starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on

“Gifts for the traveler who has everything,” may be a fun gift list, but what about gifts for the traveler who has…nothing? Hint: these gifts for the beginning traveler also are good suggestions for  what to put in your own carry on bag.

When my daughter asked me to borrow my carry-on, but it turned out we were going to be setting off to different parts of the world at the same time, I put together a holiday package of practical starter travel gifts that will serve her travel needs for years to come.

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“Do you have a carry-on I can borrow?” my daughter asked. As a mom, my first inclination was to say, “yes.” However, I realized that we were scheduled to go to different parts of the world at approximately the same time. She would be flying to the south of France to visit her friend, who was on a research internship there. And the rest of us would be flying to Japan. I had bought her a big suitcase when she was living at home, but previously if she needed a smaller bag, she borrowed from the family luggage set. This time, she had decided to (wisely) go carry-on-only.

I have two, very different, carry-on bags and I could have let her borrow one, but I decided that she has a lifetime of travel ahead of her and that she should own some travel accessories. So. last Christmas, I decided to put together a travel kit for her — a good carry-on stuffed with (individually wrapped) accessories — the same ones (at least in most cases) that I have in my carry-on bag.

Here’s what she received, followed by a few things she didn’t get. It ended up being a great gift idea for a young adult who loves to travel but probably wouldn’t have invested in purchasing a travel kit at this time. However, the same package could be put together for a lower price — I’ve found some great deals on luggage at discount shops like TJ Maxx, Ross, or Nordstrom Rack.

Chester carry on

The requested item, the big-ticket item, the glorified “Christmas Stocking” that would hold all of the other things was a carry-on, and I knew she preferred hard luggage. I also knew, though she won’t admit it, that she has similar tastes to her mom — at least in some things, and this extended to cute, powder blue luggage.

After looking around in stores and online, I found Chester, which Amazon seemed to be promoting heavily in 2018. I fell in love with Chester myself but, alas, had another man named Samsonite in my life and another, more outdoorsy, one on the side called Eagle Creek, so I decided that Chester should go live with a younger woman.

Chester was good looking, appeared durable, and had a built-in lock. Inside, he was a pretty basic guy: no drama, just a lot of open space, and few handy mesh pockets for stashing stuff.

So how has Chester held up over the last year with traveling to France and various other local places? Very well, it turns out. Aside from a few scuffs from the typical assaults of travel, Chester is going strong and is ready for trips to Disneyland, Nicaragua, and, again, France this year. Chester is having more fun than I am.

I asked my daughter to write a review of Chester for the blog, but she’s too busy having a life, but here’s Chester going on his first trip. She got off to a good start, though on Chester’s first trip.

Things to Put in Your Carry On Luggage Chester Carry On Bag

Gonex Compression Packing Cubes

Chester needed something to fill his emptiness, and these fit the ticket. If you’re not packing with packing cubes, you should be. Packing cubes help keep your stuff from taking over your suitcase.

These packing cubes aren’t the ones I have in my bag, but I liked the appearance, and the compression element as space is critical when you’re just taking one small bag. They’ve held up very well so far over the last year, no complaints.

Other Packing Cubes I’ve Tried:

I’ve used the Eagle Creek Pack-It Spectre Cubes for a few years now and love their Eagle Clean/Dirty Cubes, which are double-sided to help separate the cleans from the dirties (and no, I haven’t had trouble with odor with these). The zipper on one of them, while still working, occasionally has issues now, but I tend to overstuff these.

I also like Eagle Creek’s Sac Set, which I’ve ended up using every day for various small items like camera batteries when I’m on the go.

My younger daughter has the Bagail Packing Cube Set in pink — they’re generally less expensive, don’t offer much in the way of compression (neither do my Eagle Creek cubes), but have been useful and durable for someone who doesn’t like to travel much.

But, overall, you won’t go wrong with most of the packing Cubes you’ll find on Amazon. Just get some. If you don’t pack with cubes, you’ll be happy you tried it.

Eagle Creek Wallaby Toiletries Bag

I have the Eagle Creek Wallaby Toiletries bag,  and it has served me well, so I got the same for my daughter.
Mine is much-loved, and you can tell but, structurally, it has held up well, and you cannot beat the capacity of this. Yes, it invites putting a lot of stuff inside, but you can scale it down if you have to for traveling with one bag.

starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on

Oooh! Look at all those pocketses! Enough to hold multiple bottles of contact lens solution, makeup, electric toothbrush, travel hairdryer, travel straightener, hairspray, hair curling gel, hair straightening gel, night cream, day cream, sunblock… Wait! You shouldn’t pack all these things if you’re going carry on only! And, if you do, you’ll want to make sure you put those liquid-y items into a ziplock bag and have them available for inspection. But a ziplock bag isn’t fancy enough for Chester so…

Voilà! The TSA-Approved Toiletry Bag Set

I actually don’t remember if I got these to put in Chester — but I should have. I have a few and, while you can use a ziplock bag, these TSA-approved toiletries bags are more durable and precisely the right size for those liquid toiletries. I keep mine in the small backpack that goes under my seat when I travel carry-on, and it’s easy to pull it out for inspection at security as necessary.

Travel Clothesline

The last thing I want to be doing when I travel is washing clothes. But I’d rather be doing that than trying to navigate subways with multi-luggage! Even if you’re staying somewhere that has a washer, you might find it doesn’t always have a dryer, and having a clothesline has saved me from trips to the laundromat. Douglas Adams said always to bring your towel…I say always bring your clothesline, too.

Travel Adapter/Converter

My daughter was traveling from the US to Europe, so she needed a travel adapter set that was also a converter. So far, this Foval Power Step Down from 220V to 110V has worked well for her travel needs.

It seems to have a smaller profile that the set I have, which appears to have taken to sometimes making a loud whirring noise. Chester would never stand for that!

starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on

Luggage tags

Chester is the kind of guy who likes some bling! So I added luggage tags to his accouterments. The ones he’s pictured wearing here are the inexpensive American Tourister Luggage Tags.

But if I had to do it over, I’d check Etsy.

Luggage tags make excellent traveler stocking stuffers — even if you’re not packing a suitcase full of stuff, you can pack a stocking full of stuff. And I love perusing Etsy for their handmade items. Here are a few of my favorite Etsy luggage tags (the photos are clickable to view the product).

adventure begins luggage tag starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on
alpaca luggage tag starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on
hobbit luggage tag starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on
star wars luggage tag starter travel gifts things to put in your carry on

And another gift I added to her bag that is a non-essential carry on item (but that I consider essential) is…

A Travel Journal and a Pen

 bought her the Moleskine Voyageur notebook because it was travel-specific, and Moleskine always makes durable journals.

This one has pockets and travel-specific features. I usually like to carry a journal that’s not too fancy when I travel.

However, I’m very tempted this year by this Adventure Awaits journal by Portland Leather on Etsy.

Things I Did NOT Include

You might notice there are some travel items I left out of her gift set. Some of these are useful things, but I had my reasons. Here they are:

  • Money Belt: I have the Eagle Creek RFID blocker money belt, but my daughter (a nurse) informed me that it looked like I had a colostomy bag. And it does look poochy under my shirt. So, naturally, I didn’t buy it for her. I’ve gone to wearing clothing with multiple zipper pockets when I travel and, if you’re concerned about identity theft, you can always just put your cards in RFID blocking sleeves.
  • Travel Hair StraightenerYou do not need to pack a travel straightener! And, so, I didn’t get one for her. But, I’m embarrassed to admit, I do. This is the one I use, and it is tiny and fits well into the toiletries bag I mentioned earlier.
  • Travel Blow Dryer: I have one and have never used it, so I didn’t get one for her. They take up too much room in your bag, and most AirBNBs or hotels have one available. And if I’m staying somewhere where they do not, I go au naturel.
  • Passport Cover: I have one and rarely use it. If I bring it, I often end up taking it off because it adds bulk and makes it harder to slip the passport into one of my pockets.
  • And, of course, things she already has or is better of picking out for herself like sunglasses, charger cords, books (or Kindle), snacks…

Maybe some other time I’ll write about gifts for the traveler who has everything. But I’m trying to convince myself that when it comes to being able to travel, less is more!

Happy traveling!