What to Pack in Your Carry-on luggage

Laptop carry-on caseFlight attendants keep their carry-on bag packed as there is sometimes a need to head to the airport at the last minute. When crew scheduling calls and says "We need you to fill in and we're sending the taxi to pick you up now," you have to be ready.

With some airlines introducing charges for checked luggage in economy and reducing the weight limit for carry-on bags, savvy packing strategies are more important than ever. During my university days, when I was an Air Canada summer flight attendant, we had one bag that had to take care of all of our needs in-flight and during layovers. 

Based on this experience, here are a few tips about for the bare minimums to pack in your carry-on bag. This takes into account what you may need if your checked luggage gets lost or its delivery gets delayed.

Start with the right bag. I have one from Nextech that has a side compartment that keeps your laptop safe.

Add the basics. You'll need:

  1. Plastic bag with enough liquid toiletries to meet your needs for the flight and the first few days at your destination.
    Include soap, deodorant, sunscreen, hand lotion, facial cleansing cream, moisturizer, hydrating facial masque.

    Sothys (Sothys now stocks the first class kit for Singapore Airlines), Phytomer and Guinot, available from many spas, have sample sizes that are perfect for carry-ons.

Sothy's SamplesPhytomer Samples

  1. Enough underwear, socks (and for ladies, stockings) for 3 days.
  2. Toothpaste & travel toothbrush.
  3. Passport holder that is large enough that you wont forget it.
  4. Laptop or iPad.
  5. Small extension chord. (I picked this tip from fellow Cvent blogger Midori Connolly of AVGirl Productions at IMEX a couple of years ago.)
  6. USB drives for storage and with back-up copies of your printed documents.
  7. Small bag with converters for electical current.
  8. Chain purses for foreign currency (to be transferred to your wallet upon landing at each destination).

When you travel business class, you'll get an amenities kit with the following. Re-pack it after your flight and add it to your carry on bag.

  1. Folding slippers
  2. Sleeping mask.
  3. Earplugs.
  4. Earbud Earphones (many airlines charge for these in economy.)

Strongly recommended.

  1. Pillow and blanketA lightweight track suit.
    This will weigh a lot less than jeans. You can change it into it to relax during the flight and rinse it out to wear at your destination if the delivery of your check-in luggage is delayed. I have noticed that some airlines now provide track suits for flight crews to wear in the rest area for long-haul flights (e.g. Singapore Airlines).
  2. An extra tee shirt.
  3. Bathing suit.
  4. Pillow and blanket (many airlines charge for these in economy).
    This lightweight set from Lug comes in 2 styles, flat pillow or neck pillow. When the blanket is folded up neatly inside the case, it can be used as a pillow. There is an insert that can be blown up for the pillow when you use the blanket.

If you're traveling business class, be sure to bring a garment bag with a business suit and shoes to go with it.

For more tips also consult Pack Like a Planner: One Carry-on Bag, Many Options, Challenges & Solutions for Women Professionals: 8-Piece Travel Wardrobe Saves Space, Travel Survival Strategies: Coping with Lost Luggage, Business Travel Tips from a Former Flight Attendant New Airline Fees Cost Business Travelers and Meeting Professionals.

Photo Credit: add1sun

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