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What Can I Bring in My Carry-On?

Knowing exactly what you'll need (and are allowed to bring) in your carry-on is key to making a security checkpoints a breeze and a long-flight fun.

By Annie KielyPublished 7 years ago 5 min read

Your carry-on is one of the most important and strategic parts of planning if you'll be sitting on a long flight.

Packing your carry-on bag may be something you leave to the last-minute while traveling. While it may be tempting to focus only on your luggage, you should be sure to take the time to strategically plan what you'll be bringing along on your flight. Having the perfectly-packed carry-on luggage ensures you have all the essentials and entertainment you need to enjoy your travel, instead of just enduring it.

The rules about carry-on luggage

Before you dive-in and start packing the perfect carry-on bag, be sure you're aware of what you can't bring in your carry-on. Sadly, items that are not deemed safe for air travel will likely be confiscated at your gate, so be sure to plan ahead.

The two major concerns with carry-on luggage is that they are an appropriate size, and that they do not contain anything dangerous or illegal.

  • Remember that the rules for flying with alcohol are very strict. You might be able to bring a bottle along that you buy from the duty-free, but be sure to check that your purchase is acceptable for your flight.
  • Any dangerous materials or weapons are obviously not allowed in your carry-on bag. You're also not to bring along batteries, matches, lighters, scissors, and certain electronic devices.
  • Any flora and fauna you have in your carry-on is likely to be confiscated to prevent any threats to your destination's ecosystem.
  • Finally, if your bag is too big or heavy, you may be forced to check it.

The TSA provides full information on what you can and cannot bring on a flight, and you can even contact the TSA on Facebook or Twitter with questions about items you'd like to pack! Many airlines have also created their own carry-on restrictions based on their own company policies. Be sure to contact your airline if there are any items you are unsure about.

The absolute essentials for your carry-on

You want to be sure that you have all of your identification, paperwork, and key financial information on you when you fly. These items are essential for your travel, and you would never want to be stuck without them. Keep your passport, driver's license, cash, credit cards, ID, itinerary, and tickets on you and handy at all times, and try to have them organized so you don't lose anything.

It is a great idea to pack toiletries with you in your carry-on, particularly if you're heading out to a long flight, or may be delayed. Having your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant on your person may seem like too much to carry, but you'll be grateful to have them if you end up waiting for a flight for long enough, or if you get stuck somewhere.

Be sure to pack a change of clean clothes, so you'll be prepared in case there is a delay with your luggage. There is nothing like changing into clean comfort-clothes when you hop off a plane.

Bonus items for comfort

If you've managed to pack efficiently, and find yourself with spare room in your carry-on, there are a few items you may have forgotten to pack that can change your flight from tolerable to fun.

  • If you're hoping to catch some sleep on your flight, consider bringing ear plugs and an eye mask. It is difficult to sleep sitting up while surrounded by strangers, but these items can help at least a little.
  • A travel pillow and long blanket can do a lot to change your flight from an endurance test to a prolonged nap. Airlines may provide these items, but certainly it is more comfortable to have your own.
  • This may sound strange, but having a change of socks and even slippers can increase your comfort! It can be hard to wear shoes for hours at a time, and clean socks can bring a surprising amount of comfort to your day.
  • What you wear on your flight is just as important as what you pack! Be sure to dress in light layers that are easy to take on and off, so you can change to deal with any weather fluctuations. Try to avoid any uncomfortable or unforgiving clothing like jeans, tight belts, or bras with underwires, and you'll enjoy your time flying much more.

Entertainment essentials for your carry-on

If you're going to be sitting on a flight for hours on end, it is very important that you plan to have a variety of entertainment planned for when you get bored.

  • Movies and TV are an absolute essential. It is a good idea to bring along a tablet so you can choose your entertainment. While many airlines feature screens on their planes, some are transitioning to app-based movies and television. Be sure to check out your flight details to see if there is anything you should download before leaving home.
  • Airports and planes are the perfect place to get caught up on your reading. the timeless and anonymous nature of your interactions helps you to really separate and focus. Plus, nothing makes time move faster than an amazing book. Be sure to have a few things to read ready on your phone or tablet, or pack books to bring along with you.
  • A long flight is the perfect time to try out a new game. Be sure to check out things you might be interested before leaving, so you can download and be prepared to engage throughout the flight. Some people will pack their laptops, mouse, and keyboards in support of a gaming session - but you also have the option of using your own device to find something to play.
  • It is very important to have something to listen to. You may be on a flight with cranky passengers, or be seated near a snorer. Nothing takes the stress out of traveling like popping in your earphones and ignoring the world. Be sure to stock up on music to listen to, and consider getting a few audio books or podcasts to listen to while you're on your way.

Don't forget your chargers! Many people depend on their tablet or laptop to get them through a long flight, only to find they are hugely disappointed when their battery dies. Be sure to pack your chargers and locate the outlets you need in the airport and on your flight to be sure your entertainment holds up.

The perfect carry-on is key to a good trip

Learning to pack your carry-on like a pro is a traveling skill that will serve you any time you fly. Having everything you need at hand will make for an easy and relaxed flight, ensuring you're at your best when you reach your destination. For some airlines, you can actually save money by bringing along only a carry-on as your luggage. For short trips, this can be an effective way to save money and travel lightly. If you're asking yourself what you should bring along in your carry-on luggage, be sure to review these tips and rules to pack the perfect bag to fly in comfort.

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About the Creator

Annie Kiely

Annie Kiely is a freelance writer, editor and researcher who lives in the 'burbs of Toronto with her pets and her partner. Annie is an advocate for wellness, mental health education, and literacy. She loves animals and gardening (and food).

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    Annie KielyWritten by Annie Kiely

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