what to pack in a carry on

15 easy tips for what to pack in a carry on

Posted on Posted in Travel

When I travel, I only carry travel-on luggage. I never lose my bag. It saves me a tonne of time when I get to skip the luggage carousel. And now that most airlines charge you to check a bag, it also saves me money.  If you want to know how to save time and money, this is all you need to know for what to pack in a carry-on.


1. Size Matters:

Get the largest size carry-on luggage (that still fits in the sizing device!) Soft-sided with an expandable zipper is best so you can always cram another sweater in.

2. Packing Lists are your best friend:  

Remember the last time you travelled? How certain you were that you would need all of that stuff? You didn’t use half of it did you! It is hard to remember that when you are packing for your next trip.  On the next plane home, take notes on your phone of what you actually used. Just starting? I include my packing list below

3. Don’t buy tacky ‘travel’ clothes:

Airports know how bored and tired you will get while you lug your luggage and wait for your plane. That is why they set up shops that try to sell you ugly travel hats, plastic belts and blousy-khaki-wrinkled-quick-dry-shirts-with-extra-buttons. You don’t need any of them. No one does. Mix and match your normal clothing so that the colours and styles work well with everything else you have in the bag.

4. Don’t set off the scanner:

Find a pair of shoes and a belt that does not set off the security scanner and wear them each time you head to the airport. People will wonder if you are George Clooney 

5. Use packing pockets:

Use small packing bags to cram in your socks and underwear. Add another for shirts and pants and you have just made your packing ridiculously easy. These pockets compact your clothes and will even leave you enough extra room in your carry-on for tourist knickknacks or something special from the duty-free.

6. Only pack for 8 days:

Any more time than that, you should just send your clothes to the laundry. It comes out fresh and clean and folded, and costs a lot less than your airline luggage fee.

7. Get a clear vinyl bag:

Put all your liquids in a vinyl bag that you keep on the top outside pocket of your carry-on. They can come out in a hurry when you hit the security x-ray machine.

8. Wear your heavier items:

Airplanes are usually cold, so keep your sweaters and sport jackets on you. If you get to warm, throw them on top of your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin.

9. Ignore the warning:

While you are people-watching in the boarding lounge, the gate agent will ask if anyone wants to check the weight and size of your bag. “Just step up to the sizing device”. If you know you are close to the right size and you can lift it over your head into the bin, don’t check. Just roll it up for boarding.

10. Board first.

2 words …  Bin. Space.

11. Don’t wait to the end:

Gate agents watch the size of carry-on luggage more closely as the plane fills. Why go through all the effort to pack carry-on if someone will take it from you at the gate?

11. Step up in class:

If you are a mere cattle-class traveller and you are travelling with a friend who is flying business class or has frequent flyer priority – stick close. You will usually be able to board with them if you are walking and talking together. This helps to make sure you get some overhead bin space.

12. Join another group.

Many airlines board a plane according to group (the first numbers that are called are at the back of the plane) if you are not in the first few groups find a friend who is and walk to the gate agent with them. You may be asked to wait for your group, but the agent will commonly let you continue with your friend at this point.

13. Use the ramp

You will have to stop and wait on the ramp. Use that time to put away extra stuff in your carry on. Pull out the things you need for the flight, stow your wallet and passport.

14. Scope it out:

When you get on the plane, look down the aisle towards your seat. If the bin is already full and overflowing above your seat then put your bag into an open bin a few seats in front of your seat. If you ask the flight attendant for help they will put it several rows behind you and you might not be able to get it until everyone has deplaned.

15. Show off your skills:

One of the easiest ways to tell how often someone travels is by how they store their carry on luggage. Travel pros know that luggage goes in lengthwise not sideways. If the bin is full of sideways bags, turn 2 of them lengthwise and you will magically create just enough space for your bag!



That’s what to pack in a carry on. 15 tips I use every time I fly, they save me time and money and they are really easy to do. Try them out next time, you may love flying with carry-on only!

Got any tips to add?

Mark Crocker 


What to pack in a carry on | Africa in the rainy season: 

8 underwear 
5 socks
2 jeans
1 khakis (dressy)
2 long sleeve shirts (1 formal/non-wrinkle) including wearing one
1 light sport coat. Cotton?
1 very light sweater
3 t-shirts
3 short-sleeved collared shirts
1 pair shorts/swim trunks
1 pair flip-flops. Quick dry
1 pair shoes
1 belt (moneybelt)
1 tie
Plastic bag for dirty clothes/shoes.

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