How to Be the Best Carry-on Traveler this Holiday Season


Aaarghh! Aggravation and the airport go hand in hand with delays, fees, and oh — those lines. Modern technology sure can ease the chaos (boarding pass on a smart phone? yes, please!), but it’s go big or go home. There’s more you can do to master the art of travel.

Enter: the perfectly packed carry-on.

Here are some simple tips certain to help you become an A+ carry-on traveler this holiday season. You’ll avoid hefty fees for checked luggage and zap your wait time at baggage claim. It’s all a bit overwhelming at first, but — come on — it’s nothing you can’t handle.

First, triple check that your carry-on meets size requirements. It must fit within 22” long x 14” wide x 9” tall. You probably won’t be able to open that zippered expansion section, so pack accordingly. In addition to your carry-on, you can have one personal item like a laptop bag, purse or other tote.

Digging a little deeper, here are the rules for liquids:

1. Liquids, gels, and aerosols are allowed in containers 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller
2. All of your liquids must be put in a clear, plastic, 8” x 8” zip top bag
3. Each individual traveler is only allowed one plastic bag of liquids

For exceptions and full details visit

Now you know what’s allowed on the plane with you. Before you start packing, stock up on supplies. The travel-sized aisle at your local pharmacy is ever-so-tempting, but unless it’s toothpaste, don’t buy those cute little toiletries — you’ll end up paying too much in the long run. Instead, put together your own little travel pack that fits right to your needs.

The Container Store has an excellent assortment of clear bottles for your shampoo, body wash, face wash, hair spray, and whatever else you can think of. Find what you need here:

The great thing about these items is, you buy them once, fill them with what’s in your shower and use them every time you pack a carry-on. Easy peasy!

My favorite choice for the clear plastic bag your liquids need to go in is Ziploc’s Smart Zip Slider Bags with expandable bottom (quart size). The expandable bottom makes it perfect for fitting all your loot.

Once you’ve got your must-have products in airplane-approved containers, you’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice. It makes packing easier and carry-on travel a breeze. The what-to-wear dilemma, however, is still yours.

Next, prepare for the security line at the airport — this is where you can really shave a few seconds off your time in the line. The details will vary from port to port, but the basics are all the same:

Keep your ID and boarding pass in hand; your coat, shoes, belt, everything in your pockets, and any metal jewelry need to be put in a bin to go through the scanner. (For travel days, less is definitely more in the wardrobe department.)

The same goes for your bag of liquids and any electronics, they must be taken out of your luggage and put through the machine on their own.

Wrapped presents won’t be allowed through the scanners. Apparently the x-rays can see through your luggage but not wrapping paper. (I never said all the rules were logical!) Plan to wrap your gifts once you reach your destination.

That’s about it. It’s not so hard to make your holiday at the airport a little less stressful after all. Every little bit helps, right?

Plus, the faster you get through security, the more time you’ll have for a snazzy winter-themed cocktail before take off.

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