Need a one-and-done personal item packing list? Look no further.
Whether you’re traveling carry-on only or simply love being prepared, you’ll need a personal item bag that keeps you safe, relaxed and entertained on every flight. Luckily, as a frequent flyer who loves maximizing luggage space, I have a few tips to spill.
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Here’s the ultimate personal item packing list to ensure a great flight every trip.
What Does A Personal Item Include?
Typically, a personal item includes any bag that can fit underneath the plane seat in front of you. This includes backpacks, camera bags, laptop bags, briefcases, diaper bags, beach bags and purses.
Of course, some airlines have smaller personal item size regulations (we learned this the hard way in Bora Bora), but, for the most part, a personal item can be as large as a standard sized backpack.
Here’s the camera backpack I typically use as my personal item.
What Happens If My Personal Item Is One Inch Too Big?
If your personal item is one inch too big, the worst that could happen would be the flight attendants asking you to store your personal item in the overhead carry-on compartment above your seat.
In this case, just make sure you have everything you will need for your flight (book, headphones, laptop, hand sanitizer, etc.) out of your personal item before you store it up above.
While you can get access to the overhead compartment after take off when the seatbelt signs are turned off, reaching it is kind of a hassle. It will make your flight a lot more comfortable to have everything by your seat with you instead.
Can I Bring Two Personal Items On A Plane?
Technically, you can only have one personal item on a plane with you. However, airport shopping bags and airport foods do not could toward your one personal item.
Furthermore, you can usually get away with having a larger personal item, such as a backpack, as well as a small purse (fanny pack or small crossbody bag) on your body while boarding. Although this would technically count as two personal items, usually it’s not a big deal.
If the gate agent does say something about your two personal items, all you would have to do is show that you can fit the smaller one into the bigger one.
Will Backpacks Fit Under Airplane Seats?
Yes, most backpacks will fit under airplane seats and count as your personal item.
Again, if your backpack does not fit, which is unlikely, all you would have to do is store the backpack in the overhead compartment for the flight.
Are Personal Items Weighed?
Usually, personal items are not weighed. But, it depends on the countries’ and airlines’ personal item regulations.
For example, I had never had my personal item (usually my 20-pound camera bag) weighed until my husband and I were on our way to honeymoon in Bora Bora.
Shortly before check-in, we learned that our personal items could only weigh seven pounds. We ended up having to carefully disperse the heavy, fragile camera gear among our four bags in the middle of the LAX airport.
Moral of the story, always check personal item regulations online before flying to a new country or on a new airline.
Personal Item Packing List
Without further ado, here’s your personal item packing list — complete with entertainment essentials, health and safety must-haves, and, of course, snacks!
1. ID, Boarding Pass And Other Flight Documentation
First and foremost, you will need all of your airport identification essentials readily accessible. This includes:
- Boarding pass (or security document if you’re flying standby).
- Valid form of ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.).
- Passport if you’re flying internationally.
- Pen for filling out luggage tags at check-in or customs forms when traveling internationally.
While you likely won’t need any of these items on the plane, it’s important to have them on hand in the airport, during boarding, at customs and possibly even at baggage claim. That’s why it’s best to stow these items in your purse or backpack as opposed to your carry-on suitcase.
Next, you’ll definitely want your smartphone.
If you’re anything like me, your smartphone will act as your camera, in-flight entertainer, flight-update receiver, ground transportation orderer, and, obviously, main communication device.
Do yourself a favor and keep your phone inside your personal item bag, easily accessible. Moreover, I highly recommend storing it in the same pocket of your bag every time for optimal organization.
Likewise, if you want to travel with your laptop, it’s advisable to keep your laptop in your personal item bag — for safety and accessibility purposes.
4. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Next, noise-cancelling headphones are key while flying. Why? Three reasons.
One, noise-cancelling headphones serve as high-tech earbuds for music and movie audio. Two, because they are a lot harder to lose (and steal) than pickpocket-size earbuds. And, three, because they will eliminate the loud airplane engine noise and the sound of crying babies during in-flight naps.
I always recommend these Bose noise-cancelling headphones because, according to pilots worldwide, Bose is best headphone brand.
5. AirPods (Personal Item Packing List)
On the contrary, if you are trying to pack as light as possible or simply prefer earbuds over larger headphones, AirPods are also an excellent in-flight audio alternative.
I especially love that AirPods come with a portable charging case, ensuring your AirPod batteries will last your entire travel day.
6. Portable Charger
Speaking of battery life, you should definitely add a portable charger to your personal item packing list.
As previously mentioned, it is likely that you’ll be using your cellphone a lot during your travel day — from listening to music on the flight, to ordering an Uber upon arrival, to navigating your hotel via GPS, etc.
It’s vital safety-wise that you have enough battery life to outlast your long travel day. Bring a portable charger like this one so your phone doesn’t die.
7. Hand Sanitizer (Personal Item Packing List)
Moving on to health-related personal item essentials, I always make sure to bring hand sanitizer on every flight.
Between the airport and the airplane, you’ll be eating various times throughout your travel day. However, unfortunately, clean sinks and restrooms aren’t always available for a pre-snack handwash. It’s always nice to have hand sanitizer on hand (literally).
8. Travel Size Tissues
Similarly, tissues, napkins and, sadly, toilet paper aren’t always plentiful on plane rides.
Whether you bring a travel-size tissue pack (like these tissue packs) or a baggy with a few tissues, you’ll be a lot more prepared for unplanned messes.
9. Sanitizing Wipes (Personal Item Packing List)
Honestly, you never know when you’ll need sanitizing wet wipes.
From dirty airport food court tables to the questionably crumby airplane seat-back tray tables, a quick wipe-down will always give you peace of mind.
10. Nourishing Snacks
Furthermore, if you won’t want subpar, overpriced airport food, it may be best to bring some nourishing snacks along in your personal item, too.
11. A Comforting Snack (Personal Item Packing List)
Likewise, an airplane ride is the perfect time to treat yourself to a comforting snack, such as your favorite bag of chips or candy bar.
Not only will a comforting snack bring joy to your soul, but it will also help soothe any travel nerves you may have. (I personally find my regular Starbucks order — a venti chai latte with light ice and oat milk — to be particularly grounding on travel days.)
12. Empty Water Bottle
Next, to make sure you stay hydrated, it’s always a good idea to bring an empty reusable water bottle (like this trusty Hydro Flask).
The water bottle needs to be empty to make it through security, as you cannot bring any liquids over three fluid ounces through. Once you’re through security, you’re free to fill your reusable water bottle at any drinking fountain (otherwise known as a bubbler, for my fellow Wisconsinites).
This will make staying hydrated at your trip destination a breeze, too.
13. A Pack Of Gum
Before we move on from food and snacks, it’s important to also tuck a pack of gum in your personal item as well.
Chewing gum during take-off and landing will help with the plugged or popping ears you might experience from drastic changes in elevation. (My favorite aspartame-free gum is from Pur.)
14. Migrastil Migraine Stick (Personal Item Packing List)
This personal item packing list item is optional, but I personally always bring one with me on every flight. It’s the Migrastil migraine stick.
I swear by the Migrastil migraine stick for all motion sickness. It’s a natural essential-oil roller that you can apply to your temples and the base of your skull. Within five minutes, your motion sickness (or migraine) will be gone. Plus, the applicator is under three fluid ounces, which is perfect for airport security and portability.
For more motion sickness remedies, you can visit my post on the best natural motion sickness remedies for immediate relief. Otherwise, bring dramamine.
15. Lavender Essential Oil Roller
Similar to the Migrastil migraine stick, I always bring a lavender essential oil roller will in my personal item bag.
Lavender is known to calm anxiety. Between stressful airport navigation, chaotic security lines and occasional turbulence, it’s important to consider packing a natural travel anxiety relief.
Even if you don’t experience travel anxiety, lavender essential oils are helpful for sleeping, which can be painfully difficult in cramped plane seats.
16. Neck Pillow And/Or Eye Mask (Personal Item Packing List)
I have to admit, I was a neck pillow skeptic until my long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Tahiti. On that flight, I slept a whopping five out of eight hours, which is the most I’ve ever slept on a plane. Now, I always fly with this neck pillow.
17. Coat Or Jacket
Instead of a blanket, though, I suggest bringing the coat or jacket that you might need at your destination.
A coat or jacket will provide as much warmth on the chilly flight as a blanket. Plus, by wearing your outerwear through the airport, you’ll save a ton of luggage space.
18. Hair Ties
If you have long hair, bring hair ties. Trust me, the last thing you want on a stuffy plane ride is your staticy hair sticking to your neck and face.
Spare yourself the annoyance, and throw your hair up into a high bun. (Not a low bun. You won’t be able to lean against your headrest with a low bun.) You can thank me later.
19. Essential Toiletries And Medications
Ladies, bring extra pads and tampons.
20. Any Desired In-Flight Entertainment (Personal Item Packing List)
Lastly, keep any desired forms of in-flight entertainment accessible in your personal item bag. In-flight entertainment may include but is certainly not limited to:
- Downloaded music, podcasts and/or movies. (Download before boarding!)
- Books (Atomic Habits is a great airplane read if you need one).
- Work materials.
- Homework materials for students.
- Travel games, etc.
To ensure you’re not bored for a second of your flight, check out my post on productive things to do on a plane ride without WiFi.
What Is Not Allowed In A Personal Item Bag?
Items that are not allowed to go through airport security are not allowed in a personal item bag (weapons, sharp objects, liquids over three ounces, etc.).
However, note that liquids, such as water and other beverages, that are purchased after the security checkpoint can travel with you in your personal item bag.