My Carry On Packing List: A Travel Checklist for Women

When we decided on the itinerary for our upcoming one-month trip, we realized right away that checking a bag on each of our planned flights would be a big hassle and an even bigger expense. I’ve been packing incrementally lighter for several years, but the idea of carry on only travel for a month is still intimidating.

A Carry On Packing List for Women | Pin this and save it for your next trip!

I’ve always loved to pack for trips. Part of this is the excitement I get from thinking of all of the places I will go and trying to imagine being there and planning the things I will need. The challenge for this trip is that we will be visiting very different climates during the Southern hemisphere’s fall season. Easter Island will be hot, while Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia region may get closer to freezing with high-wind and rain storms. So we need an all-season wardrobe that will keep us warm and dry, but won’t be a burden to haul around when we don’t need them.

Tips for Packing Light

Here are some general tips for packing light:

  1. Small backpack. I carry a Kelty Women’s Redwing 40 liter and my husband, Kevin, has a Kelty Redwing 44. We both like these bags a lot! It has a large main compartment that zips open completely, roomy side pockets and compression straps on the sides to shrink the load a little more.
  2. Quick-dry clothing. I pack mostly synthetic fabrics that are quick drying so you I can wash them in sinks if necessary.
  3. Layer! I get cold easily so I bring lightweight clothes that to take off or put on as needed.
  4. A lightweight laptop (if you need one at all). I’ve never internationally with a laptop. I’ve always been able to get by using internet cafes, computers at the hotel or hostel, and more recently my smart phone. But with the increasing availability of wifi, the need to back up the photos on our camera, and (last, but not least!) this blog, I thought it was time to try. I just recently upgraded to the 11.6″ Macbook Air. It is surprisingly quick, even when processing photos using Adobe Lightroom.
  5. Learn from past mistakes. One lesson I’ve learned is to never skimp on facial care products. Travel does awful things to my oh-so-sensitive skin. When I’ve tried to skip a step in my normal routine to cut the number of products I bring, I’ve come home broken out and regret it. Bring the things that are important to your daily routine, just, in this case, pour them into smaller bottles.

My carry on packing list for women

Here’s what I’m taking (minus the dog).

And again, this is a bit more than half of what my husband and I are taking together. I have all of our personal care, first aid and most of our electronics, but he will have our DSLR camera and accessories (NOTE:  Here is our associated Men’s Packing List for Carry On Only Travel).

My all-season carry on packing list for women:



  • A quick-dry pack towel
  • Travel clothesline (When I’m at home, I use it in the laundry room to dry items that can’t go in the dryer)
  • Money belt
  • Change purse
  • Both of our passports
  • One credit card (Chase Sapphire Preferred, no international transaction fees)
  • One debit card (Charles Schwab online checking–refunds all ATM fees, even international!)
  • Health insurance card
  • Notepad/pen
  • A handful of Moo MiniCards with our contact info (click here for a 10% discount!)
  • Folder to organize printed travel documents
  • Assorted ziplock bags
  • Toilet paper (for camping on Easter Island–I removed the cardboard roll so it could be compressed)
  • Emergency whistle (per this post)
  • Waterproof pack cover
  • Lightweight nylon daypack (folds into its own pocket when I’m not using it)
  • Packing cubes (I have this set of three in medium. I love the bright colors!)
  • A good travel guidebook, like those published by Lonely Planet. Personally, I prefer print guidebooks, but if you use a Kindle or tablet you might like their e-book versions (HINT: If you are only visiting one city or region and don’t want to carry the entire, heavy book, you can buy individual chapters of any of their book at Lonely Planet’s store. You can then use them on your tablet, e-reader, or print out a copy–and not feel bad throwing it away when you move on.



Personal care, cosmetics, and first aid

Personal Care

  • Eyeglasses and case
  • Contact lenses, contact case, and a spare set
  • Contact lens solution
  • Deodorant
  • Sunscreen (I use this one: It’s effective, natural, and biodegradable which is important if you’ll be swimming anywhere with sensitive, coral reefs)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Travel-size shampoo
  • Travel-size conditioner
  • Travel-size liquid castile soap (for body, laundry, and dishes)
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
  • Retainer and case
  • Tampons or Mooncup
  • Comb or brush
  • Headband and a few hair elastics
  • Clear TSA compliant toiletry case

Facial care/Cosmetics/Jewelry

  • Daily face lotion with sunblock (I use this one)
  • Cetaphil lotion (good for face/body)
  • Face wash
  • Oil-based cleanser (to remove sunscreen)
  • Acne treatment
  • Travel-size translucent powder
  • Concealer
  • Tinted lip gloss
  • A few pairs of earrings
  • A few brightly colored bracelets

First Aid

Update: I shared more travel health thoughts + tips in this post: My Travel Health Packing List

  • Ibuprofen
  • Pepto-bismol tablets
  • Anti-diarrheal pills
  • RX antibiotic (in case of more serious diarrhea)
  • Motion sickness medication or Sea-Bands (or both, if you are like me and prone to motion sickness!)
  • Packets of powdered ginger tea (a natural way to treat upset stomach)
  • Travel sized mosquito repellent with DEET (I usually try to use natural products, but I don’t mess around with mosquitos!)
  • Benadryl
  • Silicone ear plugs, like these ones or the kids size if, like me,  you  have small ears. Silicone ear plugs are much more effective than the foam ones but they are nearly impossible to find outside of the U.S., so I always bring a whole box! They are life-savers when you wind up in a noisy hotel room or you need to sleep on a bus, train, or plane.
  • Small packets of muscle rub
  • Antiseptic wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Neosporin (these tiny tubes are just right for travel)

Want to save this list for your next trip? Click below to pin this post on Pinterest:

What are your best tips for packing light? What would you add to your own personal carry on packing list for women?

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  1. Cassie,
    You are so prepared… I wish I was prepared like you when I went to Aus. I had to buy everything there and oh boy, shampoos were expensive.

    • Vee, I’ve read a lot of online packing lists :) So shampoo there was expensive, even for you after having lived just prior to that in Hawaii? Crazy…any ideas why that is?

      • Cassie, shampoos are expensive in Australia because Aussies don’t wash their hair often? Hehe… probably bc it’s an island. Darn, I have said two faux-pas in one comment.

  2. Woohoo! Happy to see you’ve included a safety whistle. No one wants to be chased up a hill by monkeys, right? :) Added your packing list to my resources page too, thanks for a thorough roundup.

    • Hi, thanks Jodi! You have a very comprehensive collection of resources on your site. Also, after we bought our ticket to Chile, one of the first things I did was listen to an interview you did on one of the podcasts I listen to. Thanks for your great work!

  3. Norm McKinnon says:

    I’m surprized that you can get thru the airport safety check, with all the liquids in your carry-on luggage? I’ve lost 2 x $14 pairs of Cuticle Sicissors and Nail Clippers @ BKK Airport in the past few years. No “sharps” are allowed. I also am stunned at the size of some passenger’s carry-on luggage!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Yes, no problem fitting them into our baggie of the allotted size! I’m surprised you were hassled in Thailand! Our experience has always been that security is only strict about silly things in the US (liquids, shoes, and most recently I was hassled for a package of spaghetti!) We’ve found airport security to be a breeze everywhere else. Nail scissors…sheesh!

  4. No makeup?!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Hehe, nice catch! The translucent powder, tinted face lotion and tinted lip gloss is all I went with this trip as it was mostly outdoors/trekking trip. I’d have brought a bit more if I were doing an urban trip (especially to cities in Europe, NYC, etc.) but I really don’t use that much makeup. The clothes are what I find most difficult for trips like that where you want to be somewhat stylish! On that note, I did feel like a bum most of the time in the clothes I brought on this trip :)

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      And concealer! I do always pack concealer!

  5. Brittany Beggs says:

    Thanks for the backpacking tips. Can I ask what type of hiking shoes you took with you? I’ve been looking for a smaller pair that’s not too bulky. The ones in your picture look perfect!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Hi Brittany, I’m glad to help! This is the pair of shoes in the photo: http://amzn.to/KR1SHp, I bought them a few years ago so there may be a newer model out now. They are comfortable and they are good for travel that involves a bit of hiking and less rugged, city trekking. While they aren’t fashionable (but what hiking gear is!?) they can pass for sneakers when you are wearing them with long pants or jeans, especially if you get the grey color. (Let me know if you get these or a different pair, I’m in the market for a new pair myself — I’ve finally worn this pair out!)

  6. Great list – furiously taking notes for our upcoming trip (well, except for the clothing of course!). Is there anything you’d add/change to the First Aid kit part out of interest?
    Nomadic Boys recently posted…Buying a good backpack for travellingMy Profile

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Hi Stefan, I’m glad you find this useful! And no, there is nothing I would change about the first aid kit. Everything was small and didn’t take up much space. If you need anything else you can buy it at your destination. There are some clothing things that I would change if I had to do this kind of a trip again — like bringing a nicer pair of sandals so I didn’t feel like a slob in nice restaurants in Lima wearing plastic flipflops with my skirt and nice shirt, but that doesn’t affect you :) Everything we took for the W-trek was spot on. Hope that helps!

  7. Thanks for the article…Will your medium ebags packing cubes fit easily inside the Redwing 44? Thanks again

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Yes, definitely! Probably at least four of the medium size would fit, depending on how full you stuff them. I usually only use two of them and there is plenty of space for other things. Safe travels to you!

  8. Quick question: all of this fit inside a 40L backpack?

  9. I just bought this same backpack and was feeling apprehensive about using it as my main piece of luggage on my upcoming trip to Europe. So glad to have stumbled upon your page to see all that can be fit inside – it has put my mind at ease. I’ll definitely be getting some packing cubes too – thanks for the idea!

    • Also, sorry if you have already answered this question on another post, but do you use a daypack/smaller travel backpack as your “personal item”? If so, do you have a favorite? :)

      • Cassie Kifer says:

        My husband sometimes packs a daypack into his backpack that we can use when we are on the ground, or out hiking in a place. I always carry my camera bag as my personal item, here’s the one I have and love: http://amzn.to/1ciIcut

        Have a great trip and let me know if you have anything you would cut, or add!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      I’ve cut back on the things I pack quite a bit since I wrote this (I should update the post!), but this all certainly fits. Packing cubes are the best! Let me know how it goes!

  10. Cheryl Reeves says:

    Love your post! I’m so glad I found it, because my boyfriend and I are finishing preparations for our two-month trip in South America. The last thing that needs to be done is organizing and packing our stuff, and that’s what freaks me out each time. It’s not our first trip, but It’s always a great mess when I start packing. Your checklist makes the things much better. Thank you!

    • Cassie Kifer says:

      Great! Glad it helps! I’ve learned to pack much lighter than even this in the years since I published this, so feel free to cut back even more from this. Safe travels!

  11. Lynn Reyes says:

    Very useful information. I love packing , too. My advice is to withdraw cash before you leave. Some countries are with cash-based society. It is really difficult to pay with card there. Greetings!

  12. Your list contains all the necessary things I need to travel. For me it is very important my luggage to be light in order not to pay extra fees. Thanks

  13. I always travel with my kindle. It is something that I don`t miss to put in my backpack.I love it! Thank you for sharing your list! It is really useful. Greetings!

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  1. […] ⋅ Post a comment Filed Under  packing tips, travel gear, trip planning Yesterday I wrote a post summarizing what I had packed for our carry-on only packing adventure in South America. Today, Kevin […]

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    […] should check out a great article written by fellow travel writer Cassie Kifer of Ever In Transit: Women’s Packing List for Carry On. She’s a minimalist when it comes to packing just like me, so I think her packing […]

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