Travel Carry-on Essentials

The idea for this blog really started with a gift for my mother-in-law. Mother’s day is coming up and on top of that, we’re going Hawaii with the in-laws in June. To marry the two, I decided to put together an air travel carry-on essentials kit for the MIL. She doesn’t travel often and is a nervous flier. On top of that, the trip is pretty long from where we live and we’ll be making it with two of my nephews who are both under 3. This seemed like a fun idea for a gift to make the whole ordeal better her. And since I’m a pretty well-traveled individual (lots of work travel globally), I figured I had the expertise to make it perfect.

I started by thinking about must-have items and came up with the following list:

  • Chapstick (the air is so dry!) – since our destination is Hawaii, I opted for some that could pull double duty of hydration and sun protection
  • Lotion (see note above) – be sure you get a bottle that is 3 oz or less to comply with carry-on rules
  • Power pack – especially for long flights when you plan to watch movies on your phone or tablet, this is critical to keep your tech juiced up; I opted for a solar chargeable one (you can plug it in too)
  • Tylenol – Babies on a plane – ’nuff said
  • Zzquil – see above (for the adults not caring for them, of course); this is an essential for me on all overnight flights. I generally sleep well on planes (especially in business), but sometimes I just need a little help getting there
  • Hand sanitizer – planes are perfect for finger food (nuts, chips, sandwiches, etc.) so this is a necessity to keep you well while encountering countless people and their germs
  • Tissues – ever cried or sneezed on a plane and DIDN’T have some? Yuck.
  • Water bottle with carabiner – while perhaps not everyone would agree with me, I feel that traveling without a reusable water bottle is crazy. Most airports now have water bottle fill stations, so rather than paying $4/bottle, I opt for my water to cost $0. It’s also great and super convenient to have in whatever destination you’re heading to. Also, let’s try to save the planet a little, okay?
  • Gum (or mints) – sometimes you just need a quick breath refresh and if you have problems with pressure changes, gum is great to get your ears to pop

Then, I thought about what other things would make the trip easier / create convenience for her / keep her sane. Here’s that list:

  • Ear plugs – I’m not a personal user of ear plugs, but they can definitely help drown background noise when needed
  • Sleep mask – most long or overnight flights give you a little care package; however, I noticed our flight offers ‘meals for purchase’ on the 7 hour leg, so I’m not holding my breath that they’ll give us anything extra
  • Nail file – there is nothing more annoying than breaking a nail and not being able to take care of it (I’m exaggerating, I realize, but you know it would drive you nuts for the entire flight)
  • Wet wipes – if you can snag a resealable package for cheap, these are nice for wiping down arm rests and table trays; I got this pack at the Dollar Tree
  • Organizer – I found this one on Amazon and managed to fit everything on this list in it (except the water bottle and nuts)
  • Healthy snacks – I picked up a box of almond and walnut 100 calorie pack blends from the grocery store and added a small bag of pistachios to add some variety
  • Aromatherapy roller ball “Travel” blend – as a recently converted user to essential oils, I saw this and thought it’d be a fun addition; I got this one here on Amazon; the brand has other blends, like Sweet Dreams and Energy
  • Curvy Man – headphone organization was never easier and he even has a baby carabiner
  • Flossers – double duty between the travel and your destination, these are light and easy to toss in your carry-on


Large Group Getaway Planning: Getting Started

Let me start by saying that this post is from the perspective of a woman with adult siblings with families. The information may be applicable to any family (young or old) or even a group of friends, but is particularly relevant for large family gatherings with lots of opinions, schedules, and ages to accommodate. Now, let me set the stage. My mother-in-law mentioned she and her husband wanted to arrange a family vacation for all of her children and their families. My husband has three younger siblings, two of whom have young children. My MIL was having trouble getting started to put the family vacation in motion, so I decided to lend a hand. Researching, planning and presenting are basically my favorite things, so here’s a what I did.

Establish the search. Where my MIL got stuck was at the very beginning – where to go. This can be a difficult question for many. But it’s easy when you start with a couple key parameters:

  • Do you have any travel restrictions? (within driving distance, domestic-only, flights under $x)
  • What’s your target environment? (hot, cold, beach, adventure, cultural, city, country, time of year, etc.)
  • What activities are you looking to do? (relaxing, sight-seeing, water activities, etc.)

Do some research. This doesn’t have to be a TON at this stage, but I like to look up a couple of suitable lodging options, a list of activities, and at least one picture. I put all of this into a themed template in Microsoft Powerpoint. (If you don’t have a Microsoft Office suite, you can download a great tool called Open Office that is completely free and features a lot of the same functionality offered by Microsoft products.) For graphic designers, this is probably elementary, but for the average person, this looks pretty slick. I usually make an intro page and a few additional pages to detail out each option. See example below:Family Vacation Example

Get everyone on the same page. If you have a lot of people in the decision making process, it can make things tough. However, if you’re family is anything like mine, you’ve got different schedules to contend with, so it’s important to get input. What I have found to be particularly helpful at this stage  is to create a super simple online survey. You can use a simple free tool like Survey Monkey and create a survey in under 5 minutes to send to your family alongside your presentation of options to collect their feedback. This is the survey I put together to collect some key pieces of information for our family getaway:

Make a decision. Now that you’re armed with everyone’s preferences, deal-breakers, and best availability, you can finalize when and where you’re going and start making your plans!


To learn about the next steps to Large Group Getaway Planning: Getting Started, read Large Group Getaway Planning: Book It.

For a related post about how I pitch vacations to my husband to get a yes response every time, check out my 360 Guide to Planning a Getaway.