When traveling to the U.S. I am a sloppy packer. I pack lightly and throw in the clothes I think I can't do without. Everything is so cheap in the U.S. (at least it is where I shop) that it's a good chance to stock up on the basics - jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, even socks, knickers, and BHs. Therefore I don't worry about clothes.
The carry-on items are more important because what's in there might keep me sane during the flight. Here's what I'm packin', in order of importance to me.
Passport & Passport Holder
The passport is the most important item in all of a travler's luggage, because without it, you go nowhere. I've been using the same ADAC passport holder for more than a decade - it has lots of pockets, slots, and zippered compartments, and I can usually find things quickly.
...and an extra battery. The passport is technically most important, but these have preserved my sanity on more than one flight, and I would never fly more than 2 hours without them. They are my best friends in flight.
Yeah, I still use one of those. I think everyone else uses their Smartphone, but why load music onto my phone when I have a tiny little device already loaded with everything I might want to listen to which doesn't suck the battery of my smartphone?
Normally I have one in English and one in German, wait to determine which language my seatmate speaks, and pull out the one in the other language. This time I'm throwing caution to the wind and taking two mini books in German - perfect travel size! They are Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama and Der Vorleser.
These are critical by now if I want to read, write, or even watch a movie. The screen is too close to my face for me to be able to watch anything in focus without them.
In case I get stranded in Zürich or need to look up a word while reading. In Wisconsin I'll also use it to check my step count on the FitBit app.
Tablet & Keyboard
I'll check my emails and Facebook on that while I'm stateside, and since I cannot type emails with my thumbs, I'll have the small travel keyboard for keeping contact with M and his mum back home.
I feel more talented with my bigger camera, but this one is better for traveling. I don't take photos with my Smartphone. We purposely chose a Smartphone with a less-than-great camera because I never planned on taking pictures with it.
For the various devices I have packed.
a Change of Clothes
In case my suitcase gets waylayed, lost, or re-routed to Madagascar. Or in case my seat neighbor spills coffee or beer on me.
Euros & Dollars
For obvious reasons. A credit card too, of course.
Just as I use a real camera instead of my Smartphone, I also use an old-school calendar instead of an electronic one. My mom started me on these Social Capers calendars during my college years, and although she has since converted enthusiastically to a Google calendar, I can't give up my Social Capers. Go ahead and call me daft, I don't care. In one glance I can see my whole week. I don't see the words "+2 more" on a day because the box is too small for all my plans. I see everything. Every day.
In this case leftover Lindt Osterhasis for my kids.
Wisconsin Driver's License
It actually doesn't matter if I have this because I can use my German Führerschein, but it's just easier for cashiers who have to check my age when I buy wine.
My Tax Return
Why mail it from Germany for €0,90 when I can mail it from Wisconsin for whatever a U.S. stamp costs these days? Expats get an automatic 2-month extension on the April 15th date (but I must include a letter explaining that). The U.S. is one of two countries in the world - Eritrea being the other one - that make their citizens file/pay taxes on their income regardless of whether they live in the country or not.
2 granola bars
That's about it. Packing for Scotland is much more complicated because we bring all-weather hiking gear, stay in a self-catering cottage or flat where we do most of our own cooking, and spend most of our time on an island where shopping is...limited.
What do you pack in your carry-on
for a trip back to the homeland?