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What to Pack in a Carry On

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Lady with a carry on

Packing your carry on can be a stressful task when preparing for a trip, especially if you aren't bringing checked luggage.

Worry not though! I have 4 packing tips for you that will help to lead to a smoother traveling experience.



Before packing anything in your carry on, make sure you review the rules for carry on luggage for your specific airport(s) and/or airline(s). The rules around size, weight, and allowed items tend to differ from checked luggage.

  • How much liquid you can pack?

  • What items are prohibited?

  • How big your carry on can be?

  • How much it can weigh?

  • What type of baggage should you use (duffel bag or hard shell)?

These are all questions you should consider before packing your carry on.

If you pack more liquids than you're allowed, you will have to throw some away at the airport. That's never fun with expensive skincare products.

If you have prohibited items, they will be confiscated and you might face some repercussions for packing them. What might be allowed where you're from, may not be allowed where you're going.

If your carry on is too heavy or too big, you might have to check it, which can be expensive, especially if you've already checked luggage. In my experience, for short flights or express flights, most carry ons bigger than a backpack get checked at the gate.

Overall, make sure to read through your airport(s) and/or airline(s) rules surrounding carry on luggage before packing.


A child picking out snacks

While some airlines will offer complimentary drinks and a small snacks during a flight, they're not always good or allergy friendly. You could buy snacks at the airport, but they can be quite pricey. A good way to save money is to pack your own snacks. To see what I pack for snacks in my luggage, click here.

! When packing snacks though, make sure you know what kinds of snacks are allowed. Every country is different with what they allow, but generally you can't bring seeds or meats through security. This is to protect the country you're visiting from the risk of introducing diseases that will devastate agriculture and/or livestock, leading to a decrease in food supply.

If you do pack prohibited items, they will be confiscated, you'll likely be questioned, and might face some repercussions. This can be an expensive waste depending on what you pack.

So, while you may not be able to bring cucumber slices (fresh seeds), I've never had an issues with roasted seeds in trail mix. (This doesn't necessarily mean you won't problems, this is just my experience.)

So, please read the rules regarding food in carry ons carefully before packing.


A laptop

Most airlines recommend not packing breakables or valuables in checked luggage and instead packing them in your carry on. This includes electronics. This is likely due to the fact that checked luggage is stacked on top of each other when being loaded into the plane. The extra weight from the other passengers' baggage, may result in damage of these valuables or breakables.

Knowing that, you should definitely be packing all electronics in carry on luggage when possible. I always pack all my electronics last in my carry on because at Pearson, all passengers have to take all their electronics out of their carry ons and cases at security. Having them at the top of my luggage, just makes it easier and quicker.

Not to mention convenient, if you plan to work on your laptop and/or watch movies or listen to music during the flight. While some aircrafts have on board entertainment, it is not always guaranteed, especially on short flights.

Be aware however, that some electronic devices are not allowed in a carry on, such as radios.


Clothes in a suitcase

Packing at least one change of clothes in your carry on is always a good idea if you're checking luggage.

With a change of clothes in your carry on, if the airport or airline loses or damages your checked luggage, you won't have to spend unnecessary money on clothes and/or you won't be left as nature intended.

If you spill something on yourself in the plane or in the airport, you won't have to sit in wet or soiled clothes until you pick up your checked baggage. If the plane or airport is colder or hotter than you expected, you can change into more appropriate clothes.

If you are planning to pack a sweater in your change of clothes, I recommend wearing your sweater instead of packing it in your carry on to save space. If it's too hot to wear a sweater, you can tie is around you waist or hang it off your purse.

By simply packing a change of clothes in your carry, you can come prepared for some unfortunate traveling accidents.

If you are only packing a carry on however, here are clothes packing tips.


I know there is a lot to think of when packing. It can be quite overwhelming at times, but none of this meant to scare you away from traveling.

Being informed of the things you need to know will lead to a smoother traveling experience. The more you travel, the more all this stuff will become second nature. Plus, you can always send me message if you have a travel question.

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