Unless you always nab an aisle seat close to the overhead bin, an organized personal item is critical to making sure your must-have items are easily accessible throughout your flight. A well-packed personal item also guarantees you won’t be separated from your valuables if you’re forced to check your carry-on at the gate.
But organizing everything you need in a bag that fits under the seat in front of you sometimes feels like it requires Marie Kondo-level organization. Chargers, plugs, earbuds, and other items with cords easily tangle (and have been known to break or fray from poor storage).
Some people like to store items in the tray-table pocket, but this is where the germs live. Like, all of the germs. Keep away from this infectious disease hub.
Instead, I divide my items into different categories and then organize them based on how and when I’ll use them. My clothes, my TSA-compliant toiletries, and everything else I don’t need in flight go in my regulation-size carry-on bag. In my personal item, I secure my boarding pass, my passport, and all other financial or identifying materials in the front pocket; fill one side pocket with an Entertainment Weekly or two for reading during takeoff and landing; and stash a water bottle in the other side compartment.
I reserve the main compartment of my backpack for electronics. Depending on the purpose and length of my trip, I’m probably traveling with my iPhone, Kindle, iPad mini and its keyboard, Fitbit, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, SLR digital camera and extra memory cards, headphones, charging cables, adapters, extra batteries, and cords.
Sounds like a mess, right? This is where an electronics travel organizer comes in. Never again will you lose a charger or wind up with hopelessly tangled cords in your travels. Below are a few of my favorite options.
The Best All-Around Electronics Travel Organizer: Jelly Comb Electronics Organizer
Keep your cables, chargers, cell phone, and more protected in this zippable case. Its waterproof nylon is designed to keep your electronics dry while its padded cover offers an additional layer of protection from bumpy rides.
Most Versatile Gadget Organizer: Cocoon GRID-IT!
This technology organization system comes in multiple sizes and makes use of rubberized elastic bands to hold everything in one place in a flat, lightweight case; some models also come with pockets for laptop computers and other bulkier gadgets. The elastics allow you to store items of varying shapes and sizes in virtually endless combinations.
Best Low-Tech Gadget Organizer: Sosanping Taco Trio
If you need something more portable and only have a cord or two that you travel with, consider a cord taco. These simple leather cases with a snap closure keep cables and earbuds tangle-free and easily fit in any personal item.
Most Stylish Travel Gadget Organizer: STRAPO Leather Accessory Pouch
This leather option offers a bit more style than your typical cord-carrying case. It’s got room for multiple cords and plugs, plus an extra zipped compartment for any smaller items you want to keep safe, like memory cards. Roll it up for easy stashing.
Storing, organizing, and protecting your gadgets is one of the most significant elements of packing an effective carry-on bag. Every bag is different—you may prefer print books over e-readers or your phone’s camera over a bulky SLR, for example—but the important thing is that you approach it with a sound strategy.
Keep your gadgets close and your valuables closer, and you’ll be just fine.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 Ways to Stay Organized While Traveling
- The 12 Best Travel Gadgets for Any Trip
- The 13 Best Portable Chargers for Travel
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Kate Sitarz contributed to this story.