What’s in My Carry On?

I’m a super light packer. I’m very disciplined with what I bring on trips. Whether it’s a few days to a few weeks or more, I rarely check a bag. The only time I might check a bag is if I’m doing a big expedition like to the South Pole where I need a heavy gear bag or attending a conference, trade show or multiday event where I need multiple suits and a garment bag. Checking bags adds stress and time to the already convoluted and annoying process that is travel. So I figure I may as well just totally avoid it. So what’s in my carry on?
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on
First, my toiletry bag is kept to a minimum. I carry the essentials of course like toothbrush, small toothpaste, nail clippers, small electric shaver, Advil, deodorant and any prescriptions or over the counter medicines I think I might need depending where I’m going. That’s it and it’s always placed on the top of my carry on in case I need to access it quickly or on the plane so I don’t have to go digging.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, toiletry bag, eagle creek
As far as pants, jeans and shorts I bring the minimum possible. For instance I’ll usually wear either a pair of jeans or cargo shorts on the plane depending on the temperature where I’m going or coming from. I’ll put the other in my carry on.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, cargo shorts, Ralph Lauren
I’ll also always have a pair of basketball shorts for bumming around the room, working out or whatever. Depending what I’m doing I may bring a pair of slacks or khakis but truthfully I try to avoid that because those can take up unnecessary room and you can pretty much wear jeans to anything these days as long as it’s not formal.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, shorts
I know it may seem strange but I will re-wear shorts and jeans multiple times without washing them. I see no issue with this and I’ve been doing it for years. I will have the hotel do the wash when needed on the road, usually once a week or so.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, jeans
I bring several tee shirts in my carry on as well but no more than 6. These are generally generic V-necks or some shirts I like to travel with. You may notice from my photos that I often wear the same tee shirts when I travel. That’s because I know they travel well and feel comfortable in them, not that I only have 5-6 shirts.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, tee, t-shirt
Additionally, I always bring a hoodie or a throw over for planes and just in case it gets cold somewhere. I currently love my quarter zip sweater from TravelSmith I just got.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, quarter zip sweater
I always wear a pair of sneakers or hiking shoes on the plane and bring a pair of flip-flops if I’m going someplace warm. I’ll also bring a pair of shoes if I’m going out or wanted to dress up a bit. To that extent I almost always bring at least one button down shirt if not two. They’re light, fold easily and don’t take up much room. As far as socks, I bring multiple pairs and stick them inside the shoes or just ram them in where I can fit them.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, shoes, flip flops
That’s pretty much it for what’s in my carry on and oh yes, my carry on is an Osprey Meridian 22’ roller that I’ve been using forever. I did recently update to the new model of the same bag but I love it and it fits on almost all planes and it’s an easy gate check on smaller aircrafts so you get it back on the tarmac when you land.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, Osprey, Meridien
What’s in my carry on may be different that what’s in yours but the goal always remains to pack as little as possible. That way you can avoid checking bags, fees, potential lost luggage and hassles. Also, if you want to buy something along the way you’ll have room to add to your carry on. Less is more in packing and travel.
TravelSmith, Whats in my carry on, Merrell, sneakers
Disclaimer: I have a business agreement with TravelSmith and I receive financial compensation. Everything featured in this post I had with me on my recent trip to Los Angeles and is almost always with me when I travel (or something very similar). I wrote everything in this post and it hasn’t been influenced in any way.

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  1. I’m sending this to my wife. She hasn’t carried on in 10 years and is completely unbothered by baggage fees.

  2. I almost always unpack things I didn’t even come close to using.

  3. Great tips Lee and wow I could never get away with packing that little. Also what about underwear?

  4. I definitely spent at least $500 on checked bag fees last year. I travel for work usually so it wasn’t the money that was an issue but it’s just annoying. I especially dislike waiting for bags but there’s nothing I can do.

    • There is literally nothing more annoying than standing at the belt waiting for bags for an hour or so-such a waste of time. If you travel that much for work, try sticking to one airline so you get status and don’t have to pay fees. Although if you’re alway checking the only thing that’ll help is that you’ll get priority baggage which will cut down on time waiting.

  5. Great post Lee. I always kind of wondered about that. I always see a red Puma shirt in your photos!

    • Ha! Yes that is/was one of my favorite travel shirts. It actually has a big hole in it now so it’s been relegated to a gym shirt but I have had that thing for like 8-10 years or so it must be! Thanks for noticing!

  6. Nicki Beyale says

    Are you selling your old Osprey? I\’m looking for one! 😀

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