Last Updated on May 1, 2021
As someone that likes to travel light wherever possible, I think you should put everything that you want to bring in your carry-on luggage.
Flying with only a carry-on allows you to avoid checked baggage fees. And it means you don’t need to worry so much about theft, damage, or loss of luggage.
But I understand that many passengers want to bring more stuff and need to decide what to put in their carry-on vs what to put in checked luggage.
This post is about those carry-on essentials that you should have on your hand luggage packing list.
There are two reasons to pack something in hand luggage rather than checked baggage.
- It will be a convenient item to have on the plane during your flight for health, comfort, or entertainment.
- It’s the stuff too risky to pack in checked baggage because checked bags sometimes get lost, damaged, or delayed.
Let’s get started.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll understand why disinfecting wipes are top of the list.
The best way sanitize your tray table, and arm rests is by using disinfecting wet wipes.
Even though wet wipes are wet they are not considered a liquid and you don’t need to pack them in your quart bag.
These might be best packed in your purse or personal item bag so that you have easy access. If you pack them in your carry-on suitcase then make sure they are near the top so you can grab them easily.
Something like these Lysol wipes are essential when flying these days.
Change Of Clothes
You need to assume that there is a possibility that anything you pack in your checked bag might never be seen again.
That’s why it’s you should always pack at least a change of underwear if not a full change of clothes in your carry-on in case your checked bag gets lost or delayed.
Always put any medication in your carry-on packing list.
It’s better not to risk losing any medicine that could be difficult to replace while on your trip.
You can pack pills in hand luggage and they don’t need to come with a prescription or be in their original bottles.
If you have any liquid medications remember that the 3.4 ounces limit does not apply to medicine. You simply need to declare any medicines in bottles larger than 3.4 oz to the TSA officer at the checkpoint.
You’d be surprised at the types of things that mysteriously disappear from checked suitcases.
Anything that could be sold on for profit is at risk when it’s in hold luggage.
Laptops are permitted to be stored in hold luggage but it’s almost always never a good idea to do so.
The same goes for camera equipment and other electronics like your cell phone.
Jewelry can be packed in your checked bag but the risk is too high and since jewelry is small it should always be kept in hand luggage.
Anything that has sentimental value and is irreplaceable should never be checked and always packed in hand luggage where you can keep an eye on it.
It would be a major inconvenience to lose your passport. Especially if traveling internationally.
Keep your passport, any other ID documents, tickets, boarding passes, or any other printed information in your hand luggage.
Money, Credit Cards & Travelers Checks
One of the most important thing to make sure is protected is your wallet.
If you lost everything you could probably still enjoy your trip if you had your wallet and were able to take a trip to the mall.
So keep a close eye on your cash, credit cards, and any travelers checks.
Because there are fewer restrictions when packing liquids in checked bags it might be tempting to pack all your toiletries in your checked luggage when you travel.
To reemphasize, you should pack on the premise that your checked suitcase could be lost or delayed.
If you only reached your destination with your carry-on you’d still want to have at least a toothbrush, some toothpaste, and a few basic toiletries with you.
If you are going to a hot climate don’t get sunburned going between the airport and your hotel because your sunscreen is in your checked bag. Keep your sunglasses or reading glasses handy too.
So it makes sense to pack at least some of your toiletries in your carry-on so that you will have them with you.
You can use bluetooth headphones on a plane. Even though turning on flight mode on your phone turns off Bluetooth connectivity you are permitted to turn it back on to connect your headphones.
These days many passengers rely less on any in-flight entertainment and instead make sure they download something from Netflix before the flight.
So remember to pack your headphones for in-flight entertainment.
While many airlines now provide a socket for charging your phone it’s not guaranteed.
When I travel I pack a portable power pack so I know I’ll be able charge my phone. These portable battery packs are not permitted in checked bags anyway because of the fire risk.
You should also pack your cell phone charger in your hand luggage. Again, it’s because your checked luggage could be delayed or lost.
If that happened you’d be grateful to have some juice in your phone so you can try to track down your lost bag.
If you are traveling internationally then make sure you pack a travel adapter so you’ll be able to use your devices with foreign plug sockets.
If you are taking a longer flight you might want to pack from travel accessories to help you try to get comfortable during your flight.
An eye mask, blanket and travel pillow will help you get settled in and maybe even a little sleep.
You can bring your own snacks on the plane. This can save you some money and also just make sure you have something that you like to nibble on.
If you wear compression socks on long flights then remember to pack them in hand luggage if you are not putting them on before you leave the house.
When you fly the air the cabin is less humid than normal. This can lead to dry skin, dry eyes, throat, and nose.
To combat dehydration it’s important to drink water when flying, especially on longer flights.
You can only bring a 3.4 oz bottle of water through airport security in your one quart-sized plastic bag. That’s not enough water the quench your thirst though.
If you want to stay hydrated during your flight there is nothing to stop you from bringing an empty bottle through and filling it up after the checkpoint.
Or you can buy a larger bottle of water from the store after you’ve made it through security.
What Can’t You Put In Carry-On Luggage
The items above are things that you should consider packing in your carry-on. It’s impossible to list everything that you can bring in carry-on luggage.
Instead, it’s easier to give you an idea what you can’t bring.
I wrote a detailed post previously about what you can’t put in carry-on luggage.
In summary, you are not allowed to bring liquids, gels, and aerosols in large quantities onto planes. They must be in containers under 3.4 oz and packed in one quart-size bag.
You also can’t bring any weapons or items that could be used as weapons. So anything with a blade is restricted and anything that you can use to bludgeon someone is prohibited inside the cabin.
Those two concepts, liquids and weapons, will cover 90% of the rules about what you can pack in hand luggage.
Hopefully these tips give you a better idea about what to bring with you on the plane.
You should pack anything that will help make your flight more comfortable in hand luggage as well as anything that is too valuable to lose or do without while lost luggage gets rerouted to your hotel or destination.