How to Make the Most Out of Your Carry-On

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When travelling by air, I’ve seen many people going sans carry-on luggage. Some people I’ve talked to say that carry-ons are a pain, especially with all the new rules airports have been enforcing. Others say they can live for a few hours on a plane without extra “stuff”. However I believe a carry-on can be a big help and should not be taken for granted. My husband went without one on his very first flight but after getting stuck in the airport overnight with nothing, he’s learned his lesson. This article will show you how to make the most out of your carry-on for your next flight without breaking any of the airline rules.

Purchase a Large Carry-on

You may be surprised to see how large of a carry-on you are allowed, so don’t skimp. The first time I used my Ricardo Beverly Hills Beyond a Bag Super Tote as a carry-on, I was afraid it would be too big. However I tested it out in the airlines carry-on test bin and found I had plenty of room to spare! I could have gotten a much larger one, but I think mine is the perfect size. To find your perfect size carry-on, read the rules of various airlines to see what their maximum sizes are. Then purchase something that is smaller than the rules state. This will give you some leeway in case your bag gets bulky once it’s filled. The best carry-on’s have lots of dividers, sections and pockets to keep you organized. Getting a flexible carry-on is also a good idea because then it is more likely to conveniently fit under your seat as opposed to the overhead bin. Most importantly, make sure every opening zips or closes securely. The last thing you need to worry about is your things falling out during your flight.

Pack the Electronics

You should always carry your electronics on the plane with you. This is part of the rules for most airlines. The first thing I always make sure to pack is my laptop and cord, my camera and cord and my cell phone and cord. If you have a lot of electronics, it’s best to divide them up between you and your fellow travelers. I used to put all these things in my bag, but then I noticed every time I went through security my bag was getting rescanned a few times because of all the things in it. Now I give half of these things to my husband and my bag goes right through.

Pack a Snack

Anyone who doesn’t bring their own snacks on a flight is seriously missing out. You may not be able to bring liquid on the plane, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring snacks! I try to find snacks that aren’t easily crushed or snacks that are individually packaged. Good ideas for snacks are crackers, peanuts, 100 calorie packs, fruit snacks, and things of the like. Basically think of things you might pack in your kids lunches I dump as many of these as I can fit into my carry-on. No matter how short your flight, it is inevitable you will want to snack. Why pay $3-5 for a small snack when you can bring your own? The main rule of thumb to follow is to only pack snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated.

Pack Emergency Items

Even when I don’t have a cold, I always think Kleenex is great to have at hand. Travelling can give you a runny nose if you are going in and out of cold places. Besides that, Kleenex can be useful for many other things like cleaning up spills. When packing your carry-on, think of every situation you can and pack accordingly. How about some cough drops? Do you want to be stuck on a plane for 5 hours and suddenly develop a bad cough? I also make sure to have plenty of headache medicine to last the entire trip just in case it is needed (and we usually need it at least once). Finally, you’ll want to toss spare change into your carry-on just in case. Everyone relies on cell phones now, but what if you have no service, your cell phone dies, or you lose it? Keep some change available for these types of emergencies.

Pack your Trip Items

Of course you are going to to pack your tickets, but I also pack everything related to the trip. I keep a folder in my carry-on with passports, itineraries, hotel and car confirmations and other related items. The key here is to be organized about it. I’ve seen people in line digging through their luggage trying to find their tickets, but since I keep mine organized in a folder at the front of my bag, I never have this problem. The best part is, by packing my plans for the trip, I can review them on the plane ride and decide what I want to do first!

Pack something To Do

I don’t care if you’ve never done a crossword, or you don’t like to read… you will once you are stuck on a plane for hours, or stuck in an airport overnight. Pack yourself something to do. I always pack a few crossword books, a magazine or two, and an empty notebook with plenty of pens. Other things you can bring include a CD/MP3 player or a travel DVD player, but you have to remember the charger or else it will be useless after a few hours. These could be a good diversion when you are stuck somewhere. Of course, if you have your laptop with you that helps as well. I don’t pay for those airport wireless access fees. Instead I download a bunch of games or other fun things to my laptop that I can play offline once I’m in the airport or plane.

Pack your Purse

Men probably think women are annoying for carrying a carry-on AND a purse. Even though the rules state we can carry both these items, I choose to combine them. My bag actually fits my entire purse inside of it and I keep it there during the entire travel time. This has many benefits. For one, you don’t have to throw two items through the security scanner which saves time and effort. Second, you don’t have to worry about losing your purse; you only have to keep an eye out on your one big carry-on that you are not likely to forget. Then, once through security you can always take out your purse if you want to walk around while your husband watches the bags.

*Note: On the same lines as this, you should put your wallet, keys and even your belt in your carry-on before you get to security. This means you will have fewer items to take off when going through security and fewer items to keep track of.

Pack a Blanket (or at the very least pack a sweater)

I never thought to bring a blanket on a flight… then on the way home from the honeymoon we got delayed and therefore stuck overnight in the airport. It was very chilly and they were not handing out blankets. Now I always pack a blanket in my carry-on. You might think that wouldn’t fit, but it does! I bought a throw that is big enough to cover me up but folds up small. It’s softer and warmer than those airplane blankets anyway. On one trip, we were given two airplane blankets because we were flying overnight. Now he packs those for every trip in his own carry-on, just in case. At the very least, you should pack a sweater. It might be warm in Florida but when you get home to Michigan without a sweater, you’ll be sorry. One last idea I haven’t done but have thought of is to pack an inflatable pillow. After trying to sleep in the most uncomfortable chair at an airport, I don’t know why I haven’t bought one of these yet because it could be really helpful.

DON’T Pack Liquids!

I know the airlines allow little containers of liquids in a Ziploc baggie, but I think it’s a major pain so I don’t even bother. I don’t even pack chapstick. I see no reason to pack liquids unless you have a baby or a medical issue. Otherwise, put your shampoo, lip gloss, and the like in your luggage. Buy a bottle of water after you get through. When I go through security lines, the only thing I have to do is take my shoes off and take my laptop out. Everything else I pack can stay in the bag. When I see people with 1 Ziploc bag per person, then the laptop, then the belt they have to take off, I think… ugg, another line hold up.

Pack as a Group

The final tip you should consider is to divide your carry-on items amongst everyone in your group. Give everyone a few of the snacks, everyone a few of the electronics and even divide up the cash you brought between you and your spouse. Then let each person pack the other things they want for their own entertainment. This will make it easier if everyone is carrying their share. Kids that are old enough can be in charge of getting their own snack when they want one. Mom shouldn’t be stuck carrying all the essentials while all the kids have is a teddy bear. If you have a family of 4, that is 4 times the space so you should make use of it. Heck, with 4 family members, you could bring even more things than I’ve listed above and still be sticking to the rules of the airlines. Start shopping for your ideal carry-on today so you can follow my tips on your next trip! Enjoy!!