Ready, Set, Jet!   If you’re like me, I’m ready to get packing my perfect carry-on!

No matter where your next journey takes you, a carry-on bag is one of the most important bags you will be packing.  In addition to medications and valuables, be sure to pack in your bag at least one change of clothes, mobile power for your smart devices and a snack – because as they say, you never know when your next meal is coming.

Here are my top 7 tips to packing the perfect carry-on bag:

#1  Know Your Airlines Carry-on Luggage Rules

Carry-on rules vary from airline to airline, so always confirm with each of the airlines that you are flying what their size and weight restrictions are.  Most allow one personal bag – generally no larger than 9’ x10’ x17” and one carry-on bag – generally 9” x 14” x 22”.

If it’s time for you to purchase a new carry-on, be sure to invest in a quality bag – like Travelpro’s Platinum Elite 21” – with self-aligning spinner wheels that make it a breeze to ‘fly’ through airport terminals with ease – and 2” expandability in case you do a little shopping.

Tip: If you have the time, take your bag to the airport before your trip to see if it fits onto your airline’s sizer box.

Travelpro Platinum Elite spinner carry on bag

Travelpro Platinum Elite 21” Spinner Bag
Member Price $269.99

#2  Pack Your Handbag Inside Your Personal Bag

Generally a personal bag is defined as a purse, small backpack, or laptop/computer bag.  Utilize every inch of allowable space by packing a smaller handbag – like Baggallini’s Go Bagg – inside a larger ‘personal bag’ – filling up extra space with additional items.

The Baggallini Overnight Tote makes an ideal personal bag because it fits nicely under the seat in front of you and stays upright – making it easy to find anything you might need in flight.  Features include a padded laptop pocket and removable RFID phone wristlet that fits most plus sized cell phones – and a luggage sleeve to secure it over the telescoping handle of any carry-on bag.

Tip:  Keep your PPE items – like masks sanitizer wipes – in one of the handy outside pockets for quick access.                                                


Baggallini personal bag                          Baggallini overnight carry bag

Baggallini Go Bagg                                                 Baggallini Overnight Tote
Member Price $68.95                                            Member Price $129.99

#3     Be TSA Ready with Liquids and Food

Things are constantly changing, so be sure to check with for security updates.  Currently – each traveler is allowed one clear quart size bag of liquids, each item no larger than 3.4 oz plus TSA is now allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags.

Tip: To help expedite time at security, pack all your snacks inside a clear bag – like this bag from Travelon, which combines a TSA approved 1 quart bag with 2nd compartment for non-liquids, like food or medicine.

Travelon personal carry bagwhat to pack in the perfect personal organizer bag

Travelon Wet/Dry 3-1-1 Bag
Member Price $20.50

#4   Pack Clothing that Layers to Save Space in Your Carry-on

Clothing usually takes up the most space in any bag.  Instead of packing bulky single-use items (like a heavy coat) pack a couple pieces that can be layered – to create custom comfort for any weather.

A stylish long sleeve shirt – like Columbia’s Silver Ridge Shirt – can take you from hiking to dinner and keep your dermatologist happy providing UPF 40 sun protection.  Then, a lightweight vest – like the Silver Ridge Vest – can be layered for warmth with multiple pockets to keep you organized.

Tip:  Pack enough clothes for a week and do laundry.

     Pack the perfect shirt in your carry-on                        the perfect vest to pack in your carry-on                            

Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Shirt                Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Vest
Member Price $36.99                                            Member Price  $65.99


#5 Limit the Number of Shoes in Your Carry-on Bag

Shoes are usually the heaviest item in any bag. So, what’s secret?  Limit yourself to a maximum of three pair – one that you are wearing and two that you pack.  Make sure all shoes are well broken in and comfortable. A good walking shoe, a loafer or runner and a pair of sandals make a good combination for most trips.

Tip:  Pack shoes in repurposed newspaper bags or use eco-friendly packing organizers – like these ultra-light Specter Cubes from Eagle Creek.

Perfect carry-on organizer

Eagle Creek Specter Packing Cube Medium
Member Price $16.25

#6    Maximize Space with Compression Packing Organizers

The challenge of packing a carry-on is trying to fit everything into one small bag. Compression packing cubes – like Baggallini’s – and compression one way air-valve bags – like Lewis N’ Clark’s – are the answer.  These organizers allow you to ‘compress’ the excess air out, and that means additional packing space.

Tip:  Compression bags come in a set of four. So, save two for laundry for the way home – they seal in odors!

Packing cube organizer for your carry on             compression bags help fit more in your carry-on bag                                                         

Baggallini Packing Cubes  Set of three           LC Compression Bags Set of four
Member Price $31.50                                         Member Price $14.99


#7  Always Have a Back-up Plan 

It happens… You double checked to make sure your carry-on bag is compliant and at the last minute the airline says you have to check it.  Be prepared by packing a small expandable bag in the outside pocket of your carry-on your bag.

This everyday essential can be a lifesaver.

Before you check your bag, quickly transfer your most important items – like medications and valuables – to this much smaller more manageable tote.

Tip:  Always board when your row is called to have the best shot at limited overhead bin space.

Extra tote bag for your carry-on

Blu Bag Expandable Tote
Member Price $8.95

Join us for our Next Event

Packing for a road trip can be a lot of fun! However, now more than ever it’s important to know what to pack to ensure your next trip is a fun and safe one. Join AAA and Travel Expert Anne McAlpin and learn:

  • Know Before You Go Resources
  • How to organize a stay healthy kit
  • What to pack and how to pack it
  • The best luggage and travel accessories for road trips

Attend an upcoming event

Shop Carry-on Bags and more at your local AAA Travel Store! 

shop for what to pack in your carry-on at the AAA Travel Store