8 Must-Have Items In My Travel Bag

When traveling I prefer to have a carry on, but there are also 8 items that are a must-have for me in my purse/travel bag for easy access during a flight.

I’ve written posts in the past about how I prefer to travel with just a carry on and how you can achieve that, but I also travel with a large purse typically as well. While I don’t like checking a bag, I also don’t like having all the immediate items I might want on my flight in the overhead bin because frankly, I’m so short that opening and closing the overhead bin by myself is just a nightmare, so really I’d rather not deal with it.

In the past, I used to use my Le Pliage Longchamp, but this proved inconvenient since I wouldn’t normally use that as my day-to-day purse, so then that was just another bag that had to be packed. Talk about inefficient. My new all-time favorite bag to use as my purse/travel bag is this Michael Kors large Jet Set tote. It’s a great size for everyday use, but it also has a zipper on top and lots of pockets inside for easy organizing when traveling.

On top of my standard things such as wallet, iPad, phone and headphones, there are eight things that go into this travel bag that I absolutely cannot travel without. They’re a bit more unusual than the typical items you’d think of, but I love having them on hand under the seat in front of me while flying, and I also love having them for when we arrive at our destination.

must-have travel items


This is more or less a given, but I love having it in my purse for easy access. Also, in general I prefer to travel with my passport because I feel more secure. Even if I’m not leaving the country I always like to take it because you never know when you might need it. I can’t imagine being without it and if I don’t have it I usually feel a bit naked and like I’m missing something.

Of course, not everyone takes their passport with them everywhere and that’s totally okay, but for me, it’s just something I feel much more secure having on my person regardless of where I’m going.

Eye Mask

I never used to be an eye mask person and it was never a huge problem for me as I was never really bothered by the occasional reading light belonging to someone else. However, on a recent flight to Abu Dhabi from Berlin we got given these eye masks by Air Berlin and I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. And you know what? It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I slept more soundly on that flight than I ever have before, and now I simply can’t travel without it.

I obviously got this one for free on an airline, but eye masks are bought cheaply and are such a small but hugely useful thing to carry with you.

Hair tie

This isn’t just for traveling, but in general life, I just cannot be without a hair tie. You never know when one might come in handy and if you’re like me you usually keep one or two on your wrist anyway (even though they look absurd) but you do typically lose them. Maybe that’s just me, but those pesky things sure know how to disappear into thin air, and god forbid they break. I can’t imagine not being able to put my hair up on a trip, so I always like to keep one spare in my purse, even if it takes me 10 minutes to locate it again.


Having a pen on hand is useful for so many things because you never know when you’re going to have an instance where you just really need to write something down. Your phone might be dead, no access to wifi, need to just quickly jot something down before you lose the chance, filling out a landing card, the options of using this pen are infinite.

There is nothing more awkward than really needing a pen and having to ask someone to borrow one, trust me. I’ll give you an example. When we went to Singapore for the first time a little over a year ago we were staying over the border in Malaysia and you have to fill out these entry cards to get through immigration and I didn’t have a pen. Swarms of people, limited pens and in the end I had to ask a policeman to borrow one and it was one of the most awkward moments of my life. Just, don’t, save yourself the embarrassment.

Lip Balm

I may be addicted to lip balm, but there are worst things to be addicted to. On top of that, planes inherently have very dry air, so my lips get chapped much quicker than they would while on the ground just out and about. It’s one of those things I prefer to have very close to me on a plane as I’m probably going to use it at least three dozen times before we land.

Hand Cream

The same goes for hand cream, I like having a little tube to take with me in my purse to moisturize in the very dry atmosphere of a plane. Usually, I just keep it in my liquids bag until we go through security and then just take it out and move it to a pocket in my purse and don’t need to move it again until another security line, usually on the way back.

This hand cream, Hands of Hope, is part of a wonderful line by Philosophy that I really love. The cream doesn’t have a scent, a huge plus for me, and it’s totally non-greasy. The same goes for their face cream, Hope in a Jar, which I’ve been using for years.

Tiger Balm

This little pot of balm is, according to the Singaporeans, the healing agent for any ailment. According to my little pot it says it can heal headaches, stuffy nose, insect bites, itchiness, muscular aches, sprains and flatulence. I bought this Tiger Balm from a pharmacy when we were in Singapore recently and I can vouch for the fact that it does what it says it’ll do. Rubbing a small amount on insect bites has helped tremendously and rubbing a bit on my nose and throat when I had a cold really alleviated some of the pain and symptoms.

It’s very menthol-y and it’s all-natural so I love to keep it on me for any minor health or skin issues I may have while traveling. While it is originally a Singaporean brand, you can buy it in the US as well.

Glasses and Contacts

This is not relevant to those of you with perfect eyesight, but any of you out there who, like me, need glasses or contacts to not run into a wall, will appreciate this. I usually like to take my contacts out for long flights, and always on overnight ones, regardless of length, so keeping my glasses and contacts case in my purse for easy access is really important for me.

The last thing I need is to be blind and fumbling around in the dark to get my bag down out of the overhead bin to retrieve my glasses after taking them off for an overnight flight. Believe me, this happened once when I slept through all the pre-landing things and then couldn’t see a thing as I was trying to get my bag down before we disembarked. It’s just one of those things you’ll be happy to have near you.

There are of course many other things some people prefer to keep nearby them on a flight as it differs from person to person, but these are the 8 must-have items that I couldn’t live without that you will always find in my travel bag. What kinds of items do you guys like to keep with you on a flight?

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  • Loved this post! Travel essentials for me include a book, passport, wallet, notebook and a mini emergency kit with gum, tide pen, pen, lip balm, etc.

    • Absolutely! I love having gum on hand because it always helps with my ears and the changing altitude. Plus, it can refresh you after a long flight.

  • Bree Hogan

    Definitely lip balm to combat the dryness that comes with being on an aeroplane. I also take my keychain containing some essential oils, a hand moisturiser and a good book.

    • Always great items to have, Bree! I’ve been using my iPad more and more for reading since I read so quickly I usually would need two for a trip, but I always need to have something to occupy my time other than the in-flight entertainment 🙂

  • Rachel Dean

    Great list! I would medication, a change of clothes, and snacks!! The meds and clothes aren’t exciting, but could be necessary!

    • Oh absolutely! If I’ve checked a bag I absolutely won’t get on the plane without a change of clothes because if the worst happens– gross! Great additions, Rachel!

  • I totally agree with the eye mask! I always take mine when I travel! It’s great for sleeping on the plane as well as the hotel.

    • It is! I used to be totally against them and couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want them but now I totally understand the magic and I’m never going back!

  • Oh my gosh, I’ve never met another Tiger Balm addict! Isn’t that stuff the absolute BEST?!?!

    Coming Up Roses

    • It is, Erica!! I’d heard of it before but I never bought it and when we were in Singapore I got eaten alive by all these bugs and it was like 10pm and the only thing open was a pharmacy selling Tiger Balm and I was SOLD on it from the first time I used it!

  • Taylor Smith

    I love Tiger Balm!!!

    • This is so exciting, so many Tiger Balm lovers! It’s the best 🙂

  • Is it weird that I also usually travel with a really moisturizing moisturizer or face mask? I find that, after a long flight, my face is SO dry and it will break out!
    XO Amanda | http://www.glitterandspice.com

    • Not at all, Amanda!! Planes are incredibly dry areas so it can really affect your skin. Once on a flight to Bangkok my arm got so dry it was literally flaking beyond belief, I thought I was dying! Lol. Luckily I had some cream on me to fix it 🙂

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    Such a great, practical list. Thank you for sharing!

  • Great list! My travel bag is pretty much nothing for me and everything for the kids these days, but hand sanitizer is high on the list!

  • Kelsie Kleinmeyer

    Yes yes yes! I feel like I’m always needing a pen, and who can sleep without an eye mask and earplugs on a bright and noise plane?

    • Absolutely! I feel like there have just been way too many instances that I’ve awkwardly been without a pen that now I actually hoard them to an almost obsessive extent lol.

  • Yes, I always have to have my contact case/glasses! I get headaches if they are in for too long so the plane is the perfect place to give my eyes a break.

    • Me too! That and my eyes usually get super dry and then in general I’m really uncomfortable, plus the dry atmosphere in the plane only makes them dry out faster.

  • An eye mask is so key to combat jetlag! And keeping lips hydrated important in low humidity flights.

    • Totally, Shane! I can’t believe I never used an eye mask before that flight because now I can’t imagine being without it!

  • Not having a hair tie or lotion drives me nuts!


    • Me too, girl! And the last thing you want is to have to buy that stuff at your destination.

  • Great list! Lip balm and lotion are so important – esp for long flights!

    • Oh totally. There’s nothing worse than dry lips or skin when you’re stuck in a long tube 40,000 feet off the ground for half a day!

  • I also need glasses and contacts to see, but I am always surprised by how often I forgot to pack them!! Great tips!!

    • Thanks, Angela! Hahaha, I know how that feels. When I first got my glasses and contacts years ago I kept forgetting to bring them with me whenever I went anywhere.

  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes! 🙂

    • Ah, great additions, Jill! I usually carry hand sanitizer with me but I always forget that I brought it and never end up using it haha.

  • Yup, I always take an eye mask with me now. It really does make a difference if you’re trying to sleep!

    • It so does! I can’t believe I’ve gone all these years without one, just thinking of all the missed sleep opportunities makes me so sad haha.

  • Amanda K

    Agree with all of these and I never thought of an eye mask!

    Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com

    • It’s so great, Amanda! If anything in the past I was against them, I don’t know why maybe just something about having something on my face, but after using one I’ve realized that in fact they’re so useful and can really help you get some rest on less than ideal flight times.

  • Beth Shankle Anderson

    Having your passport with you is always a great idea! And lip balm and hand cream are a must!

    -Beth || http://www.TheStyleBouquet.com

    • Absolutely, Beth! I think the one item I just could absolutely not be without would be the lip balm. I’d probably survive without the other things, but having dry lips is one of the worst feelings in the world.

  • Brianna Wronko

    Great ideas! I travel quite a bit and can vouch for most of these being super important!

    • Thanks, Brianna! I feel like once you start traveling a lot you just pick up the handful of things that are most important to you to have on you no matter what and it’s great when you finally know what those are.

  • I’ve written a similar article on my blog but the lists are very different, haha.

    I always have a pen and my lip balm with me. I also carry wet wipes and a hand sanitizer. During summer my trusty thermal water is always in my handbag to keep my skin hydrated.


    • Love your list! I’ve never used thermal water before but you’ve got me intrigued. I have to say I hate travel pillows haha. I tried to use one once and I was so uncomfortable I just haven’t bothered since haha.

      • Thank you, Hannah!

        I discovered the thermal water a couple of years ago and ever since

        is my must-have product during summer. I love it because it comes in a spray-like form and it feels very refreshing when you apply it. Hope you’ll like it as much as I do! ☺️

  • Great items! A vegan lip balm is a must for me! Thanks for sharing :))

    • Thanks, Rosalyn! So glad you liked it. I think lip balm is the most must-have item for people, and it’s not hard to see why!

  • Pingback: Top Ways To Prevent And Combat Jet Lag - Universal Jetsetters()

  • Yes to all of these! Someone asked me yesterday what my packing “must-haves” are and I said if I have my passport, glasses/contacts, and lip balm then everything else is negotiable lol. For comfort on a flight I like to have 2 scarves… 1 that can function like a blanket and one that I can put over my face if I want to sleep (my mouth hangs open aaaand I don’t need a plane full of people seeing that lol)