Less is More! : Packing a Carry-on

Packing the perfect carry-on may seem like a no brainer, but what you leave out is just as important as what you put in it. Minimizing weight will save your neck and shoulders, so the right items are more important than more items.

The type of bag you choose is the first step to packing the perfect carry-on.

  • Backpack – Easy to carry, extra pockets and easy to access compartments! Evenly distributes the weight of what you carry across both shoulders. A backpack certainly makes it easy to maneuver through the airport and security areas while still managing your larger luggage until check in. If you are carrying electronics like a laptop or camera, you will need to be able to remove them easily and put them back in without removing other items, so keep that in mind.
  • Crossbody/messenger bag – Another that is easy to carry and that will have a good bit of space for your things. Like a backpack, these bags will often have a padded section for a laptop and pockets for the various items. If you are carrying a laptop, a full size DSLR and a book to read on a flight, this type of carry-on could start to weigh on the neck and shoulders, so this will be something to take into consideration. However, a messenger bag will still free up your hands so that you can handle your luggage easily until check in.
  • Rolling carry-on – A hard-sided, rolling carry-on certainly has advantages! Typically it will hold more than the other two options and will fit easily into the overhead compartments while still being able to protect your items. I do find that for me, wind up still carrying a “personal item” such as a purse or backpack so that I can have easier access to the items I need during a flight as a rolling carry-on often doesn’t fit under the seat in front of me. Maneuvering the airport with full sized luggage and a rolling carry-on can also pose some difficulty unless you have suddenly found yourself sprouting an extra arm or two.
    • It is common practice with many airlines now to require an up-charge for full-sized carry on luggage and only offer a personal item in the ticket price. In this case, your on-flight luggage will not be able to be over approximately 9in x 10in x 17in (be sure to double check these measurements with the airline you are using as this can vary).

Whichever type of bag you choose, there are items to consider that will maximize your comfort as you barrel through the air, 30K feet up at high speeds, crammed into a mere 22 inches of seat.

  • Laptop/tablet, iPod and Cell phone
    • If you regularly travel with a laptop, it may be worth it to consider a tablet with a case that has a keyboard instead. You can upload Word or another writing program to your tablet and save your documents on a flash drive. This is how I often choose to travel as it allows me to minimize the amount of weight and space that is utilized. (Just be sure to remember an adapter for your USB/micro USB so that the two can be connected.)
    • Music or games are great ways to stay busy while in the air. Downloading your music to your iPod or your cell phone ahead of time will offer you stress-free listening on your flight as you won’t need to spend addition money on WiFi access to listen to music.
    • Your Cell phone can work triple duty and minimize the weight you carry in your carry-on. With some practice, you can take some amazing photos with your cell phone and eliminate the need to carry a heavy camera. Use the Kindle app (or another reading app) to download books and read on the flight instead of carrying around a heavy physical copy. Your phone also works for searching online (when you have WiFi access) to plan some of your adventures, arrange taxi services or Uber, reserve train tickets to your hotel/hostel etc, watch movies on Netflix and listen to music on Spotify or iTunes!
      •  Don’t forget your chargers!!
  • Don’t forget your headphones!
    • Wireless or not, packing an extra pair will be beneficial as well, just in case.
  • Snacks
    • Many flights now charge upwards of $12 for a sandwich and only offer small bags of pretzels or digestive biscuits when in flight. If you are like me, you can’t eat these anyways (Gluten Free) so packing something to snack on from home is crucial.
      • Dried fruit
      • Trail Mix
      • Beef or Turkey Jerkey
      • Bottled water (so long as you purchase it AFTER you make your way through security)
      • Pre-made sandwiches are also okay to bring through security.
      • Hard Candies
      • Breath mints or chewing gum
  • Light weight sweater
    • I like to bring a t-shirt material, open-front cardigan type as it layers easily and doesn’t add a lot of bulk. (For you guys, a lightweight running pullover or zip-up that offers some insulation without a lot of bulk will be good.) Both cotton jersey and moisture wicking active wear will breathe and keep you from sweating while packed like a sardine on the flight.
  • Compression socks
    • Not just for your granny, compression socks will help keep the swelling at bay when you are in the air. This will allow you to slip your shoes off without having to struggle to squeeze back in when you land!
  • Wet Wipes/hygiene items
    • Great to refresh your face, neck and hands (maybe your armpits too if you need it…but do this in the lavatory please) mid flight and again before you land! Being able to take at least some sort of a “bath” will clean away the grime and grease of sleeping within the recycled air of a long flight.
      • Make-up – pack along your essentials like powder, concealer, mascara, lip color and lip balm. Refresh your face and touch up your make up just before landing and you will not look like you spent 6+ hours on a flight!
      • Hair comb/brush/hair ties/handkerchief – just to freshen yourself up and dry hands if there aren’t any paper towels!
      • Hand Sanitizer – always a good thing to have!
  • Glasses
    • If you are like me and usually wear contacts, ditch those babies for the flight as they can dry out and irritate your eyes. Sleeping with them in can also pose irritation, so pack the glasses and wait until you arrive to put your contacts in.
  • Camera
    • If you choose to pack a camera, you can pack it into your carry-on or into your checked baggage. If you choose to carry a full sized DSLR as I usually do, then properly stowing it into a padded divider in the bottom of your bag is important. You can leave the charger for the battery and the extra memory cards in your checked baggage, but you can always slip them into your carry on if you have space.
  • Books/Journals
    • It may be tempting to pack these into your carry-on as you think you may write or read while on the flight. If you are taking a laptop or a tablet, then you may want to use these while in-flight and pack the heavy items into your checked baggage.
  • Eye Mask & Ear Plugs
    • When you are on a long-haul flight, or changing time zones, an eye mask to block out the light and ear plugs to dampen the sound of coughing, talking and opening packages (or snorers) can help you to get a little bit of a nap in.

It can be tempting to over pack your carry-on, thinking that you will need more things with you than you really do. (I have been guilty of this as well!) You will need far fewer things in-flight than you think, space is limited and you will have to dig through a bag to find the few items you do need with you! The less you take with you on the flight, the less weight you carry, the less space your bag requires and that means, the more space you have for your feet!

“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and travel often, for the world is wide and adventure awaits!” ~ Emylee

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