With many airlines charging per bag for checked luggage, travelers are packing lots of stuff in their carry on luggage. In fact, you’ll often find that travelers are lining up rather aggressively to get on board early, just for the privilege of making sure that they have space to stow their carry on. On one cross-country flight, I had to check my beloved Zuca carry on, and it was lost somewhere between LA and Boston. So, while you want to make sure you pack essentials in your carry on bag, you’ll also want to be strategic with how it’s packed.
What to Carry In Carry On Luggage
Pick the right bag
I really like my Zuca carry on, but when I’m flying on an airline that charges for checked bags, I usually pack a duffel instead. Why is that? Well, when flight attendants start tagging carry on bags to check, they start with wheeled bags. Often, a duffel bag can be stuffed in an overhead, even if it’s almost full. And, because my carry on duffel can be heavy, I have a separate wheeled cart that I use. (here’s an example).
The FAA currently allows travelers to bring two carry on bags – a personal bag and a carry on suitcase. For my personal bag, I usually bring a purse or my camera bag – I just make sure it fits under the seat in front of me.
Keep airplane items at hand
I like to make sure anything I’ll need in flight is in the bag under the seat in front of me. Sometimes, you’ll only be able to find overhead space in a bin nowhere near your seat. Or, the fasten seat belt light may be on for much of your flight. So, I like to make sure that anything I need for the flight, like my Kindle, iPad, and headphones, are in the bag under the seat in front of me.
Your carry-on bags should include anything you absolutely need at your destination or at home – things like medications, essential toiletries, your keys, traveling documents, and wallet, as well as fragile items like computers, iPads, and cameras. You should also pack at least one set of clothing for each person in your traveling party, as well as swimsuits (if you are going to want to swim when you arrive), or pajamas (if you are going to go to sleep shortly after arriving.) If you have a baby, you should remember to pack more diapers than you expect you’ll need, as well as at least one extra change of clothes.
Remember rules for liquids
Follow the current rule of 3-1-1 for carrying liquids in your carry on luggage (but remember to check the latest rules before leaving). The 3-1-1 rule means you can bring 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottles or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag; and 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. Put your 1 quart bag at the top of your carry on luggage so you can easily access it when you are going through security.
Here’s a video that shows what to carry in your carry on luggage.