TOP 10 TIPS FOR PACKING CARRY-ON LUGGAGE | Published November 26th, 2021 | Last Updated January 4th, 2021

After a decade of solo travel and visits to over a hundred cities, I've had my fair share of trial and error when it comes to carry-ons. Use these top ten tips and take your packing game to the next level! You may also enjoy "Top Ten Tips for Packing a Suitcase"

Toiletries and Airport Security

1 - ALL LIQUIDS NEED TO BE PLACED INSIDE A ONE-LITRE CLEAR TOILETRY BAG - make sure the bag is easily accessible so you won’t have to dig through all other items in the carry-on at security or when you need to freshen up towards the end of a long flight. All liquids inside the bag must be in containers that have a volume of no more than 100ml.

Navy and gold toiletry bag with 100ml bottles

Make Sure your Toiletry Bag is Easily Accessible in Your Carry-on

​Electronics and Airport Security

2 - THE SAME GOES FOR THE PLACEMENT OF YOUR LAPTOPS, TABLETS AND CAMERAS - Electronics need to be put through the scanner, so they must be removed from the carry-on. Just as with a toiletry bag, it makes sense to ensure these items are at the top and can be easily accessed. With a bulky DSLR, I find it easier to wear my camera around my neck when going through security, so it’s one less thing to pull out of the luggage. I then pack it away while waiting for my flight.

Photography equipment, phone and tablet displayed on a wood floor

Cameras, Tablets, Phones and Laptops Need to be Scanned at Airport Security


3 - PACK ALL VALUABLES IN YOUR CARRY-ON, SO THEY REMAIN WITH YOU - Whether you're packing jewelry, electronics and chargers, or camera equipment, make sure you're not separated from these items. In addition to articles of value, essential documents such as International Drivers' Licence, Visas etc. should also be in your carry-on, even if you won’t need them until later in the trip. If these documents go missing, your plans could quickly turn sour, so it's best to keep them close.

Jewellry, scarves and white dress shirt

Jewellery and other Valuables Should be Packed in Your Carry-on

Heavy Items

4 - PLACE HEAVIER ITEMS ON THE BOTTOM OF YOUR BAG - putting them closest to the wheels when the luggage is upright will help stop the carry-on from toppling over. Before I learned this trick, I thought it was odd that my heavier full-size luggage always stood in place, yet my carry-on would nose dive whenever I wasn’t looking. When I began packing the weighted items by the wheels, I no longer had a topsy turvy bag.

​Restricted Items

5 - CHECK THE LIST OF ITEMS THAT ARE RESTRICTED FROM LUGGAGE - While many universal items are no longer allowed on any airline, additional items can be restricted in the country you're travelling to. For example, in the Middle East, many medications that are over-the-counter or prescriptions allowable in most countries may be off-limits in these regions. Drones are another example of items that are restricted in some countries but not in others.

Prescription bottle with pills spilling out on a desk

Check the Regulations for Restricted Items in Your Destination Country


6 - KEEP IMPORTANT PAPERWORK AND VALUABLES IN A ZIPPED COMPARTMENT - If they are documents you need easy access to, such as your passport, cash or tickets, keep them in a small pouch or crossbody bag that will remain on you. Being a solo traveller means that my crossbody bag goes everywhere with me. It contains my passport, cash, driver's licence, credit cards and bank card. I don't even leave it behind when I get up from my seat on the airplane to use the restroom. These are items that would make my trip borderline disastrous if they went missing. I always keep photocopies of these documents in a separate place, so if anything did happen, at least I'd have an easier time proving my identity and replacing them. Other larger items of value can remain in the main compartment of your carry-on or the external zipped pocket with a lock on it.

Packing Cubes

7 - USE A PACKING CUBE TO ORGANIZE VARIOUS CHARGERS, ADAPTERS, BATTERIES ETC. - Like packing cubes for full-size luggage, it makes sense to use smaller cubes to organize items in your carry-on. I find it works well to separate my electronics, such as chargers, cables, and travel extension cord, from my photography equipment. When I'm heading out for the day, I have a packing cube full of all the lenses and filters I need, which I can then quickly drop in whatever bag I’m taking with me.

Grey packing cubes with laundry bags and toiletry bag

Use Smaller Packing Cubes in Your Carry-on to Organize Clothing and Electronics

Keeping Warm

8 - BRING A LIGHTWEIGHT SWEATER FOR THE PLANE BUT WEAR IT AROUND YOUR SHOULDERS OR WAIST WHEN CHECKING IN AT THE AIRPORT - If you have a carry-on that is already heavy from photography equipment or other items, it makes sense to keep the bag as light as possible so you won't tip the scales. I often feel like I’m wearing everything but the kitchen sink when I first arrive at the airport, but once I'm through security, I take a minute to put items I won't need back in the carry-on.

Luggage Allowance

9 - KNOW THE WEIGHT AND SIZE RESTRICTIONS OF YOUR LUGGAGE - If your bag is too big you may be told to check it, which means you'll be separated from your valuables. Most carry-ons today are built keeping standard sizes in mind. While they may vary by an inch or two depending on the airline, the most acceptable size is 22" x 14" x 9". After booking your flights you can check the acceptable weight and size of your luggage to ensure you stay within the limits.


10 - DON'T PACK LIQUID SOUVENIRS IN YOUR CARRY-ON - Examples are wine, beer, syrups, honey, etc.; pack these in your checked bags. You won't get through airport security with large bottles of liquid in your carry-on, so be sure to put them in your checked luggage and wrap them in clothing to create a cushion. The exception to this is buying bottles at the duty-free in the airport. You'll receive your purchase in a sealable bag that you can carry with you.

A row of amber coloured liquid soap bottles sitting on a store shelf

Souvenir Bottles with Liquids Larger than 100ml Need to be Packed in Checked Luggage

Learning how to pack a carry-on properly gets easier the more you travel, and it becomes an easy task if a bit of thought goes into it. With trial and error, you'll soon find that you'll be a carry-on packing pro!

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