Carry-On Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Your carry-on bag and its contents are going to make or break your travel experience. It’s important to remember that your carry on is not just essential for your plane ride, but also for the hours you spend in the airport before boarding.

A good carry-on starts at home before you’ve even packed a bag. Hop on your airline’s website and find out the carry-on policies. The size and weight restrictions are the same for most airlines, what’s really important is how many carry-ons are allowed on your flight. Many airlines will allow for one carry on – a small rolling suitcase, a laptop bag, or a camera bag – and one “personal item;" this might be a purse or a backpack. Personally, I go for the backpack and purse combination. (The backpack counting as my carry on and the purse counting as my personal.) The backpack and purse combination is superior to all others for its simple convenience: No worries about overpacking, or losing something that is strapped to your body – and you’ll have a hard time finding a bag that goes over the size limit for any airline.

Grab a small to medium-sized over the shoulder purse. Your purse is going to become home to all the important airport essentials. Everything you’re going to need from the time you set foot in the airport to the time you get to your gate. Keep your wallet and any paperwork you need for your flight – when you get your boarding pass, that will go in there as well – in your purse and easily accessible. Also keep your phone, headphones, and charger – there’s not much to do while waiting in line, and not all airports have Wi-Fi; make sure you download some good jams ahead of time! (And charge that phone before you board, not all planes have plugs!) If there’s anything else you think you might need frequently, add it to the purse.

The backpack holds the key to in-flight entertainment and/or relaxation. Get yourself a bag with different sections – this shouldn’t be hard as most backpacks are already divided up into different sections. At the bottom of your bag you want to put a change of clothes: something you can change into before the flight that’s going to keep you warm, comfortable, and cozy for an extended period of time. Include a blanket scarf, because all flights are cold… plus, covering yourself with a blanket is perfect for helping to catch some z's. Staples for me in my backpack always include fuzzy socks and some alternative footwear. A pair of flats does the trick for me, quick to slip on and off for trips to the bathroom. You can also throw in this bag any homework you have. It’s not any fun, but a long airport stay or long flight is the perfect time to get ahead in readings and assignments. Finally, in a separate part of your bag keep all your liquids in a clear bag: face cream, hand cream, makeup, and anything else you might need. For overnight flights consider bringing baby wipes, a toothbrush, and anything else you might need to help you freshen up before you’re greeted by friends and family. In the smallest, and most easily accessible section keep all your Advil, Gravol, and any other drugs you might need to help you get through a flight. The final, and perhaps most important part of your carry-on packing is the snacks. Airplane food is the worst. Bring items that aren’t horribly smelly or loud so as not to disturb other passengers, but things that are filling. Grab a meal before you board the plane, even if you’re not hungry, and the snacks you pack will keep you satisfied until you land.

When packing your carry-ons keep in mind the weight limits and restrictions put in place by your airline, and try not to overpack. There’s nothing worse than having to keep a large suitcase at your feet because you didn’t get a spot in the overhead bins!