>  Advice   >  Carry on packing tips

Channel Marie Kondo and the art of organising with this essential guide to packing your carry-on bag like a pro. There’s no need to ask, “Will this bring me joy at 20,000 feet?”. But if you forget essentials like your headphones or something else to pass the time, you definitely won’t be feeling joy when you’re stuck in the air for hours in a metal tube. A little pre-planning can go a long way when it comes to having a good flight, especially if you’re trying to avoid the extra cost of checking a bag on a budget airline. Make this holiday your best (and cheapest) yet with these carry on packing tips.

Choose the right luggage

Some carry-on bags are heavier than others. A small backpack from an adventure store or a lightweight duffle bag may be a better choice than an older (and therefore probably heavier) carry-on bag with wheels if you’re serious about cutting down on weight.

Give your kids a carry on bag

Instead of trying to cram everything into the one bag, have each child carry their own backpack or small carry-on. These can be used for essentials like clothing, snacks, and a favourite toy. Speaking of toys, don’t let your kids bring too many or there won’t be any room in their bag for important stuff like something to wear at your destination.

Only bring the essentials

Airlines can be brutal when it comes to weighing carry on luggage, especially if you’re flying with a budget carrier. If a carry-on suitcase or even your favourite tote bag is deemed to be too heavy,  it can cost you more than $100 to check your bag if you don’t pre-purchase a checked luggage allowance. Be ruthless and only pack essentials such as your iPhone and tablet, charging cords, an empty water bottle, earphones, earplugs, an eye mask, snacks, sunglasses, deodorant and any medications. Even if you have checked baggage on the plane, you can still be charged at the gate if your carry on is too heavy.

Wear your heaviest clothes

If you can’t avoid bringing something like a heavy winter jacket, wear it when you check in and also during boarding. Once you’re inside the plane you can stow it in the overhead locker and enjoy a comfortable flight without blowing your checked baggage allowance.

Use packing cubes

Keeping things organised makes life more comfortable onboard and at your destination. By using packing cubes, you will have everything you need within easy reach and control the potential chaos created by having to cram everything for your holiday into one suitcase. Zip lock bags from the supermarket are perfect for smaller items like jewellery and cables.

Be weather-wise

Yes, we all want sunny skies and a perfect temperature at our destination, but as Mick Jagger says, “You can’t always get what you want”. Always bring a rain poncho or a rain jacket that can double as a jumper. Light weight clothing that can be layered is better than heavy sweaters or different items for every possible weather event.

Utilise space with your packing

Roll your clothes to prevent wrinkling and free up space in your bag. Utilise spare spots in your suitcase like the inside of shoes by stuffing them with socks and underwear. Large rubber bands can be used to hold shoes or sandals together so they take up less room.

Have a (small) first aid kit

You don’t have to make like Florence Nightingale but you do need some essentials. Basic pain killers, band aids, gastro stop, eye drops, and antihistamine are always a good idea.  I also pack throat lozenges to sooth a dry throat on long haul flights.

Keep things charged

Digital essentials like phones and tablets are important for most people inflight, especially if they’re travelling on a budget carrier and need to make their own fun. Packing a compact battery pack is a great idea as not all planes offer in-seat power. Just remember to charge this before your flight or it will be flat as a tack when you need it most. Also, remember to pack the right cables for your devices and keep them together in a zip lock bag.

Hygiene is essential

Wear deodorant!  It doesn’t matter how rich or beautiful you are, after a long day of travel with no shower, you will smell. Pack a small low-scent roll-on deodorant in your carry on bag (and use it often). Don’t take off your shoes on the flight unless they’re relatively new and/or stink free and bring a toothbrush and toothpaste and use that too. A disposable one from a hotel is perfect for this. You don’t want to have such bad toe curling dragon breath that you knock over the poor staff at immigration when you finally arrive at your destination.

Travel paperwork

Check and double check that any essential documentation in your carry-on is within easy reach in case you need to show it to someone. Scrabbling amongst the underwear in your bag for flight or hotel confirmations while everyone looks is not a good way to start a holiday.

Want to travel smarter and save money? Check out our tips for flying a low cost airline, keeping your luggage safe, visiting Europe in peak season, getting a great car hire deal, avoiding travel scams, saving money at the airport, staying at an Airbnb, finding cheap five star hotel deals, catching public transport overseas, staying safe in a big city, getting the best round-the-world airfares, making the most of a five star hotel stay, travelling during low season, visiting a theme park in peak season, packing a carry on bag, visiting a wine region, planning a romantic getaway, early morning flights, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, multigenerational travel, travelling in a motorhome, buying the best souvenirs, going on safari, visiting the Eiffel Tower, travelling with pets, holidaying with adult children, travelling with teens, and sleeping on a plane.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.