Best travel tips on what to pack in carry-on vs checked-in luggage

Updated: Nov 27, 2020


Traveling with kids, young toddlers, senior citizen or alone like a student, there always the question of what to pack in the carry-on and which items to check-in. One golden rule to follow is weight limit. Most airlines have weight limit and stay within that limit, including the carry-on. The charges for excess checked-in weight is sometimes not worth the items you may be carrying. Carrying an over the limit weight in the carry-on is even worse. You may be asked to reduce the weight at the boarding gate, leaving you with very few options with what to do with the excess items. Qatar Airways is notorious to do this with carry-on luggage.


Tip #1 Valuables

Usually, you are allowed two pieces of carry-on – one can be small backpack and the other a small suitcase or a duffle bag which has the weight limit. Any item that is irreplaceable should go into one of the carry-on luggage. This includes the passport, cash, credit cards, your wallet, house keys or any jewelry etc. These items should be in your backpack or purse that you sow under the seat in front of you. This way you can keep an eye on it. The carry-on suitcase can hold the chargers, camera (if you still carry one), any other irreplaceable papers or heirloom clothes. Sometimes, you may not be able to keep the carry-on suitcase close to where you sit or may have to valet check-in on smaller connecting flight, so make your choice with these possibilities.


Tip #2 Medicines

Keep all your necessary medicines in your backpack. Keep at least up to one- month worth of your medicines in the carry-on suitcase. The rest can go in the checked-in luggage. In case, there is any problem with the checked-in luggage and you are traveling to a different country, you will get at least one month’s time to make alternate arrangements to get your medicines. Similarly, if you are traveling with young children, keep their favorite food to last for at least 2-3 days. In case, you get stranded somewhere enroute, you will have one less thing to worry about for at least a couple of days.


Tip #3 Liquid over 100 ml

Many countries like US have a restriction on how much liquid can be carried in the carry-on. US has a limit of 100 ml. So, any sunscreen, shampoo, soap, moisturizer, alcohol over 100 ml is best packed in checked in baggage. If you have a larger bottle but have less than 100 ml left in the bottle, transfer it to TSA approved travel sized bottle. At the security, it is up to the personnel to eyeball and make a guess whether you can go with the larger bottle with less than 100 ml of content. It’s best to make it easy on the security. The only exception to this rule is anything you purchase inside the airport at the duty-free shop. However, this will be packed in duty free bag and sealed.

Tip #4 Irreplaceable tickets and others

You may have planned and purchased tickets to various activities at the destination. This may include museums that have capacity limits or rail passes and tickets or any special show tickets. Take a printout and keep them in the carry-on. It doesn’t take much time but can save a lot of hassles for you in case of connectivity issues especially if you are in a different country.


Tip #5 Checked-in luggage

This can contain anything and everything you may want to pack for your trip. Nail cutter, trimmer, scissors, swiss knife or anything else that will not pass the security can go in the suitcase. If you have any item with a battery (like a AAA or AA) in it, some countries require you to remove the batteries and pack them separately. And finally, it is always a good idea to type your name, email, phone number and address on a paper and keep it in the suitcase. In case of lost luggage, sometimes the suitcase may break or the tag comes off, and the airlines will contact you at the email or phone regarding the suitcase.


Tell us your favorite tips when packing the carry-on or the checked in suitcase.

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