What’s In My Overhead Bin? Ben’s Travel Carry-On Essentials

What’s In My Overhead Bin? Ben’s Travel Carry-On Essentials

Traveling about 200,000 miles per year, there’s a lot of packing (and un-packing) in my routine. Over and over. Every trip is a little different from climates to occasions, but the majority of the time, my carry-on essentials are the same every time.


So what carry-on bag do I use? 


Depending on the length of trip, I have three go-to carry-on bags in my closet. Each one well suited for a variety of trips.

1 Day Trips: Timbuk2 Command Backpack:

Perfect for a quick day trip or toting my laptop to the office, the Command backpack from Timbuk2 has been one of my go-to bags for some time now. It’s got some of the best pockets of any backpack of ever used with both secure and easy-to-reach pockets. The padding for your laptop or tablet is generous and it’s easy to pull out your devices if needed at security checkpoints. I’ve put this backpack through a lot and it still looks a good as new!

2-3 Day Trips: Aviator Convertible Travel Backpack

The Command Backpack is great but not big enough for more than a day, two days if you pack super light. In comes the Aviator Convertible Travel Backpack, also by TImbuk2. The Aviator is much larger than your average backpack and designed to hold quite a bit. With comfy hip straps for a little heavier bag, the Aviator bag has become my most used bag for short overnight trips.

There’s two large compartments that can be opened to one large compartment if you prefer. I personally keep my clothes in compartment and camera and chargers in the other. The premium padding for the laptop or table compartment is incredibly well made. There’s lots of little pockets as well to keep a few of your favorite items easily accessible.

3-4 Day Trips: IT Luggage Megalite X-Weave 22.4 Inch Spinner

When I need even more space or I need a bit more room for spare pair of shoes, the IT Luggage Megalite X-Weave 22.4 Inch Spinner is my go-to carry-on spinner. It’s a hair shorter than the average spinner which makes it easier to fit in your standard aircraft overhead bin. Other than a very small ERJ or CRJ regional jet, this spinner bag has fit every time overhead for me every time.

There’s a smaller compartment for dirty clothes and toiletries plus a very large compartment for everything else. The bag has stayed in great condition over the last two years, traveling all around the world. The wheels glide easily and haven’t failed on me yet!

So what’s inside my bag? Here’ s a short list of carry-on essentials in my bag every time:


Everyone has their own “must-haves” in their suitcase and I’m no exception. The key is bringing all the essentials without over-packing.

Stay Charged – Universal Travel Outlet

Having a reliable conversion plug wherever you are on this the planet will always come in handy. Be sure to research a reliable outlet. My personal favorite is the Satechi Smart Travel Charger/Router with USB Ports. It’s got more than essential but it’s the same size as other travel chargers and it doubles as a WiFi router to add additional security to your hotel WiFi connection.

Stay Clean – Baby Wipes

Germs are everywhere and you’ll find that sometimes when you’re on the go, there’s not always a place to wash your hands. I’m a bit more germ-conscious than the average person so these are a must for me. You never know when you might want to wipe down a tray table or clean baby goat slobber off your paws. My personal favorite are Babyganics Face, Hand & Wipes which are alcohol free and gentle on your skin. They also come in compact, handy travel size packs, perfect for tucking away in your hand luggage.

Store Your Liquids – Clear Security-Approved Toiletry Bag

A compact, internationally-approved container to help you sail through security is a must. This will come in handy in a couple of scenarios. First,for domestic U.S. security, travelers who do not have TSA PreCheck and are required to remove liquids from their hand luggage. Second, most international security checkpoints, many of which require you to have only one clear bag no larger than a liter or roughly 20 cm x cm. I’ve experienced very strict security agents in Finland, Spain, and the UK. I absolutely love my security approved bag from Flight 001. I have found that I can avoid extra headaches by having a transparent toiletry bag so I can pull it out quickly in the security queue.

Take Great Photos – Mirrorless Camera

There’s no doubt that smartphones today take fantastic photos that often approach professional quality. Almost. But as a blogger and photographer, I need my photos to stand out with a greater quality than what a smartphone offers. While DSLR cameras are considered the standard for professional photography, I don’t quite want to carry around that much bulk. Nor do I consider myself a professional photographer.

Mirrorless cameras offer nearly the quality of a DSLR but a much more compact size and require less training to use. I spent a good amount of time researching a new camera and I ultimately selected the Sony a5100 Mirrorless Digital Camera and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. It’s a fantastic camera that doesn’t taking up much space in your carry-on bag while taking fantastic, high-quality photos.

Keep Track of Your Bags – GPS or QR Code Luggage Tag

You never know when you may have a bag misplaced or hopefully not,have a bag stolen. GPS embedded luggage is expensive and a bit bulky for the light traveler. A less expensive alternative are luggage tags with a QR Code printed on them. This way, anyone with a QR code scanner app can look up your specified contact info to help get you reconnected with your bags.I like the Dynotag® PROTAGZ series Web/GPS Enabled QR Smart MEGA Luggage Tag and keep these on all my bags. You specify what contact information you want embedded in the QR code on the luggage tag. There’s a also a hidden spot to hand write your contact info underneath the cover. Plus, they’re made of steel and incredibly durable.

Stay Dry – Ultralight Rain Jacket

Weather can be incredibly unpredictable. It’s smart to always have a microlight or trail jacket in your carry-on. I often get cold in flight or I need something to keep me dry in the rain. Jackets can kill your luggage space quickly so I recommend an ultralight windbreaker. They’re incredibly thin and surprisingly keep you quite warm. Plus, if you get a paper thin one, you can quickly wash it in your hotel sink without a washing machine. It will easily air dry on a hanger overnight. To speed it up, use your hotel hair dryer. Patagonia, Nike, and Mountain Hardware make excellent extra light travel jackets.

These are most of my carry-on essentials for every trip. They helps make my travel easier and less stressful without adding too much bulk to my bag. I usually also bring my MacBook Air although occasionally I leave it at home if I can get by without it. Sometimes I do need a bit of a blogging break for a few days!

You may have a few of your own must-haves for travel. I’d love to hear about yours in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “What’s In My Overhead Bin? Ben’s Travel Carry-On Essentials

  1. My must have carry on gear includes my camera and mac pro. No way would I trust a baggage handler with those things. I’ve never heard of a smart recovery tag before, something to look into.

  2. I like how informative this is! I’ve been looking into changing my camera and I must say I love the specs on the Sony one. It looks a lot more compact than my current one. Thanks for a great write up!

  3. Interesting reading. My partner and I travelled from Australia to Europe for 5 weeks with only carry on luggage. So much easier to access airports and train stations without lugging a suitcase!

Leave a Reply