Travel Light: Tips for Only Packing a Carry-on Bag

Mar 8, 2023

When it comes to travel, getting there used to be half the fun – but not so much nowadays. From long check-in and customs queues to cancelled flights, baggage losses and delays – not to mention checked bag fees – it seems that travelling light by only packing a carry-on is a literal rite of passage.

We’re seasoned travellers and have learned over the years that less is more. Nowadays, with mayhem going on at airports all over the globe, it’s even more important to be a savvy packer. What we are endeavouring to write here is a guide to packing and travelling with only a carry-on. We’ve structured our thoughts as a list of do’s and don’ts:

Carry-on Do’s

  • Do use one clear plastic Ziplock bag for liquids, gels and powders: Make sure ALL your individual toiletries are no bigger than 100 ml/100 grams (3 ounces) each. Place them in one clear plastic Ziplock bag at the top of your carry-on bag as you will have to take it out at security. Bring a few extra bags for just in case – plastic bags have been known to rip on occasion!
  • Do confirm the airline’s weight and size restrictions. In most cases, you’ll be allowed a personal bag (such as a purse or backpack) and a carry-on (which you may or may not have to pay for). Next, weigh and measure your carry-on bag. It must be able to fit in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Standard weight and size limits for international flights are about 7kg (15.5lbs) and 56cm x 36cm x 23cm (22” x 5.5” x 9”), but not all airlines are the same, so it’s best to double check.
  • Choose a softshell bag with multiple compartments/pockets. A backpack style means you have both hands free to hold your travel documents, without constantly rummaging around for them.
  • Do try to be among the first to board: If you are near the end of the queue when it comes to boarding, your carry-on bag may not fit in the overhead compartment meaning you will have to store it under your seat or it could be put into checked luggage. This could result in endless waiting at the other end to retrieve your bag. Consider buying priority boarding ahead of time to make sure you’ll be first on the plane and save time.
  • Do roll your clothes: Rather than folding, we find that rolling is the best space-saving method for packing clothing. Rolled tightly, creases are also avoidable. Alternatively invest in packing cubes which help keep items separated and compact.
  • Do fully charge your electronic devices: The last thing you want to be doing after spending hours packing your bag as tight and neat as possible is rummaging around for a charger. Avoid this hassle by ensuring all devices are at 100% before departing. It is also wise to pack electronics such as laptops and iPads at the top of your carry-on as you will need to get these out at security.
  • Pack versatile items: Make sure to pack things that can have multiple uses, for example, a scarf could be used as a blanket, cover up at the beach or as an accessory. A sarong is also a super versatile item that doubles up as a skirt/dress, cover-up or beach towel.
  • Buy things when you get there: Many everyday essentials, such as sunscreen and toiletries, will be available at your destination. So why not save space, and consider purchasing these out there?
    Go digital: Make the most of any available switches to digital devices such as eBooks, digital boarding passes, and any other important documents. This way they are easily accessible and won’t take up extra room in your bag.
  • Wear your largest items while travelling: We’re talking winter coats, big boots, hats, and even an extra pair of underwear.

Carry-on Don’ts:

  • Don’t pack liquids larger than 100 ml/100 grams (3 ounces). That half full, 200 ml container or tube of toothpaste still cannot be packed in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t pack powders more than 350 ml: (12 ounces) First liquids, now powders? Yes, new rules are now in effect – things like baby powder and dry shampoo. Same for aerosols.
  • Don’t pack meat, fruit, or other agricultural items. This includes any snacks or sandwiches with meat fillings. (This is usually, though not always, the case – check with your airline if you really want to bring a bagged lunch.)
  • Don’t expect to carry any large sports equipment with you in the cabin. Even if it’s just a tennis racket, most sports equipment cannot be taken on as carry-on luggage. If you’re going to be participating in any sports while away, plan ahead and hire some equipment at your destination instead. Skis, golf clubs, tennis and scuba gear to name a few.

For more information about what and what not to put in your carry-on bag (or your checked luggage for that matter) the next time you fly, visit CATSA/ACSTA, and get it right! And just to reiterate: be extra sure to double check that your carry-on bag fits the airline you’re flying on’s size guidelines. Not all carriers are the same.



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