The summer travel season is in full swing, and many folks are finally taking those pandemic-postponed vacations. More travelers mean crowded airports, oversold planes, and less space in the overhead bins.
We all know those travelers who pack everything including the kitchen sink for a three-day trip, leaving you with little to no room in the overhead bins. As a retired flight attendant, and now frequent air traveler, I have discovered some essentials for your carry-on.
Your carry-on should fit underneath the seat in front of you. More people are choosing to carry on their luggage because of flight delays and cancellations and to avoid baggage fees or lost luggage. The additional bags result in less room in the overhead compartments. A larger suitcase isn’t always the best option, though, because then you tend to overpack.
Remember, less is more. You want to pack smarter so you don’t have to work harder when you arrive at your destination.
Pro Tip: I use the TravelPro Backpack. But honestly, any bag you like will work. Find one that is comfortable to wear or manageable to carry. You will end up using this bag as your daily carry bag during your vacation as well. It actually turns into a two for one and you won’t need an additional bag to pack for daily excursions.
Don’t wait until the last minute to get all your medications and supplements together. You are bound to forget something when rushing. This is one of the reasons I start with my medications. I put everything I think I might need into a Ziplock bag. It’s also important to write down anything you are taking and keep a list in your wallet or purse and leave a copy with your emergency contact person.
Travel documents should be placed inside your carry-on along with a black or blue pen. Most documents will need to be completed using a pen. You should have a list of the addresses where you will be staying, along with phone numbers. You can also store these in your phone, but it’s a good idea to have a paper copy in case your phone dies.
The addresses are more important for international trips, but during my travels in the U.S. last month, I noticed people standing in the car line looking for this information.
In case of delays, I make sure I have everything I would need to make it through 24 hours without my checked bags. First, I pick up a small travel kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. These can be found at any big box store and are perfect for TSA approval.
Pack one set of clean clothes. I have even disposable undergarments from the camping stores. Also, I pack an inexpensive washcloth or soap sheets. The washcloths can be put in a Ziplock after use or just thrown away.
Pro Tip: It’s important to understand TSA’s 3/1/1 liquid rule. All liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less and fit into one quart-sized bag. Anything in a container larger than 3.4 ounces must be checked.
Pack some light snack foods. You know we all get that fever for food when bored. Pack things that are easy to carry and can be consumed with no heating or assistance from the crew. Items like pre-popped popcorn, peanut butter crackers, a sandwich, gum, or hard candy.
Purchase a drink once you’ve cleared security to take on board with you. I bring powdered drinks like Kool-Aid, tea, electrolytes, and energy drink mixes. You may also want to have a set of plastic utensils.
Bring an empty water bottle with you. I really like my S’well bottle. It’s easy to pour my drink into, and then I don’t have to worry about spilling or splashing around during turbulence.
Pro Tip: There are a few airports that require you to take out your food and run it through the scanner. I would recommend checking with your airport in advance to make sure your snack choices will be easy to pass through security.
Headphones are important for my travels, so I bring two sets. I use my over-ear noise cancellation headphones, like Dr. Dre’s Beats, for long-distance travel. A pair of in-ear headphones will work also, but remember not every system is made the same.
Delta Airlines, for instance, uses a double prong. If your headphones aren’t compatible, ask a crew member for a complementary pair. This is a good thing to check with the airline before you leave home.
Also don’t forget your charging cords and external chargers.
Pro Tip: The type of headphones I use depends on the location of my seat. With seats that have a high headrest, I prefer in-ear headphones. The headrest folds in and keeps your head steady and the headphones in your ears.
Once you have all your items ready, lay them out and make sure not to overpack. Just carry what you will need to get you to your destination. It sounds funny, but you can use Ziplock bags (or reusable produce bags) to help stay organized. Put your items that will be used less on the bottom of your bag and the most used items on top. Use each compartment that’s available. Your travel documents should be in one of the separate compartments along with any medication or emergency information.
Pro Tip: It’s typically not the best idea to pack your keys, baggage claim ticket, or important documents in your checked bags. In case luggage is lost or delayed, you don’t want to delay your arrival home by not having your car keys.
Now you should be ready for take-off.
For even more packing tips, check out: