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How to Pack Your Carry on Bag

Two Methods:Packing a Carry-On Bag for the DayPacking a Carry-On Suitcase

If you find you are going to be stuck in a metal tube thousands of feet in the air for hours–you don't want to be bored. A perfectly packed carry-on bag is one of the only things standing between you and boredom. wikiHow is here to help you pack both your carry-on bag and carry-on suitcase so that you have everything you need to make enduring your flight as easy as possible.

Method 1
Packing a Carry-On Bag for the Day

A carry-on bag gets stored under the seat in front of you, while a carry-on suitcase or larger bag gets stored in the overhead compartment. You are generally allowed to bring two carry-ons onto a flight with you. However, you can also choose to pack a larger suitcase and simply bring a carry-on bag with you onto the plane. For how to pack a carry-on suitcase, scroll down to Method Two.

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    Pick the right bag. Make sure it's durable, easy to carry, and that it can hold all of your necessary items. More importantly, make sure it meets your airline’s size requirements. Check your airlines FAQ to see the measurements of the largest bag you can bring. If you fly multiple different airlines, check the ones you fly most frequently and choose a size bag that will satisfy all the airlines requirements. A good way to tell if it will work or not is to consider whether or not it will fit in or under the plane seat in front of you.[1]
    • The Vacation Carry-On: The ideal carry on bag is one that has a large body with a lot of pockets. Pockets are fantastic for keeping all of your stuff separate--one pocket for wallet/phone, one for makeup, one for your book, etc. Large purses, messenger bags, or satchels are all great options that give you a lot of space to store your stuff, and generally have great pockets.
    • The Business Carry-On: As you might have guessed, a briefcase is a really good carry on for the working man or woman. Find one that can be slung over your shoulder in case you need to make a run for your flight. Briefcases that have built-in organizers and a pocket for your wallet/phone/keys/other necessities are great options.
    • The Kid/Teenager/College student Carry-On: Think, backpack. Backpacks are fantastic for holding laptops, school books, last minute exam cramming notes, and toys. Because of the zippers, it also ensures that all of your stuff stays in one place so you won’t lose your Game Boy or that super important notebook.
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    Make a list of everything you will need to bring. It's best to begin with the bare essentials, then move on to the entertainment or work items. These bare essentials include your license or passport (depending on whether you are flying domestic or international), your wallet with money or credit cards in it, your phone, and medications you might need, and of course, your plane tickets. Other items to consider packing include:[2]
    • Work or school items: this could include your laptop, your phone and laptop chargers, business notes, class notes, homework, reading that you have to do for class, etc.
    • Entertainment: books, headphones and an iPod, your camera, game consoles, DVDs to watch on your laptop, magazines, a travel book for where you are going, toys, etc.
    • Medications and toiletries: It's best to keep any medications you need with you on the plane. You could also consider bringing an extra pair of contact lenses, mouth wash, etc.
    • Stuff to help you sleep: This includes a neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, etc. Inflatable neck pillows are the best because they take up very little space when deflated.
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    Consider packing for a bad layover. If you get stranded overnight during your layover, or if your other luggage gets lost (pray that it doesn't) you might want to consider bringing a couple of items with you on the plane. You might want to put these items in their own small bag within your carry on bag. These items include:
    • A toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb or hairbrush, a fresh pair of underwear, socks, and deodorant.
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    Make sure all of your electronics and delicate items are protected. Carry-ons have a tendency to get knocked into a lot, so safe-proofing your valuables is generally a good idea. If you are bringing your laptop or tablet, make sure you have a good safety cover for it.
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    Pack your liquids correctly. Remember that most liquids are not allowed through security. You will need to pack your liquid items in one quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. Each passenger is allowed one of these clear quart-sized bags. In the bag, your liquids are limited to 3.4 ounce bottles so don’t plan on bringing that gigantic bottle of sunscreen.[3]
    • You can either pack your larger bottles in a suitcase that you check, or buy the liquid items that you need when you reach your destination. Purchase bottled water and drinks after you pass through security.
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    Pack your necessities in easy to access locations. You will need to be showing your license and tickets at least twice while traveling, so it's important to keep them in a spot where you can get at them easily. Pack your essentials first but do not put them at the bottom of your bag.
    • When packing your laptop keep it easily accessible so you can easily reach it when you have to go through security. The majority of the time you will have to remove your laptop from your carry on to get it scanned. This also goes for your plastic bag of toiletries, if you choose to bring one.
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    Pack in some boredom-busting entertainment. Once you have packed your essentials, put your entertainment items into your bag. Putting them in last ensures that the stuff you actually need fits into your bag. Don’t overstuff your bag--you don’t want to be lugging around a 25 pound bag. Make sure that your bag zips (if it has a zipper) so that you know none of your stuff will fall out.
    • Research your airline. Some planes have built-in entertainment systems, some have in-flight movies, and some do not even serve meals. Pack your boredom-busting items accordingly.
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    Wear warm clothes on the plane. Wearing a sweatshirt or jacket is always a good idea on a plane, as they tend to keep the temperature of planes at what seems to be freezing. If worst comes to worst, you can always tie your jacket or sweatshirt to your carry on bag (or around your waist).[4]

Method 2
Packing a Carry-On Suitcase

  1. Image titled Pack Your Carry on Bag Step 9
    Choose your bag wisely. While each airline has its own rules regarding the size of your carry-on suitcase, most airlines follow a rough guideline that is 45 linear inches (14 x 9 x 22 inches). However, if you can find a carry-on suitcase that is 20 inches (50.8 cm) long, you will be good to go--almost every airline deems that the perfect size for the overhead compartment. Check your airline’s website for the specific requirements of that airline.[5]
    • You should also look for a suitcase that only has two wheels, because four-wheelers have a tendency to roll all over the place (especially if you let go of them while on the bus transporting you to your flight).[6]
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    Lay out all of the clothes you want to bring. Once you have laid them out, reduce the amount by half. Think lightweight, since you’ll be packing all of your stuff into a tiny suitcase. Do you really need three pairs of pants and 10 shirts? Chances are, you probably don’t. Only pack what you really need. Also aim for lighter materials that you can layer. Denim is heavier than other materials like cotton so consider the weight of your clothes when packing.
    • Coordinate the colors of your outfits. This will help you to stretch the clothes you bring into more outfits. Remember that black goes with everything.
    • If you are really having trouble limiting the amount of clothing you are bringing, try following this rule: shirts get worn for two days each and pants or shorts get worn for three days each. Apply this rule to the clothes you have laid out and see if that reduces the amount at all.
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    Plan out your toiletries. Because you have a carry-on, you will most likely be limited to the standard one-quart, plastic, resealable bag of toiletries for your liquid items. You can also bring a bag for dry items like makeup, deodorant, etc. For larger liquid items, consider buying these when you get to your destination, or use the free ones that you get at hotels and motels.
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    Plan your travel outfit before you put everything into your suitcase. You should wear your heaviest items on the plane so that you don’t have to stuff them into your carry-on. Wear your jeans and jacket or sweatshirt, as well as your heaviest shoes, so that you have more space for other items in your carry-on.[7]
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    Pack your entertainment, electronics, and other smaller items into your carry-on bag (rather than your suitcase). After all, you are allowed two carry-ons, one that gets stored in the overhead compartment (your suitcase), and one (your bag) that gets stored under your seat. See Method One for tips on how to properly pack your carry-on bag for the flight.
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    Employ a stellar packing technique. There are many different ways to pack efficiently. Use one method, or try a combination. Make sure to keep anything you will need to take out for security (like your toiletries) right at the top. Some of these techniques include:
    • The Rolling Method: Roll, roll, roll your pants into a little tube! Rolling your clothes up into tubes is a great way to save space, particularly when compared to folding all of your clothes. It also does less wrinkle damage.[8]
    • Use compression bags. These bags can be purchased at most everything-stores like Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. Stuff your clothes into these bags, zip them up, and then squeeze them so that all the air gets removed. You will be shocked by how tiny these bags filled with clothes can get.
    • Stuff things into every nook and cranny. Stuff your socks in to shoes, dresses into nooks and crannies--anything you can fit. It won’t be the most organized carry-on, but you will definitely have everything you need.[9]


  • For the water bottle, have it empty before you go through security, and when you get to your gate, find a water fountain and fill it up.
  • Bring a light blanket or sweatshirt if you get cold easily.
  • Make sure to bring your electronics and enough money for emergencies.
  • Consider packing a snack for your flight. As long as it is wrapped and not a liquid, it should pass through security.
  • Put a sheet of notebook paper inside your checked bag with name, home address, phone number, and where you will be the next few weeks -So on your checked bag, if your identification tag falls off the airline people will open it to check if theres any identification on it and right on top will be your info
  • Bring spare clothes in a bag in case your luggage gets lost or you want to freshen up after travel sickness.
  • You can feel turbulence the most in the back -And feel it the least right over the wings so if you get motion sick on planes buy your seat accordingly
  • Roll clothes -It saves loads of room
  • Know the airline's carry on restrictions. Some allow you to carry a carry on bag along with a laptop case, purse, or other personal item. Others may allow one bag and sometimes size restrictions can be very strict. Know this beforehand rather than having to check your bag unknowingly at the last minute.
  • Make sure that you check with your airline first, to find out the requirements for the size and weight of your luggage. There is usually a size and weight restriction.
  • Even if your going on a long trip pack like you would for only maximum 2 weeks -You need to do laundry either way and if you arent planning on doing laundry well that's a lot of clothes to pay attention to
  • Waterbottle -The humidity level on airplanes is 15% lower so it tires you out
  • Wear your heaviest clothes. They will keep you warm, and leave more space in your suitcase.
  • If you are going with family on a vacation then a duffel bag would be ideal as you could section parts and share the full bag, rather than having a load of heavy bags on shoulders when you still have suitcases.
  • Bring a doorstop -To avoid someone sneaking into your room at night, and taking stuff put a door stop on the door and it will make it harder for an intruder to break in.
  • If you're going somewhere hot, wear shorts and a shirt on the plane but pack a jacket. Then you can take the jacket off when you arrive and you won't be boiling when you get there!
  • Check how big your suitcase should be,according to the airline.

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