Whether you're settling in for a long-haul flight or just a quick jaunt down the coast, a well-packed carry-on is a must—for practicality as much as comfort. To get a peek into the carry-ons of the world's most avid travelers, we tapped into our network of jetsetting hoteliers, flight attendants and trip designers.
Continue reading to discover exactly what they look for when packing, and how you can do the same with the help of our friends at THE OUTNET .
Journy trip designer Brooke Locke, who covers California (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Napa and Sonoma), Dublin and Edinburgh, swears by a perfectly-sized backpack. And given the fact that she's currently solo traveling around the world, having recently achieved her goal of visiting 30 countries by age 30, we're inclined to take her word for it.
"Since I work remotely and take my computer with me, it's super important that I have a carry-on backpack with room for a laptop sleeve that's going to keep my computer safe and secure. Having sufficient padding on the straps is critical when it's going to be worn on my back for sometimes hours at a time on long travel days."
Lauren Levin, Chief Marketing Officer of Moxy Hotels, agrees.
"I'm bicoastal, as the majority of the Moxy Hotels we're developing right now are in NYC... but I love living in Los Angeles, too much to leave," Levin tells us. "I fly between Los Angeles and New York City at least four times per month. At this point, I've got it down to a science and have learned to love unwinding on my flights. Because I need both hands and arms free, I always do a stylish backpack or a duffel bag."
For Rachel Lieff Axelbank, anthropologist and Journy trip designer for Reykjavik, Charleston, Marrakesh, Brussels and Seoul, the draw of a backpack is primarily practical.
"Assuming I wear it with both straps on, first-day-of-kindergarten-style, it's better for my back and reduces the risk of overusing the muscles on one side or the other, which is a low-grade injury that can snowball under conditions like a long flight and sleeping in a strange bed," says Axelbank, who splits her time between New York, North Carolina and Hawaii.
With adjustable shoulder straps and an internal zipped compartment, this leather backpack from THE OUTNET checks all the boxes.
Pashli textured-leather backpack
3.1 Phillip Lim
THE OUTNET: $492
"The theme of my carry-on is always 'I love pockets,' jokes Lauren Witte, Journy trip designer covering Mexico City, Copenhagen, New Orleans, Seattle, Stockholm and Washington DC, "so I need my carry-on tote bag to have an interior zipped pocket. This is where I'll put important things both big and small: passport, baggage claim ticket, license, earbuds—all the must-haves that might otherwise get lost in the abyss."
For Kelly Donahue, Director of Content at the Drone Racing League who's often on the road for work, a good tote bag must be able to fit an external laptop and phone charger.
"So many of the outlets on airlines are loose and cannot keep a hold on a cell phone charger, let alone a laptop charger," she explains. "That's why I always carry one of those external charging bricks just in case."
This bold-colored leather Smythson tote has a sleek outer pocket and a detachable pouch to fit everything you'll need... and then some.
Paneled leather tote
THE OUTNET: $497
Along the same line lines, this large white tote has an internal pocket and—get this—a sleek, zipped front pocket. This way, nothing will fall out or be exposed to others.
Betty large leather tote
THE OUTNET: $312
With backpacks and totes as roomy as these, you'll have no problem fitting extras like this handy, roll-up jewelry case.
Mara croc-effect leather jewelry roll
THE OUTNET: $275
And because no backpack or tote is complete without a stylish luggage tag, there's this studded number that everyone at the Journy HQ is loving.
Studded textured and smooth-leather luggage tag
THE OUTNET: $147
"I prefer something small and simple," explains Locke, "preferably one that can lay relatively flat and has compartments."
Enter: this rose-colored wristlet with internal pockets, the ability to lay flat or stand up, and just enough space to fit the essentials you need to freshen up after a long flight.
Toothpaste leather and canvas cosmetics case
THE OUTNET: $240
Axelbank's secret cosmetics case hack? Travel with two.
"One case of things that I'll definitely use, perhaps multiple times over, over the course of a journy leg: my ultra-fine point dedicated travel journal pen, lip balm, ear plugs, phone charger, ear buds, hair pins, hand cream, the big, dangerous hoop earrings I wear almost every day and my trusty reusable travel spork—and one case of things that, depending on the leg length, I expect or hope to use rarely or not at all but want to have just in case: band-aids, ibuprofen, melatonin, tampons, deodorant, a toothbrush and paste and a little makeup."
Molly Vita is Journy's go-to beach gal. She grew up on the beaches of Long Island in the Hamptons and Fire Island and is now our dedicated Bali trip designer, building out custom itineraries for travelers craving a dose of Vitamin D.
Spending so much time in the sun means that Vita is rarely without a hat in hand—as much for style ("you may be lying on the Jersey Shore, but throw on your hat and your outfit screams Capri") as practicality.
Speaking of dual-purpose hats, this wool-felt fedora is essential for keeping that airplane hair at bay while elevating your "en route" style.
Grosgrain-trimmed wool-felt fedora
THE OUTNET: $362
"I've always struggled with sunglasses," Vita tells us. "It's so hard to find quality ones with a sturdy frame ideal for tossing them into your bag or hanging them off your top."
Vita, meet these aviators. Aviators, meet Vita. We think you two will get along just fine.
Cade aviator-style gold-tone sunglasses
THE OUTNET: $152
Comfy, warm clothes for the plane
Cardigans, sweatshirts, pants, scarves and sleep masks
For Locke, the number one clothing essential for long flights are compression socks. "They keep the blood flowing and prevent swelling," she explains. Priority #2? Layers—a life-saver since plane temperatures tend to skew on the chilly side.
"I like to be as comfortable as possible on flights, so my outfit usually consists of leggings, a t-shirt and a light sweater because I'm always cold."
Levin is on the same page and loves to get cozy in a "socially acceptable sweatsuit—both flattering and comfy."
Outside of sheer comfort, a loose, soft sweater and pair of sweats allow you the flexibility to freely stretch, which Axelbank takes every opportunity to do.
"I can only survive long flights (and layovers) with multiple stolen moments of stretching, done in the aisles when I can or even at my seat when necessary, and occasional calisthenics at boarding gates," she tells us.
For Heather Dombrosky, International Nurse Educator (and side hustle chef!) who has traveled to over 100 countries to teach medical tech, a good scarf is non-negotiable.
"They allow me to layer up and still look cute in a light blouse or tank top," she explains. "And I can roll that pup up tightly and use as a pillow, or I just use it as a plain 'ol blanket to cover my face while I nap, or to shield me from the arctic A/C blast."
Fortunately, THE OUTNET has a well-stocked closet of light sweaters, chic sweatshirts and sweatpants, scarves and sleep masks to help you catch some zzzzzs—and stretch it out along the way.
Mélange wool and cashmere-blend cardigan
THE OUTNET: $249
Intarsia wool and cashmere-blend sweater
Chinti and Parker
THE OUTNET: $197
Wool and cashmere-blend track pants
THE OUTNET: $229
Printed silk-twill scarf
Dolce & Gabbana
THE OUTNET: $205
Printed silk sleep mask
Olivia Von Halle
THE OUTNET: $50
A secure, roomy wallet with zipped pockets is a no-brainer for Elena Eberwein, Journy's dedicated Italy trip designer who also flies the friendly skies as a flight attendant for American Airlines.
"I'm constantly on the go, so one less item to lose in transit is way better," she says. "I see people leave their phones or wallets or laptops or purses on planes all the time, so having only one [large wallet] to hang onto makes my life way easier as I make my way through airports."
THE OUTNET has no shortage of 'em on their site, but these two are our personal favorites.
Dolce & Gabbana
THE OUTNET: $264
Lizard-effect faux leather wallet
THE OUTNET: $312