How to pack the perfect carry on

Your carry on is one of the most important pieces of luggage that you’re likely to take on holiday. Not only will this bag be carried alongside you through the airport, but it will also board the plane with you, containing anything that you may possibly need for your journey. However, much like your checked bags, your hand luggage will have to fit within the restrictions outlined by the airline you’re travelling with, although most will have similar policies. So, although it can be tempting to over-pack your carry on when it comes to preparing for your next getaway, whether that’s a last minute singles holiday to Greece or somewhere further afield, this vital piece of your holiday luggage should take some careful preparation to ensure that you take everything you need – and nothing else!

Writing a list

How to pack the perfect carry on

Before you begin, it is important to think about the sort of journey that you’re embarking on, including the duration of the flight, the length of your trip and the type of getaway you’re going on. For shorter trips where you’re only away for a few days and summer holidays where you’re likely to be lounging in beachwear most days, only taking a carry-on bag with you is a fantastic option that can save you money! However, if this is an option that you’re considering, you will need to perfectly plan what it is that you’re going to take, as you’ll likely have to compromise to fit everything in.

“When it comes to packing your carry-on, you can’t procrastinate and leave until the last day”, advises Daniel from Travel Weekli. “You need to make a packing list and start ticking things off a few days before”. So, sit down and write a list including every item that is a necessity. This should include everything from toiletries and technology to the clothes that you’re planning to wear whilst away.

Sheila from Exploring the Prime is passionate about packing and believes that she has perfected her method for packing her carry-on. Her biggest tip would be to not pack items just in case, as the eventuality that you will need that item is often incredibly slim! With this in mind, she advises packing items that you know you will use throughout the trip and leave anything else at home. “If something unexpected happens, you can deal with it without having to carry around a suitcase full of items just in case”.

“I put everything I think I need in my carry on out on the bed and figure out the best way to jigsaw everything into my carry on case for ease of access, including pre-packing my ‘under the seat’ bag to be whipped out just before boarding. This normally has my laptop, headphones, neck pillow, book, purse and any cables I want to have with me so that I can lock my spinner case and put it up top and I don’t have to disturb anyone to get anything down mid-flight”, advises Vicki from Make Time to See the World.

Next, take another look at the list and cut down where possible. Will you really wear several pairs of shoes, or is only taking one extra pair a possibility? This will allow you to fine-tune your packing and ensure that you’re not taking up valuable space with things that you won’t use whilst away.


Consider the restrictions

How to pack the perfect carry on

When only taking a carry-on bag, you’re limited to the amount of liquid that you can take. This is one of the most important things to remember, as anything over the allowance will need to be thrown away as you make your way through security. In the UK, each container of liquid that you’re travelling with must hold no more than 100ml, or 3.4 ounces. However, another thing that you’ll need to think about is how many of these containers you’re thinking about taking with you, as they must fit within a clear, re-sealable plastic bag of up to 20 x 20 cm.

Another restriction to think about is how big the bag you’re taking is. Although you may be used to meticulously weighing your checked luggage to ensure that it fits within the desired weight limit, the same applies to hand luggage. “The average sized cabin bag that is allowed on most airlines is between 50 x 43 x 23 cm and 56 x 45 x 25 cm”, advises Jessica from By Jessica, “so you should check on your airline’s website before packing to make sure you’re within the limits!”


The packing process

How to pack the perfect carry on

After writing your list, the next thing to do is pack! Take your time whilst doing this to double and triple check that everything you have written on your list is included. If space is tight, investing in packing cubes can help you utilise the space. However, if you’re tight on time, rolling clothes up is another great strategy.

Start with heavy items first, such as shoes, as these are often the bulkiest of items. With this in mind, another thing that you need to consider is the orientation of your suitcase. Although you may pack with your suitcase on a flat surface, the second it stands upright, items inside are going to move according to weight. Placing the things that weigh the most near the wheels will prevent this from happening as much as possible, limiting the movement within the case and stopping your delicate clothes getting creased from the weight of your favourite sandals.

Next, think back to your electronics and liquids. When travelling through security, these will need to be placed in the tray separate from your case, so these should be easily accessible and sit on the top of your things, put in the bag last. Once you are through security, you can place valuable items such as a laptop or tablet under layers of clothes for extra protection from bumps and bangs.