Upgraded My Carry-On, Plus 10 Must-Haves I Always Take Along Whenever I Travel

Welcome to the 790th Metamorphosis Monday! Do you have any big travel plans coming up this spring or summer? I don’t have anything specific planned just yet, but I hope to focus on seeing more of the USA. There are so many wonderful states that I’ve never been to or explored.

A few months back, I updated my carry-on bag. I very much liked my Away bag, but unfortunately when I purchased it, Away was not yet offering bags with pockets for laptops. That’s important if you like taking along a laptop since sometimes it’s necessary to remove your laptop when going through security at the airport. (Note: Away now makes bags with a front pocket. If you have ever thought about getting an away suitcase, you can use this link to get $20 off one of their suitcase: $20 Off Any Away Suitcase.)

Away Suitcase with Tiffany & Co. Tote


This is the small, carry-on suitcase I purchased a few months back to use when traveling with my laptop. I chose a London Fog fabric/canvas style bag since those tend to be a little lighter weight for lifting to place in an overhead bin. Of course, wouldn’t you know the first time I used this suitcase on a trip to see family in Ohio, I was told that I didn’t need to remove my laptop to place it in a separate bin like has so often been required in the past. Ha! Though I’ve had Global Entry/TSA for many years, I’ve still always had to remove it in the past. Not sure what has changed.

London Fog Plaid Carry-On Bag


This is the big suitcase I’ve always used/checked when going on longer trips. I can’t tell you how much I have loved and enjoyed this suitcase! I love the plaid color; it has always been super easy to spot on a carousel. It holds a ton and being made from a heavy fabric/canvas material, it is pretty lightweight for being such a big bag.

How I Pack my Suitcase for Travel


That bag gallantly took me through 11 countries over the space of 5 years, not to mention countless trips to visit family. It finally met with disaster on my last trip to see family when one of its wheels was shattered at some point. The bag was just starting to get a bit frayed at one of its seams, so I knew its days were numbered even before the wheel incident.


My much-loved suitcase with the broken wheel is a London Fog, purchased for around $100 in Marshall’s back around 2015, so I stopped by Marshall’s recently to see what large suitcases they had in stock. They had plenty of small, carry-on size London Fog suitcases, but none in the large suitcase size. I only saw the poly-carbonate kind in the bigger size. I decided to wait until I got back home to see what I could find online and here’s what I found. I really like this London Fog set and it’s very reasonably priced for so many pieces! I like suitcases that are easy to spot on the carousel at airports and the brown accent on this set would help with that.



It also comes in this pretty gray color that looks very sophisticated. Both of these sets are available here: London Fog Luggage.



Do you use packing cubes when you travel? I’ve tried them and just couldn’t make all my stuff fit the way I wanted. I tend to overpack whenever I travel so that’s probably why I couldn’t make the packing cubes work, but I love the idea of being able to sort and organize clothes because that way, when you reach your destination, to unpack all you have to do is lift the cubes out and place them in the drawers. If you’ll be traveling this year and would like to try packing cubes, you’ll find a lot of different sets from which to choose here: Packing Cubes and Organizers. I may try them again because I love the concept!



Another must for me (especially since I tend to stuff my suitcase to the brim) is a luggage scale. I don’t want the anxiety of wondering all the way to the airport if my suitcase is going to be overweight, so I always weigh my large suitcase with a little digital handheld device. This is the one I use and I have found it to be incredibly accurate. Whatever it shows is always what my suitcase weighs at the airport. Great peace of mind! The one I like and use is available here: Luggage Scale.

Weighing Suitcase Before Flying for Travel


I don’t ever travel without my Bose noise-canceling earbuds! Not only do they make the plane ride so much more enjoyable, but they have saved me many times when I’ve found myself in a noisy hotel with music blaring outside, or on a ship with paper-thin walls. They have been a lifesaver! I use mine here at home when I’m working at my computer and my grass or a neighbor’s grass is being cut. You don’t even have to have music or anything playing to activate the noise-canceling feature. Love that! I take them along anytime I know I will be waiting in a long line or stuck in a waiting room because I can listen to Audible books via my phone while I wait.

Bose Wireless Earbuds


Bose has come out with a newer style case now that may fit even better into most handbags and pockets. You’ll find the newest version of their awesome earbuds here: Bose Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds in 3 Colors.



You know any post sharing my favorite must-have travel items has to include my Travelon bag!

Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag for Travel


This was THE bag that foiled a pickpocket thief in Egypt when she tried her best to scan my credit cards while I was shopping in a public market. See those pockets containing my Passport, credit card, debit card, and ID? Those are all RFID protected so that’s why her repeated attempts to scan them failed.

RFID Pockets, Travelon Travel Bag


I especially enjoy this bag when traveling because it contains pockets on both sides that are perfect for carrying a water bottle, an umbrella, or both! Definitely a great bag for travel! You’ll find it available in a bunch of different colors here: Travelon Bag. You can see all the styles of RFID protected bags and accessories that they offer here: Travelon Bags and Accessories.  (Read how this bag kept a thief from stealing all my credit card numbers while traveling in Cairo, Egypt in this post: How I Foiled a Pickpocket Thief in the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar in Cairo.)

Best Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag, Holds Water Bottle


If you’ll be traveling out of the country this year and are in need of a passport cover, this one is RFID-protected.


I read that the chip that is embedded in our passports is RFID protected, but I still like the idea of having a passport cover that’s also RFID protected, especially if I’m sticking my Driver’s License or a credit card inside as I’m walking through the airport.



You’ll find the passport above in a lot of pretty designs here: Passport Holder with RFID Blocking. They have some really cute designs!


If you prefer a more low-key passport cover, this leather passport also offers RFID protection. It’s available here: Leather Passport.


I’ve tried several toiletry bags over the years and the next two I’m sharing are by far my favorites. I love how much room they offer and how they can be hung for easy access on a towel bar in a bathroom when traveling.


This one even has a spot especially designed to hold makeup brushes. I don’t use those, so I just use this area to store other items. This bag is available in 5 colors here: Toiletry Bag in 5 Colors.



This is the other travel toiletry bag that I really enjoy using when I travel.



It comes with a separate see-through pouch, as well. You’ll find it available in 7 colors here: Toiletry Bag in 7 Colors.



A lovely BNOTP reader recently emailed to ask for a link to the Tiffany-colored, travel jewelry box that I shared at some time in the past. I wasn’t sure which one it was but while trying to find it again, I found this one that has great reviews. This may be the one I shared previously since it’s the color she mentioned. If you love taking along a little jewelry when you travel, I like how this one secures necklaces so they don’t get all tangled. Check out the reviews and details for this jewelry box here: Travel Jewelry Box.


Since I’m always taking my laptop, earbuds, phone, etc… along on trips, a voltage converter/charging station that I can trust is always a must! I always tuck it away inside my carry-on bag so I know it won’t get lost in my checked luggage. This one is compact so it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my suitcase and it lets me charge up to 7 things at one time. It is always the very first thing I pull out of my suitcase when I arrive in my room. I can’t really explain how much peace of mind it gives, and the convenience it offers is awesome! I like it so much, I have a spare one just in case I accidentally leave it somewhere when traveling, although that has never happened, so far. After many, many trips, my original one is still going strong. You’ll find it available here: Converter/Charging Station.

I’m sure I’ve left something out but I’ll end with my favorite travel pillow for catching some Zzzzzzs on long plane trips. It’s super easy to blow up, only takes a few seconds, and then easily deflates so you can tuck it back into your carry-on or personal item before getting off the plane. Funny story: I had this pillow with me on a long flight once and used it during the flight. When I awoke, the guy sitting next to me said I slept a long time–he was impressed! lol He wanted to know where I had gotten my pillow and said he was going to order one as soon as he got back home. It is comfortable!


I love how compact it rolls up, too! No big puffy pillow to lug around the rest of the trip! There are some great photos of the many ways it can be used for sleeping while sitting up here: Travel Pillow.


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  1. Susan, you always have the very best suggestions for making life easier! I have the travel pillow, which I’ve used on several trips, and I’ve given them as gifts, too. Like you, I’m finding it necessary to replace older, much-loved luggage. More often than not, I end up purchasing something you’ve already suggested, even after I’ve culled through several websites on my own. No big trips on the horizon for me this year, but I’m working on a big trip for 2025. You can never start planning too soon! Happy travels!

  2. You are a professional traveler Susan! You inspired me to get a new crossbody bag with a water bottle holder, Thank you, it’s coming tomorrow!

    • Hope you love it, Jenna! It was an absolute must when I was in Morocco and Egypt since we couldn’t drink anything but bottled water.

  3. Thanks for having us over, Susan. Love your plaid suitcase, but it sounds like you got your money’s worth out of it. Happy Week!

    • lol I guess I did. I wish I could find another plaid one just like it—I love the colors in that particular plaid! Have a wonderful week, Debra!

  4. Before I went to New Zealand 8 years ago, I read your review of the Travelon bag, so of course that’s what I bought. I was taking connecting flights and didn’t want to have by bag scanned by anyone when I went through the airports. Since then, it’s the only bag I take on flights with me.

    • I’m so glad you had it on those trips, Brigitte. It’s the only bag I take when traveling–so glad I had it that time in Egypt! It makes me wonder how many other times it may have saved me that I don’t even know about.

  5. Hi Susan – I hear you! Recent travels show you never know when you have to pull out your laptop, or your phone, or bracelet, or your toiletries. We bought luggage very similar to yours – Chaps – at Kohls about 7 years ago. It is burgundy, easy to spot, and is holding up okay. Also got very similar carry on bags last year to make going through the airport easier. I am intrigued by the commercials I see for those suitcases that you pack like a closet shelf…I think they are called Solgaard. Might be an option next time. YES to Travelon purses…I have two ( black and tan ) and love them! Also use packing cubes, but like you…I over pack and stuff them too much. Wherever you travel this year, hope you have safe travels and wonderful times !

    • Oh, I haven’t seen those bags, that sounds interesting, though. Thanks, Ann! I hope to do a bit of traveling this year. I’ve been so focused on home upgrades that I haven’t taken time to go anywhere in a quite a while. I hope you have some fun trips planned!

  6. Great post Susan – I love all your travel recommendations! Thanks for hosting, too, as always! Hope you have another lovely week!

  7. Michele M. says

    What an informative and helpful post, Susan! Thank you for making it easy to decide and upgrade. You are the big traveler and in my opinion an absolute expert. Appreciate this info. : – )

  8. I’ve been very pleased with my Monos luggage. I chose it over Away.

  9. Susan,
    Thanks so much for hosting this lovely party!! I really appreciate the time and effort that goes into it along with visiting all the links!! I hope you are having a great week!! And thanks for providing so much inspiration!!
    Debbie-Dabble Blog

  10. Thanks for all your wonderful suggestions.
    I love my Travelon bags – one in Nutmeg and one in Midnight. They hold everything I could possibly need and fit so comfortably. I did purchase a zip-on shoulder pad to ease the pressure of the strap on my shoulder when I overload it. I like to take a refillable water bottle and they can get a bit heavy.

    I am a big fan of packing cubes. When traveling my husband and I each pack an extra set of clothes to put in our carry on in the event our luggage gets lost and the cubes are great for that. We also use them for general packing. Hubby was resistant at first, but is now a convert (so are many of my family members after receiving them for gifts, haha)! I have purchased several different brands but really love the Amazon Basics brand the best. So many varieties of sizes to choose from and great color selections.

    I have a very old toiletry bag I purchased at Target many moons ago. It is beginning to show its age, so I am eyeballing that Bagsmart as it more closely resembles my old Target bag. I have a jewelry organizer and electronics organizer from Bagsmart and I really like their quality. The electronics organizer holds so many adapters, converters, chargers and even my Kindle, and was perfect for a two week road trip we took through France last year. We will take it for an upcoming road trip to the UK – you never know what you might need when staying at short-term rentals.

    Happy travels!

    • That’s one of the things I love about Travelon bags, too—how comfortable they are when wearing them. They just kinda mold to the body, and you forget you’re wearing them. Oh, the zip-on shoulder strap sounds like a good idea when carrying a heavier water bottle.
      I should give packing cubes another try. I’m especially challenged with my packing in the winter because I love hoodies and sweaters and take up a ridiculous amount of space. lol

  11. Robin Lambert says

    I always include an extension cord when traveling. I have a C-pap that I must sleep with, and there isn’t always a convenient outlet, especially in Europe. I have the charger you have also. And 2 converters.
    You might want to try some compression packing cubes. You fill them, then there’s a zipper that pulls it down tighter. It doesn’t cause wrinkles, just gets the air out.

    • Oh, I didn’t know about the compression type…interesting! Maybe those would work for me, I like the idea that you can compress clothing down, especially when packing for winter since winter clothes can be so bulky. Thanks for that tip on those, Robin!

  12. I have been to all 50 states and several foreign countries. I just came home from a cruise yesterday! Whenever I travel I always send a secret thank you to whoever decided to make luggage with wheels. That is the best. I do not overpack and I have never tried packing cubes. I am curious about them though. I have a friend who is just beginning to travel. Your post gave me several ideas of gifts to give her. I do have a Travelon bag but I usually carry something smaller. My top 5 states to visit are Hawaii, Oregon, California, Utah and Pennsylvania. If you are traveling with kids, I recommend cabins in state parks. Pennsylvania has some really nice cabins. I am sure other states have nice cabins too. My toiletry bag is always ready to go. I always enjoy your columns.

    • I know! I remember back in the day (like waaaay back in the day) buying rather expensive Hartmann Tweed Luggage and being so proud to own a couple of pieces, but oh my gosh, it was heavy! That was before wheeled luggage became a thing. I would love to see more of the northeast and everything out west! I need to get cracking–not getting any younger! lol

  13. Hi,
    If you’re interested in packing cubes, there’s a better and cheaper way to get the same result: use your mesh laundry bags. They come in various sizes and have no hard edges or corners, so you can easily squish them into all the little nooks and crannies in your suitcase. And you can put them into a hotel drawer just like a real packing cube. They’re a great way to corral your socks, nylons, undies, T shirts etc., etc.,
    Enjoy !

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