5 Tips To Consider When Packing Your Carry-on Luggage

The excitement of flight can quickly be filled with frustration and drama when your packed luggage goes missing. Being a flight attendant, more than once I’ve been approached by harried passengers misplacing their luggage (which is a nice way of saying the airline misplaced it.) Enter the trend for “carry-on only.”

All airlines have restrictions on the size and weight of a passenger’s luggage and I can certainly sympathize with the frustration of being charged extra fees as a result of your bag being too heavy, or too big, or — in a lot of cases these days — just guilty of “being” checked luggage. Passengers want to save money. (I do too, I mean, I’m a flight attendant, not a Rockefeller.)

From my observations though, many passengers aren’t aware of how they can best pack their carry-on luggage. They struggle with liquids at security. They make ill-advised choices when it comes to what clothing to bring. They go WELL over the size and weight limits for carry-on. Forthwith, (yes, I just said forthwith) I will provide you with some light packing tips to gently guide you in the right direction while packing your carry-on luggage, so you can avoid any of that aforementioned drama and frustration business.

1. Choice Of Suitcase

Suitcases

All through my career I have always had a Riley Black 21”, a regular Briggs suitcase, and a backpack. I interchange them depending on the size of the luggage I intend to carry along, as well as how long I intend to be gone from home. Ladies and gents, always pony up the money for a quality suitcase. You do indeed get what you pay for. Splurge a little — especially if you intend to do a lot of travelling. A quality bag can last you a LONG time, so it’s worth the investment. Plus better bags usually have better warranties, so you can exchange it if something does go awry — like a wheel falling off or a strap snapping.

Make sure the bag has enough compartments and nooks and crannies along the sides for any of your gear that you may need to reach during the flight. If I see one more passenger lug their bag down from the overhead bin to hunt in the bottom for a pill or a pen or a book or whatever it is they’re looking for in-flight, I may very well just scream.

2. What to Pack

Entering clothed area sign

As a flight attendant, I’m usually on the road or in the sky, so it requires much more creativity on how to pack a suitcase suitably for work and for leisure. The first major task is usually to ensure that all my necessities fit in my bag. For my clothes, I always pack them rolled. This not only saves on space; but also ensures that they never get wrinkled. Another tip, ensure that the heavy items are packed at the bottom, where the wheels are. This enables easy and smooth rolling off your bag since the weight gets supplied on the wheels.

Another tip, ensure that the heavy items are packed at the bottom, where the wheels are. This enables easy and smooth rolling of your bag since the bulk of the weight is at the base.

If you’re weary of exploding shampoo or any other liquids seeping out onto your clothes in your suitcase. To avoid this scenario, I always place a towel over my clothes then place the suspected items on top and zip my suitcase. Even better, put it in a Ziploc bag and then place a towel over it. You should try it too, it always works.

3. Choice Of Shoes

Black and white shoes suitcase lady

Sometimes you can feel defeated trying to pack your shoes — often if feels like they end up taking up almost the entire suitcase. It’s always recommended that you pack simple shoes. Flip-flops, for example, take no room, are perfect for your beach experience, and can be worn with your shorts or even a dress. You can also pack your nice flats with you for city walks.

In case you happen to be that workout guy, a pair of sneakers should be your priority. However, if it’s necessary to carry your boots or high heels with you, I would recommend that you save them to wear during the flight day.

Just another note on shoes: I’m on my feet all day, so I splurge on quality footwear. My Daddy used to say “If you’re not in your bed you’re in your shoes, and you shouldn’t skimp on either.” If I had a dollar for every co-worker who complained about aching feet from hours in cheap shoes, I’d be well on my way to that aforementioned Rockefeller category.

4. Things to always carry along

Credit cards

There are a few items that are usually a must-carry. It is always advisable to bring a bathing suit with you; especially if you are from cold areas. Pack your preferred sunscreens, you never know the sun intensity on the other side of your destination, and buying it at the beach is often a budget-killer.

Also, I recommend some yoga pants, a scarf, and some ear plugs. They are necessary when it comes to your comfort during the flight and whatever your destination may be.

Always, always, ALWAYS carry two credit cards with you — in separate areas. One should be on your person, and one tucked safely away somewhere in your carry-on. Make copies of your credit card number, expiry date, and CVV number and store them somewhere else in your carry-on. Better yet, take photos of your cards and keep them on your phone or “in the cloud” so you can access that info from anywhere.

Many times I’ve heard sob stories from not only passengers but also co-workers about how their purse/wallet/money was lost or stolen. Having an extra credit card handy, or at least the information at the ready to get it replaced, can be a life-saver — especially in a foreign country. If you’re in the market for another credit card, make sure it’s a travel rewards credit card. Many offer excellent sign-up bonuses and waive the first year’s fee, plus some even throw in travel insurance and even car rental insurance if you book using the card.

I’m also certain you understand how frustrating it can get when you are in need of power for a dying cell phone and all the available plugs are in use. To avoid this situation, I always advise passengers to carry with them a small outlet extender that makes one outlet turn into three USB charge or power ports. It’s a great way to muscle your way into a packed power outlet, while even perhaps making some friends in the process.

5. Packing your toiletries and cosmetics

Toiletries

Being a lady, I understand how stressing it can get trying to figure out the kind of cosmetics or toiletries to carry along. Most hotels worth their salt these days do offer nice shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. Therefore, while traveling, I don’t necessarily need to carry along these items which would have otherwise taken much of my suitcase space.

Major hotels also do have hair dryers too, so there is no need to carry along one, you will just be wasting your packing space. If your hotel doesn’t, just ask the front desk — they’re usually able to wrangle one for you,

When it comes to makeup, ensure that you take only what you will be using during your visit, and you will be amazed how smaller your makeup bag will become. In case you forget anything, don’t stress, many hotels have all the necessities for their customers. And if they don’t there’s usually a drug store within spitting distance.

What are your thoughts? Any tips I forgot?

If any of these tips have been helpful to you, you can thank me later when we meet on your flight — who knows, I might be your next flight attendant.

Lucky you.

Toodles!