Warning: This is mostly written for people who are not travelling first class, and/or who are traveling on an itinerary that includes connecting flights, thus leaving themselves open to all sorts of unexpected dilemmas and unpleasant surprises. In other words, travelers who know that Murphy’s Law does sometimes rule.
I didn’t think it was hard to pack when I was younger, but times have changed and so have my circumstances. As a widow, I often travel alone, and I have to be responsible for my baggage, and that means in the case of carry-on luggage, that whatever happens to it, I need to ensure that I will still have a pleasant flight and will be able to keep my sporting spirit. Unexpected things often happen to carry-ons nowadays.
Since checked baggage is usually charged separately on in-county flights, many passengers no longer check baggage, but instead prefer to travel lighter and use only a carry-on to avoid any fees. That’s fine for the locals, but not for people who are coming from overseas like us. We need those overhead bins.
But for the past couple of years, economical passengers have been suddenly taking up most of that bin space, and that means there is not always a place for our carry-on bags. And in turn, that means that our carry-ons are sometimes taken away from us and sent on to our final destination. This has happened to me in the middle of a trip. It seems to mostly depend on which boarding group you are in; if possible, find a way to get yourself into one of the first boarding groups (and good luck with that).
When our carry-on suitcase is confiscated in the middle of a trip, it is especially frustrating because we are at risk of being held over and missing a connecting flight, and not having our “stuff”. I do not have it within me to keep my sporting spirit when this happens. But I can prepare myself. And that means leaving room to compact what is in my carry-on suitcase and my personal bag. For that reason, it is never smart to travel with either completely full. Your suitcase, which is what is going to be taken away from you if there are no overhead bins available, might contain a jacket or wrap, and you can put that over your shoulders. If it has headphones, carry them on your ears. It might also contain medication; money or jewelry and you should be able to fit them all into your personal bag. Hopefully, your personal bag will also be a computer carrier. As for the rest, you will have to get along without it. My advice is to buy one of those luggage locks that are accepted by authorities who have a master key, and keep it in your carry-on suitcase, just in case. These locks are usually branded Travel Sentry and have a red diamond on them. Being able to lock your suitcase will help you feel slightly better while you are pondering being separated from your suitcase until you reach your final destination, at which point you will no longer need it.
Having our carry-on forcibly taken away is not the only surprise that might be in store for us. There is another one, relatively new, and just as bad. It is a possible ban on our laptops or tablets, if we are travelling with one or the other. If we are, and we happen to be going through an airport that suddenly goes into a red, orange or yellow terror code, we will be asked to place our devices in our hold luggage. That’s the luggage that is carried in the compartment under the passenger part of the airplane in what is called the hold. Therefore, we must always be sure that there is room to stow our electronic equipment safely in the luggage we checked at the beginning of our trip. In other words, our suitcases should never be full to the brim. Generally speaking, when there is a security risk, the airlines confiscate anything larger than a device that is 16cm. x 9.3 cm. x 1.5 cm. If that happens at the beginning of a trip, we won’t like it, but can usually adapt our brains into a sporting spirit. When it happens at a stopover in the middle of a trip, we have to be careful to not allow our sporting spirit to die.
Now that you know that the most frustrating thing that can happen to you during a trip is no longer having a forgotten bottle of water or a nail file found as we trudge barefoot through the airport security screening, we need to talk about packing; defensive packing, to be exact. Packing so that you can check your computer if need be, packing so you can downsize your two carry-ons into one, and packing so that you will have what you need to spend a decent night without your checked luggage, should you be held over in a strange city.
In order to mitigate frustration if this should happen, be sure to pack a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste along with your basic toiletries, because if you get held up in the middle of your trip, even a good hotel doesn’t think tooth brushing is a necessity. And you won’t think it is silly to carry toiletries if you are held over a night or two in the middle of a trip. Just as a guideline, you are allowed to take 100-milliliter containers on board, and those containers (toothpaste, creams, liquid make up, deodorant, etc.) cannot total more than 1 liter. Keep them all together in a separate bag in case you need to show them during a screening process. I recommend taking all daily medications you will need throughout your trip in your carry-on luggage.
But what else? I recommend a pair of underpants and a spare shirt. If possible, put your flip-flops in your carry-on, also, and something to sleep in if that is important to you. Of course you’ll want to take your chargers, and I suggest taking along a snack. I have never been on a trip when I was not grateful at some point that I had a secret snack along, even if I was in a 5-star hotel and simply didn’t want to go out or order in. I take fruity energy bars, because they taste good even if they get mashed.
As for your personal bag, which might be a tote (be sure yours has a zipper) or a backpack (I like a computer bags with lots of compartments) you will need your passport, visa, money, driver’s license if you are renting a car, and the address of where you are staying. You should have a copy of your flight itinerary, transportation reservations, and hotel reservations even if they are on your phone. Be sure to designate an easy place to keep your boarding passes. And remember, both you and your luggage should be very flexible.
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