With almost every airline charging for checked bags, more and more people are trying to get everything they need into a carry-on bag. There’s definitely a system to effectively packing a carry on, however. You want to make sure that you follow the TSA rules while still bringing along everything that you need. Here are my tips on how to pack a carry on.
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Make a Packing List
This is the first step to packing any bags for a trip. I like to have lists for my husband and I, and separate lists for the kids. Now that they are older, they do much of their own packing (with parental supervision, of course). Need a starting point? Check out our packing lists.
Follow TSA Rules
Even if you have TSA Precheck, you still should follow the TSA liquids rules. Since your liquids will need to all be 3 oz and under, you’ll want to have travel-sized versions of your toiletries. I usually keep a one-quart bag already loaded up with my trial sized products for easy grab and go. I like shopping at Harmon for a huge selection of travel-sized toiletries.
Divide Your Stuff
Your goal is to get all of your bags in the cabin of your airplane, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you will be forced to check your bag because there is no room left in the overheads. Once, on a two-night trip to LA, my bag was gate checked to Boston and never made it on my flight. So it’s important that the stuff you really need – like keys, medication, eyeglasses, wallet – and fragile items like cameras are packing in your personal item that will go under the seat.
Think of What You’ll Need on the Flight
I always carry a spare charger, lip balm, my Kindle, my sunglasses, my planner, and my noise-cancelling headphones on every flight. I always think of things I need to do when I’m flying, so I use my agenda to jot those down. Of course, the noise-calling headphones are key for any frequent flier.
For my kids, we pack headphones, electronic devices, stuffed animals, and books in their personal bag (usually a small backpack). When they were younger, I also packed a spare set of clothes. If your flight arrives late at night, you may also want to put the kids’ pajamas in your carry on, so they can change on the plane and go right to bed.
Roll Your Clothes
You can bring a LOT of stuff if you know how to pack a carry on effectively. When packing your clothes, tightly roll them. This will not only save space, it’ll also help prevent wrinkles.
Wear the Heaviest Clothes
Are you bringing along heavy/bulky items like boots and winter coats? When possible, wear them, so you don’t have to pack them. I usually wear my bulkiest shoes along with a sweater (and, if applicable, my jacket) so that I don’t have to put them in my bag.
You’ll want to have a great carry on bag if you are relying on it. I really like this one from American Tourister because the wheels are so smooth. Take note of the carry on rules of your airline before buying a new suitcase – this one may be a little big for some overheads.