How to Pack a Carry-On That's Actually Useful

Person packing suitcase with VIM & VIGR Compression Socks and passport

by Natasha Burton

There's nothing better than a well-packed carry-on when you're traveling. Ideally, you want to pack light but smart — that way, you aren't literally weighed down by your bag but still have all of your essentials for staying comfortable during your flight. The goal? To arrive at your destination feeling as refreshed as possible so you can enjoy your vacation, business trip, or whatever awaits.

Luckily, the most important carry-on essentials to pack aren't particularly large or heavy. (You just have to remember to put them in your bag!) Here are four key items to have on-hand when you're flying the so-called friendly skies, and why they are essential for your in-flight health and happiness.

Compression Socks

If you're one of the many people with sedentary jobs or suffer from poor circulation and tired legs, packing compression socks is crucial for a comfortable flight. But anyone can benefit from stashing these special socks in their carry-on. The best compression socks for travel help you avoid swelling and discomfort, both in the air and when you're back on the ground — especially if you plan to do a lot of walking at your destination or if you're pregnant. Plus, they'll keep your feet comfortable and warm during your flight. Be sure to tuck them into your carry-on to use on the way to your destination and on the way back, too.

Empty, Reusable Water Bottle

Air travel is super dehydrating, so refreshing your body with water will go a long way toward making you feel ready to go when you hit your destination. Pack a reusable water bottle you can fill up after you pass through security, so you don't have to shell out for an overpriced disposable water bottle at the airport Starbucks. You can also use your water bottle during your whole trip to keep hydrated without wasting plastic (and cash!) and then reuse it on the way home.

Healthy Snacks

Having snacks on-hand is key to having a good flight (because nobody likes being hangry at 30,000 feet in the air!). While your flight attendants will pass out the complimentary pretzels, cookies or nuts, these snacks aren't the best choices to stave off the mid-flight hunger pangs. Too much salt can dehydrate you, and too much sugar can cause bloating and, if you're going to be jet-lagged by the time you touch down, salt and sugar can make you feel even worse. So, avoid these freebies. Nosh on some unsalted almonds or fresh fruit instead to keep you fueled and ready to enjoy your destination. 


Most planes can get chilly, yet more and more airlines no longer pass around blankets to passengers, unless you're traveling first class. Pack a lightweight scarf that you can use as a blanket (and wear during your trip) so you can stay comfortable when the temperature dips. (And don't forget a travel pillow if you're on a particularly long or overnight flight.) Ordering a hot tea can also help to boost the cozy factor, letting you channel the comforts of home whether you're nestled shoulder-to-shoulder with traveling companions or strangers.


Natasha Burton has written for Women’s Health, Livestrong,, and, among other print and online publications. She’s also the author of five books, including "101 Quizzes for Couples" and "The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags."


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