TFA 8: Carry On Matters

In this week's travel tips for Travel Tuesday (#TT) our flight attendant travel experts answer a listener's question about what to pack in your carry on. What do you pack in your carry on? Have you ever been stranded at a connecting airport due to weather with only the contents of your carry on? How big a bag do you need for all your items?


Jim March 22, 2011 at 01:12 pm

My carry-on contents vary based on the purpose of the trip and the itinerary, and whether or not I have status on the airline. For a business trip, I try to carry on enough so that I can go to work dressed appropriately for one day even if my checked bag is lost. I learned this lesson the hard way! This happens fairly frequently if I have to connect, and is almost a sure bet if I connect to a different carrier. Usually misrouted bags show up the next day. I will wear a sport coat and jeans but pack some dress pants and a change of shirt/socks/underwear in carry-on. Prescription drugs and toiletries are also carried on. Also something to read and maybe an iPad or something, along with sound-cancelling headphones. Also my glasses, reading glasses, contact solution, and sunglasses.

For a pleasure trip, the camera is carried on. Often a laptop for watching movies on a transoceanic flight and for backing up photos taken during vacation.

For a trip to cold places, I may carry on a sweater, scarf, hat, etc., or a tightly folded raincoat.

When traveling on an airline where I have no status, I probably won't have access to the overhead bin, and have to compress down to what fits under the seat. Then my options are much more limited. I can do a 2 day trip with an unstructured compressible bag that fits under the seat or in the little bits of space in between the rollaboards. For a 4 or 5 day trip, if I have status, I can use a 21" roller, but if I don't, I have to check something.