If you find you are going to be stuck in a metal tube thousands of feet in the air for hours–you don’t want to be bored. A perfectly packed carry-on bag is one of the only things standing between you and boredom.
Method 1 of 2: Packing a Carry-On Bag for the Day
A carry-on bag gets stored under the seat in front of you, while a carry-on suitcase or larger bag gets stored in the overhead compartment. You are generally allowed to bring two carry-ons onto a flight with you. However, you can also choose to pack a larger suitcase and simply bring a carry-on bag with you onto the plane. For how to pack a carry-on suitcase, scroll down to Method Two.
Pick the right bag. Make sure it’s durable, easy to carry, and that it can hold all of your necessary items. More importantly, make sure it meets your airline’s size requirements. Check your airlines FAQ to see the measurements of the largest bag you can bring. If you fly multiple different airlines, check the ones you fly most frequently and choose a size bag that will satisfy all the airlines requirements. A good way to tell if it will work or not is to consider whether or not it will fit in or under the plane seat in front of you.
- The Vacation Carry-On: The ideal carry on bag is one that has a large body with a lot of pockets. Pockets are fantastic for keeping all of your stuff separate–one pocket for wallet/phone, one for makeup, one for your book, etc. Large purses, messenger bags, or satchels are all great options that give you a lot of space to store your stuff, and generally have great pockets.
- The Business Carry-On: As you might have guessed, a briefcase is a really good carry on for the working man or woman. Find one that can be slung over your shoulder in case you need to make a run for your flight. Briefcases that have built-in organizers and a pocket for your wallet/phone/keys/other necessities are great options.
- The Kid/Teenager/College student Carry-On: Think, backpack. Backpacks are fantastic for holding laptops, school books, last minute exam cramming notes, and toys. Because of the zippers, it also ensures that all of your stuff stays in one place so you won’t lose your GameBoy or that super important notebook.
Make a list of everything you will need to bring. It’s best to begin with the bare essentials, then move on to the entertainment or work items. These bare essentials include your license or passport (depending on whether you are flying domestic or international), your wallet with money or credit cards in it, your phone, and medications you might need, and of course, your plane tickets. Other items to consider packing include:
- Work or school items: this could include your laptop, your phone and laptop chargers, business notes, class notes, homework, reading that you have to do for class, etc.
- Entertainment: books, headphones and an iPod, your camera, game consoles, DVDs to watch on your laptop, magazines, a travel book for where you are going, toys, etc.
- Medications and toiletries: It’s best to keep any medications you need with you on the plane. You could also consider bringing an extra pair of contact lenses, mouth wash, etc.
- Stuff to help you sleep: This includes a neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, etc. Inflatable neck pillows are the best because they take up very little space when deflated.
Consider packing for a bad layover. If you get stranded overnight during your layover, or if your other luggage gets lost (pray that it doesn’t) you might want to consider bringing a couple of items with you on the plane. You might want to put these items in their own small bag within your carry on bag. These items include:
- A toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb or hairbrush, a fresh pair of underwear, socks, and deodorant.
Make sure all of your electronics and delicate items are protected. Carry-ons have a tendency to get knocked into a lot, so safe-proofing your valuables is generally a good idea. If you are bringing your laptop or tablet, make sure you have a good safety cover for it.
Pack your liquids correctly. Remember that most liquids are not allowed through security. You will need to pack your liquid items in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. Each passenger is allowed one of these clear quart-sized bags. In the bag, your liquids are limited to 3.4 ounce bottles so don’t plan on bringing that gigantic bottle of sunscreen.
- You can either pack your larger bottles in a suitcase that you check, or buy the liquid items that you need when you reach your destination. Purchase bottled water and drinks after you pass through security.
Pack your necessities in easy to access locations. You will need to be showing your license and tickets at least twice while traveling, so it’s important to keep them in a spot where you can get at them easily. Pack your essentials first but do not put them at the bottom of your bag.
- When packing your laptop keep it easily accessible so you can easily reach it when you have to go through security. The majority of the time you will have to remove your laptop from your carry on to get it scanned. This also goes for your plastic bag of toiletries, if you choose to bring one.
Pack in some boredom-busting entertainment. Once you have packed your essentials, put your entertainment items into your bag. Putting them in last ensures that the stuff you actually need fits into your bag. Don’t overstuff your bag–you don’t want to be lugging around a 25 pound bag. Make sure that your bag zips (if it has a zipper) so that you know none of your stuff will fall out.
- Research your airline. Some planes have built-in entertainment systems, some have in-flight movies, and some do not even serve meals. Pack your boredom-busting items accordingly.
Wear warm clothes on the plane. Wearing a sweatshirt or jacket is always a good idea on a plane, as they tend to keep the temperature of planes at what seems to be freezing. If worst comes to worst, you can always tie your jacket or sweatshirt to your carry on bag (or around your waist).