In my travel experience, there is nothing more worrisome and anxiety-inducing than having to worry about keeping up with your luggage as you travel. Whether it be paying for checked bags, wondering if your carry-on will fit in the overhead bin, or being that person who can’t lift their suitcase into the overhead bin to begin with and then toppling it over onto everyone, the right bags and luggage help make any trip go much smoother.
For those seeking to travel easier via plane, here are my do’s and don’ts of packing for an airplane trip.
DON’T Check A Bag – Most people who fly frequently will tell you this first thing. Save the time and hassle (and money if your airline is one of those which charges for checked luggage regardless of weight) by simply packing into carry-on bags.
DO Pack Efficiently – This is a given, but we’ve all been there… That time you packed things and swore you’d wear and use everything but totally didn’t and then ended up wasting a bunch of space in your bag. Be smart about what you bring. Select coordinating outfits with pieces you can re-wear. Don’t bring a million pieces of jewelry when you know you’ll end up only wearing your favorite pieces anyway. Four pairs of shoes? Not in this bag.
DON’T Bring A Bag You Can’t Lift – This is from personal experience as well as from watching other people struggle. That piece of luggage you brought may indeed be within size limit for a carry-on, but did you check and make sure you can actually lift it up above your head to put in the overhead compartment? Sometimes carry-ons get heavy pretty quickly and there is nothing worse than not being able to pick up and lift your own bag above your head in a crowded plane cabin. Trust me. I’ve seen people drop their bags on the people sitting beneath the overhead bins and it’s not pretty.
DO Utilize The Space Beneath The Seat In Front Of You– When dealing with luggage and bags on an airplane, the best thing is to be able to have your bag right with you. If you’re able to keep your purse, computer bag, or backpack under the seat in front of you, do it! Taking up unnecessary space in the overhead bins is basically a sin. With that said…
DON’T Take Up Unnecessary Space In The Overheads – I see it time and time again on flights – people putting their jackets or laptops bags in the overhead bins. What makes this crime so heinous? Because that space is reserved for actual luggage, not the items you can keep in your lap or stow beneath the seat in front of you. This is often the reason why the passengers in the last boarding zone can’t find space for their bags, which in turn holds up the flight. Save everyone time and frustration by keeping your smaller stuff AWAY from the overhead compartments.
DON’T Use A Rolling Suitcase As A Carry-On – Now this one may seem odd to some, but hear me out. Carry-on sized suitcases are super popular because you don’t need to check them and you can just wheel them behind you through the terminal and to the gate. Convenient, right? But what happens when you’re in boarding zone 4 or 5 (because you’re thrifty about your traveling!) and the announcement is made that there’s no more overhead space left (darn you, small-item-overhead-compartment-users!). And there you are – still standing at the gate with your rolling suitcase. Now you have to check it plane-side. Now you might not make that tight connection because you have to wait for your bag when you land. In some cases, carrying-on isn’t always better if this is what the result might be (and with more people traveling and less overhead space available, it’s a very common situation). So here’s my solution…
DO Use Packs, Not Suitcases, As Carry-Ons – This is my secret weapon. I ditched rolling suitcases (yes, even carry-on sizes!) a long time ago and have switched to using packs instead (see picture below). Why is this, you ask? Simple: it saves time and room. Remember that nightmare scenario I described above – where you have a carry-on suitcase and you’ve just been told as your about to board that the overhead bins are full and you’ll have to check your bag plane-side now? (it happens ALL the time nowadays – refer above about being that person who takes up unnecessary overhead space!). It’s a crappy situation because now you have to wait for your bag when you land which, if you’re carrying-on, you probably didn’t anticipate doing (and can totally kill tight connection and layover times). So my solution is instead to bring a pack!
Since I’m an avid hiker, I always use my light hiking pack (the super big ones are too big to carry-on with and have to be checked instead; this one is basically a three-four day hiking pack). I can carry it easily on my back through the airport and there is ALWAYS room for it in the overhead compartments, EVEN if the flight attendants have announced that the overhead compartments are full. Why? Because it’s much narrower than a rolling suitcase and easily slides into whatever room is left above. And even if there is absolutely NO room at all, it easily “hides” under the seat in front of me. Not having to worry about not fitting my bag on the plane with me; no worrying about wasting time and not making a connection; and no worrying about dealing with bulky luggage in the cabin. And yes, a pack like this can fit just as much as a traditional, rolling, carry-on-sized suitcase!
*If you’re flying on one of those small prop planes, where everyone has to check their bags plane side (even carry-ons), this hiking pack will STILL fit in the small overhead compartment! That means no time wasted waiting for your bag when you land! This is tried and true for me!
Along with my hiking pack that I travel with, I also use a traditional backpack for things like my laptop and a book. That backpack always fits under the seat in front of me so I never worry about not having space for my bags. It’s a great travel hack if you’re someone who wants to travel quickly and efficiently. Being able to just literally grab your bags and go is amazing.
Traveling is fantastic and, when possible, it’s always best to make your travels easier and worry-free whenever possible. My takeaway advice is simple – be smart about your bag and where you put it! 🙂