With most airlines charging for the first checked bag, many travelers are looking to carry-on bags for their travels. To both make the most of your overhead space and sail through security, follow these tips for packing a carry-on like a pro:


Write It Down

The first step to successful packing is making a list of everything you want to bring. Now try to cross off half. Really. Less is always more if you want to avoid baggage fees. And to help pare down, be sure to check the weather in your final destination.

Pick the Right Bag

Before you start packing, research the size restrictions for your airlines overhead bins (45” is usually the standard). And, don’t forget to try lifting your carry-on over your head before you leave home. If you can’t pick it up, consider paring down or switching bags.

Mesh to the Rescue

See-through mesh bags, the kind you use for delicate laundry, are a carry-on savior. Pack your lingerie, underwear, bathing suits – basically anything you don’t want a security guard to hold up in the middle of the airport – in these weightless wonders.

Plastic Rules

Use zip-top plastic bags for toiletries, snacks, kids’ small toys, dirty shoes, and more. For wrinkle-free packing, keep dress clothes in plastic dry cleaner bags, one per item, then gently lay them on the top of your other packed clothes. The bags reduce friction by creating a layer of air around your clothes; no friction, no wrinkles.

Don’t Wrap Gifts

Security has the right to ask you to unwrap all gifts. We’ve seen it happen, and it’s not a pretty sight. Consider shipping gifts ahead; it will lighten your bags and your gifts will arrive with their bows still attached.

Know the Magic Combination: 3-1-1

For toiletries, the TSA allows 3.4 ounce containers (100ml) that fit in a 1 quart size bag, for each 1 person traveling with a carry-on. Try buying small bottles and decanting your favorite products so you meet these requirements.

Wear Your Heaviest Items

Going hiking? Skiing? Wear your bulky boots or jacket on board. Trying to squeeze these into a small carry-ons will take up too much precious space.

Don’t Bury Your Laptop

TSA rules say laptops have to be removed from bags and placed in a separate bin for screening. So don’t bury your laptop under layers of clothes to “cushion” it; instead consider a separate laptop bag (for your second “personal item” you’re allowed on board) for easy access.


Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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