This article is all about my must haves for packing in just a carry on. I think it is one of the best ways to save money and time when traveling, especially internationally!

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission 🙂

Sturdy Carry-on Backpack

The first and most essential item is a good carry-on backpack. I prefer backpack because we do a lot of walking through airports and on streets whenever we are in other countries and you can not always guarantee a great walking surface for a rolling suitcase.


I will be up front that this backpack is not the most budget friendly, but as much use as I have gotten out of it, it was worth the investment. The Osprey Porter 46 is my all time favorite carry on backpack. It’s so spacious, has so many different compartments and is so light! I’ve linked the exact backpack below.

I understand it’s over $100 but you may be able to find it lower at REI or another online store with coupons! Amazon usually has great sales as well. If you are a frequent traveler, it will definitely be worth the cost as it is the regulation size for almost all airlines for carry on capacity.


Packing Cubes

Packing cubes help immensely with organization, especially if you are traveling with just a carry on. You can also use them for checked bags as well to keep things neat in the suitcase.

I typically use just two for the backpack with one for tops and one for bottoms. I can usually fit about 3-5 tops in one and 3 pairs of jeans or 5 pairs of workout pants in the other.

Having the packing cubes makes it efficient when I’m pulling clothes out to find something to wear for that day. Not having to dig endlessly through the bag looking for a specific item is a big time saver, more time to explore!


Reusable Containers (small ones for makeup/skincare)

Reusable containers are pretty standard for shampoos, conditioners, and body wash but I also recommend them for makeup and skin care items!

Trying to fit a whole makeup bag or skincare routine can take up a lot of room in a backpack. If you think about the foundation bottle, moisturizer, serum, face lotion, suncreen, etc it adds up!

We usually travel at most for 10 days at a time so I take just enough that I would need for that time. You wont have to compromise your skincare routine during that time and you will be able to bring any makeup without taking up too much space!


What are your carry on packing must haves? Let me know below!

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