Travel is one of my many passions. As a child, my parents wrangled a 1976 GMC Eleganza RV that my dad man-handled down treacherous, hairpin turn highways for our ski holidays, camping adventures and a very memorable road trip from Southern California to Canada with my elderly grandparents in tow. Talk about family bonding!
I believe these early travel experiences sparked a thirst for travel that will never be quenched. As a teen road tripping to Mexico for buckets of beer, to a college kid backpacking through Europe with a Eurail Pass and a hundred Lire in my pocket; the quest to explore new lands, meet unique people and immerse myself in new cultures is a feeling I hope never dies.
Now that I am older and have the cash to explore my country and the world via airline travel, I make a point to visit new places and see new faces as much as humanly possible. The thing I’ve learned from my decades of travel is that in order to travel successfully, you must travel light. Remember, you don’t need to bring your entire wardrobe, just the essentials. No one will be judging your outfit while you are biking through Croatia.
After four decades of travel, including circling the globe twice, I know that flying with a carry-on is essential. The last thing you need is for the airlines to lose your checked bag on your Caribbean vacation, leaving you with only the jeans you are wearing to lounge on the blistering hot beach.
Here are my top eight tips for traveling with a carry-on bag:
- Make sure your suitcase is regulation size. The carry-on luggage sizes can vary from plane to plane so make sure you have the correct specs for your aircraft. This will be explicitly laid out on the airline website.
- Choose your type of luggage wisely. Will you be immediately checking into a glamorous hotel where a roller bag will protect your nice clothing, or will you be cruising from town to town necessitating an easy, hands-free backpack style duffle bag? Know your type of destination and think about how you will be moving around from plane to Uber to hotel.
- Be aware of the liquids you are sending through TSA security. You can only travel with 1.5 ounces of liquid per bottle maximum and all of your liquid bottles must fit into a quart-sized clear baggie. Don’t mess around with bringing alcohol on your flight. It sounds like a great way to save money, but if you get caught, some airlines will threaten to call the Air Marshall upon landing. I’m not even 100% sure what that is, but it sounds scary.
- Pack your heavy items at the bottom of your bag. That way the bag will be more balanced at the bottom for easy stand-up and your cumbersome hiking boots won’t smash your toiletries.
- Roll your clothing instead of folding it. Believe it or not, it takes up less room and keeps it less wrinkly. Try it. You will email me a thank you later.
- Make sure you can lift and carry your bag easily. Not only does it need to fit in the overhead compartment, but you will need to hoist it in and out of the overhead bin without dropping it on someone’s head. I’ve seen that happen and it’s not pretty.
- Consider putting a lock on the zipper. If your carry-on doesn’t already have a combination lock on it, you might consider buying a small lock that connects the closed zipper. You might have to open it if your bag needs secondary screening at the TSA checkpoint, but having a locking bag is extra protection from looters who hang around airports and cheap hotels.
- Bring easy, everyday clothing items and accessories that you can wear again and again. I bring a pair of my favorite jeans that I can dress up or down and of course, always wear my metal-free Jelt belt directly through TSA security. Jelt belts can also be rolled up into a tiny space, so they are ideal for carry-on luggage situations. A Jelt belt is the only belt you need on virtually any trip because it can be worn hiking, biking, golfing, skiing and out to the nightclubs. It’s your one-and-done accessory.
So, those eight tips are all you really need to remember for a successful carry-on bag travel experience. Of course, there will always be the weird plane that has a tiny overhead bin that won’t accommodate a regular sized carry-on, or you are the last one on the plane and all of the overhead space is full, forcing you to check your well-packed bag, but at least you tried.