Pack a Carry-On Bag Like a Pro

Published on 12/19/2016

  • Pack a Carry-On Bag Like a Pro

If you let them, less than ideal travel experiences can make or break your entire vacation. A quick flight home to visit Mom and Dad can turn into a nightmare when your luggage goes missing. A weekend getaway to a warm island isn’t so relaxing when your shampoo has leaked all over your entire wardrobe.

You can cut down on travel-related stress and lean into the holidays and enjoy them a little more with these packing tips.

Choose your carry-on bag with care

Not all bags are created equal! Carrying your workout shoes to the gym in your briefcase is just as silly as expecting your newborn’s diaper bag to serve as a proper carry-on.

The bag you choose to travel with matters. Take these things into consideration:

  • Size is important. FAA regulations are clear: anything bigger or heavier than your airline's carry-on size or weight limit must be checked. Requirements vary slightly between airlines so double check with yours before wasting your time stuffing gear into a bag that’s too big.

  • Accessibility rules. Easy access pockets on the exterior of your carry-on are convenient ways to store and easily access electronics like your phone or tablet, documents like your boarding pass or passport, or other must-have items like medications, room keys, and snacks.

  • Comfort for the win. Nobody wants to haul around a heavy bag with straps that cut into your hands or shoulder. Choose a bag that’s both functional and comfortable.

  • Interior space is a must. The ideal carry-on features lots of interior space and an abundance of outside pockets. Think: backpack, duffel bag, or similarly made travel bag.

Make a list and check it twice

Before even thinking about putting anything in your bag, make a list of your needs and then revisit the list a day or two later to make sure everything on that list is a need and not a want. You need undergarments, but you certainly don’t have to pack three pairs of shoes when one or two will do.

Items of value for may include:

  • Toiletries: makeup, personal hygiene items, and medications

  • Clothing: interchangeable outfits save space and keep pack weight light

  • Electronics: phones, tablets,e-readerss, headphones, charging cables, etc.

  • Entertainment: a deck of cards, book or toys for kids

  • Documents: boarding passes, hotel reservations, passports, I.D.s

Load your carry-on

Now it’s time to put everything from your list into your carry-on. As a rule of thumb, put the things you will use last on the bottom of your bag so you don’t have to pull everything out to access something like your allergy medicine first thing when you land.

Other helpful ideas:

  • Toiletries should always be in approved sizes and be sealed in a single zippered plastic bag or travel kit to prevent leakage.

  • Each airline has a strict rule that carry-on luggage must contain liquids no larger than 3.4 ounces in size. If you need a giant bottle of sunscreen, it’s best to buy it when you get where you’re going

  • Protect electronics with cases or sleeves to prevent damage while traveling

  • Convenience items should be placed in easy access locations like interior zippered pockets or external zippered or snap pockets

  • Color coordinate your outfits so you can mix and match clothing, minimizing the number of outfits you need to take with you. Black and neutral colors go with everything whereas prints are harder to work with.

  • Compression bags can shrink the bulk of clothing by essentially shrink wrapping things, making them easier to fit inside your bag.

  • Nest things inside each other. Socks can be rolled and tucked into shoes, for example, making use of all your available space.

Wear your heaviest outfit, don’t pack it

Since you want to lighten what goes in your bag it’s prudent you wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothing choices during your plane or car ride. This includes winter coats, boots, sweaters and hoodies, and even layering items. During travel, you can store items like heavy winter coats in the storage space above your seat or trunk of the car.

Safe and happy travels!


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