Is your carry-on luggage about to be checked? Here's how to protect your bags, even if you think they're within airline carry-on regulations. Updated for 2021!
In my last post, I discussed the search for a carry on bag that worked. Finding the perfect travel bag is easier said than done! But once you have the ideal bag, you still have to do all that you can to keep it safe. This time, I am offering the following 10 tips for carry-on luggage so that you can make sure your trip is a successful one.
1.) Know the carry-on rules for every airline of your trip and read them carefully. Many allow a carry-on bag AND a personal item (like laptop case, purse, camera bag). But some allow only one bag. And some are more strict about having your laptop case just filled with a computer and accessories, not magazines and shampoo. (Here's a comprehensive list of the major airlines to get you started.)
2.) Make sure your carry-on bag will fit the dimensions you've researched. Don’t take the manufacture’s description as the truth. Pack the bag, measure the bag. Allow yourself a bit of wiggle room.
3.) Weigh the bag. You’d be amazed at how heavy a small bag can be. Carrying something very, very important that you’d never want to check? Weigh your bag on more than one scale. Depending on the age and quality of the scale, the results can differ up to 20%.
4.) Know about on-plane rules. While rarely enforced, many airlines reserve the right to require wheeled suitcases to be placed underneath the seat in front of you. (I think it’s for safety reasons with the bags being prone to falling when overhead bags are opened).
5.) Are you in a seat that doesn't allow things to be stashed under the seat in front of you? Check on seatguru.com to get more information. Emergency exits may offer more legroom, but only offer overhead bin storage.
6.) Have your bag well organized. There are tons of sites that review best packing methods, allowing you to maximize your space and tidiness.
Be prepared to have security look at your things. Make their job an easy one.
7.) Label your carry-on like you would checked luggage- after all, you never know when it will be. A sturdy leather luggage tag, plus inside luggage label, should always be up to date.
8.) Bring a high quality luggage lock with you. You may need one to secure your belongings at hostels, bus terminals, gyms, and swimming pools and you will be glad you have it for carry-on luggage as well. Choose one that is TSA approved so they can open it without damaging the lock if your unexpectedly checked bag is randomly selected for additional screening.
9.) When you check a bag, I recommend taking photos of the inside and outside, and recording the dimensions and distinguishing marks. Do the same for carry-on. The people who track down lost bags will be grateful for it. And while you may never, ever need this information, on the rare chance you do, you will be weak with relief that you have it.
10.) Give your bag a distinguishing feature if it doesn't have one already. There are colourful compression straps you can place around the middle, bright, bold luggage tags, and iron on patches you can use. Or buy anything other than black!
I know this sounds like a lot to think about - shouldn't travel be fun and carefree? But there is nothing fun about losing your luggage - or having your checked luggage suddenly tossed into the cargo hold. In my experience, a bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to making airline travel a little more pleasant and a lot more tolerable.
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22/2/2013 06:42:44 am
#9 is such a great tip! My luggage was lost a few years ago after a huge storm and there were literally hundreds of black suitcases sitting at YOW for the baggage handlers to look through to find mine. It would have been a much faster process (4 days!!) if I could have said “the black suitcase with the bright blue Lug straps on it”
22/2/2013 02:13:53 pm
Oh, Terri-Lee - poor you! This sounds like such a miserable situation! We have Lug straps that I got on uber clearance, but they're grey. Fine for keeping the luggage compressed, but doesn't help (hugely) in terms of making things stand out. I'm thinking the brighter, the better. I can only imagine how exhausted and sore baggage handlers are when a storm rolls through and they have literally tons of luggage to sort. Making their job easier means everyone wins.
Deborah Ann Matthews
23/2/2013 02:19:48 am
Thanks, great article as we all know how much I travel!
8/7/2013 01:56:01 am
Deb, you are such a pro you could have written this list!!
1/4/2014 08:04:06 pm
Very handy tips, Vanessa! I actually never thought about my carry-on outside of how to dice the contents down so it would be a comfortable one-all for my travels. Never thought about a lock or photographing the contents but they could be wise.
2/4/2014 01:27:13 am
I have just experienced this very thing you speak of! On a round trip Ottawa to Chicago the plane was very small - sat less than 50. So the "overhead bin" was really just a place to put your coat and purse. Everything else had to go under the seat. Mine fit, with some persuasion, but everyone else was gate checking their stuff.
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