Smart packing goes beyond just choosing your favorite personal item bag. You’ve got to consider everything from the weather to your itinerary and let’s not even get started on airline luggage restrictions. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with the ultimate personal item packing list.

In this article, we’ll dive into the essentials you’ll need to make your trip as smooth as possible. From tech gadgets to toiletries, I’ll guide you through what to pack and why it’s important. So, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer, you’ll find this list invaluable.

Stay tuned, and you’ll never have to face the dreaded “I wish I’d packed that” moment again. Let’s make packing less of a chore and more of a pre-trip excitement builder, shall we?

What should be included in a personal item?

Your hand luggage should include essentials like your wallet, ID, travel documents, and any necessary medication. It’s also wise to pack items for comfort and entertainment, such as a book, headphones, a travel pillow, and snacks. Remember, this bag is for items you need easy access to during your flight.

But what is not allowed in a personal item bag?

Prohibited items typically include liquids over 3.4 ounces (100 ml), sharp objects like large scissors or knives, flammable items, and weapons. Check the TSA guidelines and your airline’s policies for specific restrictions, as they can vary.

What is a personal item?

When you travel with hand luggage, you’re typically allowed two pieces of luggage: the carry-on bag and a personal item.

The carry-on is your main luggage that goes into the overhead bin, while the personal item is a smaller, secondary bag that fits under the seat in front of you. However, if you’re flying on a budget airline like Spirit Airlines, often you’re only allowed to bring a personal item and not a carry-on bag.

Airlines generally provide basic guidelines for personal items. While some have specific size requirements, often around 18” x 14” x 8”, it’s best to check with your particular airline as these can vary.

There’s also some flexibility in what counts as a personal item. Common types include tote bags, duffel bags, backpacks, laptop bags, messenger bags, purses, fanny packs, and briefcases. These options make it easy to choose a personal item bag that fits your style and travel needs.

The Ultimate Personal Item Bag Packing List: Travel Essentials

The Ultimate Personal Item Bag Packing List

Whenever I have to pack for my trip, I realize that the task is usually more daunting than it initially appears. No matter how small the trip is, there’s always something I end up forgetting. Often it’s as simple as a toothbrush or a phone charger but I believe that putting together an ultimate travel essentials list can solve this common problem.

I’ll share a comprehensive list of items that are perfect for your personal item bag. This list is especially useful if you’re planning to carry most of your clothes in your carry-on luggage and use your personal item for additional needs and easy-to-reach items during your flight. The idea is to avoid having to access your carry-on during the flight, keeping everything you need right under the seat in front of you.

If you’re looking for a packing list that’s specific to short trips where you’ll only be traveling with a personal item bag, let me know in the comments, and I’ll provide tailored advice!

Any comprehensive travel essentials list has gotta have subsections. Let’s divide it into travel documents, tech gadgets, toiletries, and miscellaneous.

Travel documents

Never underestimate the importance of having your travel documents in place.

·         Passport and IDs: Always carry originals and photocopies of your passport, ID, boarding passes, visa paperwork, and any other vital documents you might need. An extra copy of the passport won’t hurt.

·         Cash and Cards: Don’t rely solely on cards. Sometimes local vendors don’t acknowledge digital payments.

·         Travel Itinerary: Having a clear plan helps in making your travel more comfortable.

It’s a good idea to keep these documents in a specific, easy-to-reach section of your bag, like a dedicated pocket or a travel document organizer. This helps you quickly find them when needed.

Valuables and jewelry

It’s safer to keep your valuables and jewelry with you than in checked luggage. This way, they’re less likely to get lost or stolen. 

Tech gadgets

When it comes to electronics in your personal item, focus on bringing your phone, a small laptop or tablet, headphones,  e-readers, and their respective chargers. For longer flights, a portable power bank is essential. Arrange these electronics so you can easily reach them during the flight or quickly show them at security checkpoints. I would recommend you use a tech organizer to arrange your electronic devices.

Consider your personal item as the main storage for your electronics, especially items you plan to use during the flight. If you need your laptop for work or entertainment, include it in your personal item. Otherwise, you can keep it in your carry-on luggage. This strategy minimizes the need to frequently access overhead bins and keep your most-used electronics within arm’s reach.

Health essentials

It’s crucial to include a few health-related items in your personal bag. A small bottle of hand sanitizer and travel-sized wipes are must-haves for cleanliness. Don’t forget any prescription medications you might need, and it’s wise to carry a small toiletry bag with essentials like a toothbrush and toothpaste for freshening up during your journey.

When packing liquids in your carry-on, remember the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. This rule allows liquids in containers of up to 3.4 ounces (100 ml) in a clear, one-quart bag. If your liquids fit these criteria, you’ll have an easier time at security. I recommend keeping this quart-sized bag in your personal item for easy access during the flight.

Additionally, consider packing a basic first aid kit. This should include band-aids, antiseptic wipes or creams, tweezers, medical tape, and gauze pads for minor injuries. It’s also wise to bring along common over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and anti-diarrhea tablets. Keep these, especially prescription medicines, in their original packaging with any necessary prescriptions.

Regularly check and replace expired items in your first aid kit to ensure it’s always ready for use.

Comfort Items

For a more comfortable journey, especially on long flights, pack a neck pillow, a compact blanket, and noise-canceling headphones. These items can make a significant difference in your travel experience, helping you to relax or sleep better.

The idea is to make your journey as enjoyable as the destination itself. I always ensure that I have these comfort essentials within reach because they significantly enhance the travel experience. Why settle for less comfort when you can easily pack these items in your personal bag?


Maintaining personal hygiene during travel is necessary. You can get a clear toiletry bag to carry these items to pack in your personal item or hand luggage to make airport security faster.

·         Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Oral hygiene is not something that can be compromised.

·         Shampoo and Conditioner: Not all hotels provide these daily necessities.

·         Sunscreen: Wherever you go, protecting your skin from harmful rays is a must. You can also throw in a lip balm if needed.


In terms of entertainment, bringing along a book, a journal, or having movies and shows downloaded on your device can be a lifesaver, especially on long flights. Being able to immerse yourself in a good book or a show can make the time fly by.

This list is not exhaustive but it’s essentially what the majority of travelers should consider. Of course, the details would depend on your destination, the purpose of travel, and your personal preferences.

Snacks and beverages

It’s always a good idea to pack your own snacks for a flight. Opt for non-liquid options like granola bars or nuts. Bringing your snacks is especially beneficial if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, as it can be hard to find suitable food at airports or on the plane.

Here are some simple snack guidelines to follow, according to Fred Perrotta, the CEO of Tortuga:

·         Avoid smelly or spicy foods that might be disruptive in a confined space.

·         Choose snacks that won’t perish quickly, like fruit or jerky, but plan to eat them during the flight or discard them before customs.

·         Stay away from crumbly snacks that can create a mess.

·         Consider avoiding nuts if possible, as a courtesy to those with airborne allergies.

·         Carrying a refillable water bottle is also a smart move. You can fill it up after passing through security and stay hydrated without having to wait for service on the plane.

Their guideline echoes the importance of being considerate towards fellow passengers and ensuring your comfort and nourishment during the flight. As they put it, “Nothing beats being prepared with your stash of snacks and entertainment to make your flight enjoyable.”

How to Choose the Right Personal Item Bag

When it comes to selecting a personal item bag for traveling, the first thing to consider is the nature of your trip. Are you traveling for business or leisure? The type of trip will influence the kind of bag that best suits your needs. For instance, a business trip might require a sleek backpack or a briefcase, while a leisure trip could call for something more casual like a tote or a duffel bag.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing, different types of personal item bags can be more suitable. For instance, a backpack is my go-to choice because of its versatility, but for others, a tote or fanny pack might be more convenient.

You also need to always check with your airline regarding their size restrictions for personal items. Each airline has its own rules, and there isn’t a universal standard size. You wouldn’t want to end up at the airport only to find out your bag doesn’t meet the airline’s size criteria, which could lead to unexpected fees for checking in your bag.

By the way, I’ve put together a comprehensive review of the best personal item bags – from backpacks and underseat bags to totes and fanny packs. These options are not only designed to fit under airplane seats but have also been recommended by frequent travelers and travel experts alike. This guide can help you find the perfect bag that meets both airline requirements and your personal needs. 

Understanding TSA rules for your personal item

The Ultimate Personal Item Bag Packing List

Navigating air travel rules can be challenging, especially when it comes to what you can pack in your personal item. Here’s a straightforward breakdown of TSA regulations regarding liquids, prescription medications, and prohibited items, along with some airline-specific guidelines.

·        Check Airline Personal Item Size Policies

Each airline has its own set of rules for the size of personal items. It’s important to know these before you pack to avoid any surprise fees. For example, airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet have specific size limits for personal items. Packing a bag that’s too big could end up costing you extra at the gate.

·        Follow TSA 3-1-1 Liquid Rule

The TSA has a clear rule for carrying liquids on planes. Known as the 3-1-1 rule, it states that you can only bring liquids in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less. All these containers must fit into one transparent, quart-sized zip-lock bag, and each passenger is only allowed one such bag. If you need to bring larger quantities of products like shampoo, it’s better to check them in your luggage.

·        Properly Pack Prescription Medications

If you’re traveling with prescription medications, make sure they stay in their original packaging with clear labels. This helps you maintain your medication schedule and ease your passage through security checks. The TSA has specific guidelines on traveling with medications, which you should follow to avoid any issues during your journey.

·        Avoid Packing Prohibited Items

Certain items are not allowed in your hand luggage, such as liquids over 100ml, sharp objects longer than 4 inches, flammable items, and weapons. Keep in mind that some restrictions might vary depending on the airline and your destination, so it’s a good idea to double-check before you fly.

Remember, being well-informed and prepared about these regulations will help you start your trip smoothly and avoid potential problems.


What should be included in a personal item?

Your hand luggage should include essentials like your wallet, ID, travel documents, and any necessary medication. It’s also wise to pack items for comfort and entertainment, such as a book, headphones, a travel pillow, and snacks. Remember, this bag is for items you need easy access to during your flight.

How do I make a packing checklist?

Start by listing essentials based on the purpose and length of your trip. Include travel documents, electronics, health and comfort items, snacks, and entertainment. Group items into categories (like documents, electronics, etc.) to ensure you don’t miss anything. Review and adjust your checklist according to your specific travel needs.

What is not allowed in a personal item bag?

Prohibited items typically include liquids over 3.4 ounces (100 ml), sharp objects like large scissors or knives, flammable items, and weapons. Check the TSA guidelines and your airline’s policies for specific restrictions, as they can vary.

How to deal with overpacked personal items

If your personal item is overpacked, try reorganizing or removing non-essential items. Use packing cubes or compression bags to save space. If it’s still too large, you may need to transfer items to your carry-on or check a bag. Be mindful of your airline’s size limits for personal items to avoid additional fees.

Can I have 2 personal items on a plane?

Most airlines typically allow passengers to bring one personal item and one carry-on bag on board. However, if you’re traveling with a basic economy ticket, you might be limited to only one personal item and no carry-on.

Final thought

The Ultimate Personal Item Bag Packing List

So there you have it. I’ve shared my ultimate personal item packing list to ensure your journey is as smooth as possible. From power banks to earplugs, these travel essentials can really make a difference.

By following this checklist and keeping airline policies in mind, you can ensure that you have everything you need within reach. Travel smart and you’ll be ready for whatever your adventure throws at you. Safe travels!

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