rentals. That 5 percent can really add up quickly and be used for even more trips!


This post is sponsored by Alamo Rent A Car.