Next Stop: Carry-on

Man walking through airport

Modern day air travel has taken a turn into restricting what we’re allowed to bring on the plane for free. Many years ago your luggage was no big deal, pack a big bag for that weekend trip to LAS and it was included, but now with soaring fuel prices and airport fees airlines have turned to luggage to bring in more money, meaning we now have to pay to get that bag on the plane separately for each way. Average 1st check-in luggage prices vary from 25-35USD on various airlines in the US and I believe for some in EU as well. What does surprise me however is that, at least here in the US, the low cost airlines are the ones not charging for that checked in bag! Airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest include your first bag for free, yet the big legacy carriers like United, Delta and American are charging for the first checked in bag on domestic flights along with normally higher ticket base prices. So in this modern day where a checked in bag could add on almost 100USD to your trip cost, a proper carry is key to any budget friendly short haul trip. Are you going on that weekend trip to Chicago? New York? Pack lightly in your carry on and save hundreds on trips a year.

There are two types of carry on in my opinion, the first type is a handheld carry on, meaning anything from a briefcase to a small duffle bag style bag that can hang over the shoulder or carried by hand which are normally used on long haul trips where you already checked in the bulk of your luggage. The second type is what is most used on domestic flights which are the rolling, self standing small bags that normally complement your checked in bag or are your main luggage. Pick your carry on wisely for each trip, you don’t want to be carrying a lot of weight on you on long trips, but you also don’t want to be paying hundreds for that comfort, so here is a list in my opinion what type of trip each type or carry-on is good for, now keep in mind some airlines allow a carry on AND a laptop bag/purse for the ladies:


 Hand Held:

  • Short domestic flights.
  • Short stay trips (4 days max!)
  • Tight carry-on restrictions.
  • Light packers and/or just quick access essentials.
  • If you will be reaching into your carry-on throughout the flight.
  • Those who like to board and deplane quickly and with less hassle.
  • Rush through TSA (less of a bag to check.)
  • Short car trips as well.
  • If you want to carry less on your person before and after the flight.

Rolling larger bags:

  • If your airline carry-on restrictions allow the size of larger small-medium rolling bags. (Make sure to check the restrictions of your carrier and measure it at home so you don’t run into any surprises at the check-in desk, also make sure you measure in the appropriate units Inches in the US, most likely CM in EU and elsewhere.)
  • Heavy packers, those who will pack more than the essentials.
  • If you plan to bring a complementing laptop bag or briefcase/purse.
  • You will not be accessing it during flight (larger bags require you to take them out and unzip them outside the overhead bin themselves.
  • Long haul international or domestic trips.
  • Stays over 4-5 days.
  • If airline charges check-in bag.
  • If you worry you might of gone over your weight in your check-in to allow you to transfer things into the carry-on upon check-in with the airline.
  • Don’t mind the amount of added luggage before and after the flight.

I have personally used both depending on my trip type, although I almost always prefer the hand held and is what I use for my long-haul trips since the bulk of my items are in my check-in, and I only need a couple of essentials on hand. I have used and will be using the larger rolling bag for short trips where check-in is charged or for the rare occasion where my check-in wasn’t enough room. I will be using a medium roller for my Canada trip as Air Canada (North America’s best rated airline) does not have free checked-in bags for my 3+ hour flight to YYZ and home from YUL, yet low cost competitor WestJet does, go figure. The trick of getting the most out of your carry-on is how you pack it, and what you pack in it.

Know what to pack DO’s and DONT’S :

  • DO buy the right bag for your trip, check the list above to know what kind of carry-on is best for you, and don’t be afraid to go bargain hunting for that bag, sometimes stores such as marshall’s or TJ maxx carry name brand bags at half the price.
  • DON’T be afraid to spend that extra dollar on that bag that will last you years over the penny saved on that bag that will fall apart next time you pull it out to use.
  • DO pack an extra outfit in your carry-on if you’re checking-in the bulk of your luggage, you never know when that bag might get lost and you need clothes until it is located, and include everything in that extra outfit, even undergarments.
  • DO pack only your ESSENTIALS, if this is your main luggage (aka no check-in) . We all go over the top when packing, we add things in there we think we will wear/use but we never do, in fact most people only end up using half of what they packed.
  • DO pack smart, plan your outfits for every day, this way not only will you keep yourself from adding that extra shirt and pant here and there, but it will eliminate that daily decision on your trip of what to wear. Simply photograph the outfit you planned with your smartphone so every day you know what to chose from.untitled
  • DO your destination, and pack accordingly.
  • DON’T pack that heavy sweater to your caribbean beach vacation, or that swim trunk on you ski trip (unless you know you will use it i.e. hot tub, indoor pool, etc.) This goes back to the whole packing smart thing.
  • DON’T pack things you know will be thrown away upon TSA thinking you will sneak it through, because they will catch it, and that expensive wine bottle, or fancy shampoo will find itself in the trash.
  • DO pack a single piece of semi-heavy wear, such as a hoodie for the plane or airport. This came in handy when I arrived to Germany and it was around 30 degrees less than expected in mid summer.
  • DO pack things you’ll need during the flight, such as head phones, pen/pencil and paper, electronic devices, neck pillow etc.
  • DON’T pack anything dangerous, not only will it get taken at TSA and a red flag put under your name, it puts you and those around you in danger, this includes Knives, metal objects, hand guns, etc.
  • DO place your liquids in the predetermined TSA allowed plastic bags at home, save yourself and everyone behind you on that security line sometime and place it in there already.
  • DON’T pack a bottle of water, it will not survive the security process.
  • DO bring an empty bottle to fill post-security, water can be pricy on planes and terminals and many airports such as ORD have placed water bottle filling stations throughout their concourses.
  • DON’T pack those water-filled souvenirs (i.e. snowglobes and such) in your carry-on even if the check-in counter says yes you can, I can’t tell you how many I’ve seen thrown away
  • DO know how to pack everything in.

How to pack your carry-on DO’s and DONT’S:

  • DO know your bag inside and out, know every pocket and the relative size of its interior to your items so you know how much you’ll be able to fit and where.

    Know the space and pockets of your bag

    Know the space and pockets of your bag

  • DO place a sheet or cover over your bed if you plan to place the bag on there, germs from airplanes, airports and stores are not to be played with, especially not in your bad, simply grab the sheet post packing and throw it in the wash.
  • DO pre plan in your head what you will be using first and last and pack it in that order, what will be used last at the bottom and used first at the top for easy access.
  • DON’T just throw your things in there, they will wrinkle, break, or not fit as they would if properly folded and packed.
  • DO roll your clothes instead of folding them flat, not only will it help you fit more items into your bag and allow you to compact them more, but will also help prevent wrinkling a lot more than flat folding. DO thank Samantha Brown for that tip she gave me years ago.

    rolling your items will save you much more space and be wrinkle free

    rolling items will save you space and keep wrinkle free

  • DON’T be afraid to push things in.
  • DO pack your shoes in plastic bags or cloth carrying bag to prevent them from dirtying your other clothes.
  • DO place the shoes tip to heel to take up less room.
  • DO take extra cloth bags or leave an empty compartment to place your dirty laundry in to keep separate from your clean clothes.
  • DO re-pack your bag each time you move locations or if it gets messy, not only will it prevent you from rushing last minute to re-pack but will also allow you too keep track of what you packed and keep it all wrinkle free, after all who want’s to be ironing during a trip?

    pack your shoes in bas and allow rom for laundry.

    pack your shoes in bas and allow rom for laundry.

  • DON’T pack things you know you will reach for during the flight or in terminal towards the bottom or in places that ipad screen could get banged up, priority of usage is key when packing any bag, whether carry-on or check-in.
  • DO pack your personal essentials such as tooth brush, paste, comb, etc in a cosmetic case or ziplock bag for easier carrying and easier passing through TSA.
  • DO place things in garment bags that need to be them, such as suits, try for a thin material bag how ever.
  • DO pack things that you can into the laptop bag, briefcase, or purse, that book taking up room in carry-on could be easily pushed into your bag, so could that kindle, and don’t be afraid to move things at the airport if you need, that check-in might be too heavy at times.
  • DO follow the blog for more tips and tricks!

That is all I can say for now on how and what to pack in your carry-on. I will continue this series later in the year on what and how to pack your check-in luggage. Again I want to thank everyone for the 1000+ views! Keep on reading and spreading the word around about the blog, stay tuned for more one everything! And remember, adventure is out there!



PS: Let me know what you think of the tips! and DO share any other tips you might have with me and everyone on the blog bellow in the comment section, and definitely DO follow and bookmark the blog for a lot more exciting articles to come!




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