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“Carry-On Only” Air Travel Basics

Get the right size bag. Remember, the dimensions of the bag much include any wheels that may stick out beyond the bag itself. If your carry-on is too large, the airline will may make you check your bag. You might even make it to the gate before you find out the bag must be checked.

Remember when flying was a different experience? Remember when we were offered an actual meal during a long flight? Remember when airlines didn’t charge per suitcase so we could pack anything and everything we thought we might need while away from home? Those were the “good old” days of air travel. Today,we often have to get by on a few snacks as we pass away the hours on a long flight. And many people opt to travel with just a carry-on bag to avoid the hassles and added charges of checking in luggage.

In most cases, you can now board a flight with one piece of carry-on luggage to be stored in the overhead bin and one personal item (about the size of a standard - not large - purse, briefcase, or laptop bag) that fits under the seat in front of you. Currently, airlines provide different specifications for carry-on bags, which means you should check in with each carrier to see what is permitted. Be aware, however, this fact might change in the near future as global restrictions for carry-ons may soon be put in place. In addition, some airlines have started charging a fee for carry-ons and others may follow suit.

Traveling with only carry-on baggage can be challenging, but it is possible. And it has a few perks. There's no waiting around at baggage claim for your suitcase(s). The airline can’t “lose” your luggage. You are not burdened with larger, heavier bags when maneuvering your way through the airport or getting to your destination. Of course, you do have to figure out how to get your luggage in and out of the overhead bin. That often means asking for help as we get older. You also have to be strategic about packing. There's a limited amount of space in a carry-on bag.

The following carry-on packing tips may help you travel with only your carry-on baggage.

Cut back on shoes. If possible, come up with the smallest number of shoes that will get you through any occasion on your trip. Ideally, try to pack one pair, wear one pair... and leave the rest at home. Always wear your most comfortable walking shoes for travel. Almost certainly, they are the largest and bulkiest pair of shoes you own anyway and would take up the most room in your carry-on. 

Tips for Packing Your Carry-on Bag

Do not over pack. When you are packing a larger suitcase, it is easy to throw in additional items here and there. With a carry-on, that luxury goes out the window. The more you pack, the wider your bag becomes and the greater the chance it will have to be checked. 

Pack strategically. Pack items you won't need until you get to your destination at the bottom of your bag. Pack items you may want access to during the trip on top.

Plan in advance. Compile a list of everything you think you MIGHT need and lay the items all out on your bed. Scrutinize what you see and then pack only what you KNOW you will need.

Wear or carry your coat or jacket. You are allowed to bring outerwear along with you on the plane. Instead of packing a coat, free up space in your carry-on for something else. 

Bring mix-and-match outfits. Think about all the pieces of clothing you have that can work together to make different outfits. Remember, it is possible to layer and re-wear just a few pieces and end up looking like you have multiple outfits. 


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