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Packing is hard. I know it and you know it. And when it comes to packing your carry-on bag, there’s a very fine line between under preparing and overpacking. We’ve all been there: either struggling after our friends as they march through the airport because we’re weighed down by our bag… or sitting on a flight cursing ourselves for forgetting an essential item. So how do you achieve that delicate balance? Well, this comprehensive hand luggage packing guide is here to help you get things just right.
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The type of bag you’ll need depends on your trip. I’d say err on the side of caution when it comes to size; the bigger your bag, the more tempted you’ll be to overpack. Overly heavy bags can come with hefty fines, so check and double check your airline’s restrictions before you begin packing.
Backpacks are the ultimate practical choice. Choose a durable bag with plenty of zip pockets and compartments to help you organise your belongings neatly. You may well need a day backpack once you reach your destination, so it makes sense to take one as carry-on. Here are a couple of high quality choices:
If you’re going on a short trip with no checked luggage, then a mini suitcase is the way to go. Choose a sturdy one with decent wheels so that you can pull it behind you with ease. I like the following:
Tote bags also work well as carry-on because they slide easily under seats and are less bulky than backpacks. I recommend the following:
Most airlines permit one piece of carry on and a personal item, which could be a laptop bag or a small handbag.
If you’re traveling with a laptop, I recommend choosing a larger carry-on bag with a padded laptop slot. Then, use a small handbag as your personal item so you can access your wallet and passport easily. Small shoulder bags with long straps work well as they’re easy to carry.
Well, duh. Make sure you pack your passport, travel insurance documents and boarding pass in your hand luggage – ideally in your personal bag where it’s easily accessible.
I recommend choosing a large wallet with plenty of card slots. Ideally, your wallet should have a separate coin pouch and different sections for different currencies if you’re travelling to multiple countries.
It’s often possible to get a disposable liquids bag from the airport, but these are no friend to the environment – not to mention much more likely to split open. Choose a TSA-approved reusable clear pouch to pack your liquids – and remember the 100ml container limit. For more on the liquids rules, check out this page on the TSA website.
If you’re flying long haul, you’ll definitely want to freshen up mid-flight. I recommend including the following in your hand luggage:
I’m no stranger to dry skin whilst flying, which is why I wrote an entire article on how to prevent it. You’ll find a more extensive list of recommendations in the article but here are a couple of my top skincare picks to stop your skin from drying out during a flight:
You’ve got to keep yourself entertained in transit and sometimes the in-flight options just don’t cut it. A Kindle or e-reader is an amazing space-saver and gives you access to far more books at once. Load some films or TV episodes onto your tablet and don’t forget your headphones and portable charger. (Remember, you can’t take the latter in checked luggage so you have to put it in your carry-on!)
Sleeping on airplanes can be uncomfortable, but a travel pillow can definitely improve your situation – and relieve you of any aches and pains when you wake up. I’m partial to a memory foam pillow myself but there are plenty of options out there:
A silky-soft eye mask and a comfortable pair of ear plugs can really help to improve the quality of your shut-eye on the plane, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
If worst comes to worst and the airline loses your luggage, at least you won’t have to spend the next 24 hours in the same outfit you traveled in. And even if that doesn’t happen, after several hours in the air you’ll probably be glad of a fresh t-shirt and a change of underwear.
You can never be too clean, and airplanes are notoriously full of germs. Hand sanitizer is your new best friend when it comes to flying – not to mention a travel essential in the era of Covid-19.
At the moment, wearing a mask is a must during a flight so be sure to pack a comfortable one that won’t irritate your skin. Check out this article on the best masks for safety and style for an in-depth list of recommendations.
Happy packing! Before you get started, double check your airline’s luggage rules as they vary a lot across the board. If you’re unsure whether a certain item is allowed in your carry-on, take a look at the TSA guidelines.
Need help on deciding who to fly with? Here’s my pick of the top five international business class airlines for the ultimate in-flight comfort.
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Your Luxe Lifestyle was founded by luxury world traveler Isabella Garofanelli bringing you the very best the globe has to offer in travel, lifestyle, and wellness.
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