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Carry-on Luggage – What should you pack?

Airlines have strict requirements about the size and weight of carry-on luggage. When you go to the check-in counter, the last thing that you want to hear is: "I am sorry, your bag is too big and too heavy, you have to check it in".  If you protest, the airline agent will ask you to try to put your bag in the Carry-on Luggage test rack (shown below). If it does not fit, you will not be able to board until you meet the airline requirements. Proper preparation can keep you from having to open your bag and switch some of its contents into a shopping bag or pay the fee for the extra luggage.

Most airlines allow each traveler to bring on board one carry-on bag plus one personal item free of charge. The airlines have strict size rules for these items because the bags have to fit in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you. Any loose objects in the cabin can cause injury during severe air turbulence.

Carry-on bag
The maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. These dimensions are typical, but they vary somewhat by airline. The weight limit for carry-on baggage also varies from 17.6 pounds (8 kg) to 22 pounds (10 kg).

Personal item
The maximum dimensions for your personal item, such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or other small item, are 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm).

Carry-on Luggage test rack
Carry-on Luggage test rack

What to pack in the carry-on bag
The small size of the carry-on luggage makes it necessary to pack only the most essential personal things. These are the things that you would need if your luggage got lost or ended up at the wrong destination and you had to wait one day to get it back.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens all baggage taken unto the airplane. The TSA allows passengers to bring a quart-sized plastic bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in the carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. The liquid items need to be small travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. TSA will make you discard products in larger containers. Sharp objects, such as scissors and knives, should be placed in the checked luggage or they will be confiscated at the security checkpoint. Here is a list of items commonly carried in carry-on bags:

  • laptop or portable electronic devices
  • rechargers for phone and electronics
  • cosmetics
  • personal grooming items (no scissors!)
  • toothbrush, toothpaste (small size), wipes
  • change of underwear
  • sweater, knit hat
  • granola bars or other snacks
  • bandages, first aid
  • business papers
  • items that you may need at the airport

Things to carry with you at all times
You should carry your money, credit cards, itinerary, passport, boarding passes and medicines within easy reach at all times when you are traveling. Women usually put these items in their purse and men put them in their wallets or coat pockets. A neck wallet is very convenient for both genders. It is carried inside a shirt or blouse and can be retrieved easily when necessary. Critical items like medicine, eyeglasses and valuable items like jewelry should be kept in a separate small bag within the carry-on bag. If you are forced to check in your carry-on, you can take out the small bag and keep it with you.



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