What to pack in your carry on luggage

What luggage and accessories you will need to pack for your overseas trip.


Luggage and accessories for an overseas trip.

Packing time is drawing near. Before you decide what you are going to pack, you need to answer the all important question, “What Luggage to take?” Also “What to pack in your carry on luggage?”. Below we have a few tips on the best luggage and accessories, as well as what to pack and what not to pack in your carry on luggage.

Your options are limited only by
a) Your airline’s luggage restrictions
b) Your willingness to pay for excess baggage and
c) How much luggage you really want to lug around with you on your trip.


What luggage do you need?

We truly admire those travellers who manage carry on luggage only. We have also been amused at travellers struggling with mountains of luggage, most of which they will probably lug around and bring home unused.

We have greatly streamlined our luggage and now travel with one 79cm wheeled suitcase, one carry on and a back pack between us.

There are a few points when choosing your luggage:

  • Hotel rooms are often much smaller in Europe than in Australia, so excess luggage can make a small but cosy room somewhat cramped. You may also need to lug your baggage up several flights of stairs.
  • Unless you are on an organised tour where your luggage is taken care of each day, when you are walking, running and manoeuvering on and off trains and buses with your luggage, you will certainly find less is more.
  • Internal flights, buses and trains will also have luggage restrictions, often less than your international flight.

Airline baggage restrictions

When choosing your luggage, do check your airline’s weight restrictions,  as the weight of your empty case will be included in this.

Most airlines will allow you to “pool” your baggage weight. Our airline allows once piece of checked baggage up to 23kg each, with a maximum weight per bag of 32kg.  So Ian and I can share one bag up to 32kg, (as opposed to two bags totalling 46kg)

We chose a lightweight wheeled case which we found on Amazon.  These are a lightweight “cell bag” which zips open into two sections. They are strong and durable, so able to take a few knocks, but light enough to easily wheel along cobblestone streets.

They also have  TSA approved luggage lock inbuilt, a retractable handle and are wheeled easily. Our only mistake was in choosing black.  Every suitcase rotating on the baggage collection is black.   If possible choose a standout colour like orange or lime green, or put a vibrant coloured luggage tag on the handle.

You will also be amazed how much extra space packing cubes can create. They also help you to keep your suitcase in some sort of order on a long trip.

Carry on luggage

You are usually also allowed one piece of carry on baggage (approx 7kg), plus one personal item – ie handbag, laptop suit bag each.  Ours is  similar to this carry on bag available on Amazon.

Don’t kid yourself however that you will be able to “just pop” things in and out of this bag during your flight. You wont. Clambering over your fellow passengers, standing in the way of cabin staff mid- flight, to “just grab” the toothpaste is just plain awkward.  The only time you will easily be able to access this bag will be during your layover, so think ahead and if you will really need it before your first stop – put it in your handbag.

Travel accessories
Travel accessories

What to pack in your carry on luggage

  • A full change of clothes – particularly useful should your checked luggage go missing for a couple of days.
  • Medications and toiletries. Remember liquids aerosols and gels are limited to 100ml per container and must be presented in a clear ziplock bag at security. Unless you really can’t do without a certain product, it is so much simpler to just either use the hotel shampoo or buy it over there. We found this toiletery bag really simplified getting through customs.
  • Passports, money cards and travel documents. A Passport Wallet is great for keeping all your travel documents together.
  • battery pack . This useful little iPhone accessory will give you up to five charges for your phones between being recharged itself.
  • travel adaptor– can be switched to any voltage if you are travelling to several countries is a must – we found ours on Amazon.
  • Travel neck pillow. Somewhat bulky and Ian objected to the space they took last trip, but this little pillow for me was the difference between sleep and no sleep on a long haul flight.
  • Lightweight rainjacket. These were a “must never travel without” purchase from our last trip. Light, zip up, hooded rainproof jackets that roll up to nothing in the bottom of the daypack.
  • A  small phrasebook if you are travelling to a foreign country can be a lifesaver when you land.
  • Your Iphone. We use this not only as a phone, but as a GPS, camera, and google research tool. We photograph our documents, keep notes and keep track of time zones.

I also take a small handbag, and Ian has a Day Pack large enough to carry all our needs for a day’s sightseeing. It has loads of compartments to keep things organised, and the strap can be worn across the body to help prevent theft.

What you wont need in your carry-on

  • Books. They just take up room and weight. You will have in-flight entertainment and can buy a book and leave it at your destination.
  • Hairdryer – most hotels have them
  • Food and drink – you will lose it at customs.
  • Knives, scissors, nail files and any sharp implement. You will create an embarrassing scene at customs.

A little final packing advice

We heeded the advice of a former London-bobby friend just prior to the last trip in choosing these accessories:

  • No wallets in the back pockets boys – a magnet for pickpockets
  • Ditch the “bumbag”. This nifty little bag secured around your waist does seem like a very safe way to carry your valuables. But it also screams “TOURIST”, leaving you a walking target for scammers.
  • Carry your bags across your shoulder (ie strap on left shoulder, bag sitting on right hip) making you much less susceptible to pickpockets and bag snatches. Similarly, a backpack on your back can easily be pick-pocketed in crowds such as public transport etc.

This post does contain links to Amazon for products we have used and would recommend. We do earn a small commission on sales, at no additional cost to our readers.

Read Also: What to pack for a month in Europe; Summer packing list for France; Summer packing list for Switzerland; Summer Packing list for Germany

8 comments on “What to pack in your carry on luggage”

    1. We usually have one bag full of “things the kids cant buy in Germany. We usually get a list including vegemite, milo, last trip there were two pairs of Dunlop Volley sandshoes, as well as the “things we left at home that we have decided we need.” At least we have an empty case to bring back.

      1. No, two of them went to study in Berlin after their uni degrees here, the other went along for a working holiday. All are now working and living in Berlin

  1. I got my travel neck pillow a few years back and don’t leave to the airport without it. Fantastic.
    I’ve always been guilty of packing books in my carry on. I will stop doing that. I either never read it on the plane, or read no more than 4 pages. What a waste. And I am always tempted to get a new one at the airport (past customs) anyway. So… next time I will ditch my own, and just get a new one at the airport.

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