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Tips for Packing Carry-on Luggage

TSA Rules, Carry-on Luggage and You


New TSA rules for airline passengers entering the U.S. from foreign countries limit carry-on items to just one bag (with the notable exception of Canada, which only allows one small personal item). Travelers now have to rethink their packing strategies. The days when travelers could avoid checked baggage fees by carrying everything onto the airplane are gone, at least for now.

If you travel with a laptop, purse and camera, you will now have to fit those items into a single carry-on bag, along with all the other items you typically pack. So, how will you decide what to carry onto the airplane and what to put into your checked bag?

If you're not sure about airport security requirements, err on the side of caution and assume you will have to put everything but your coat into your carry-on luggage if you want to bring it on the airplane. Leave room in that bag for your purse, magazines, umbrella, camera and anything else you might need at the airport or before you pick up your checked bags.

When packing your carry-on luggage, consider essentials first. For most travelers, essentials include items they can't live without, such as:

  • Purse or wallet

  • Travel documents

  • Medications – every single dose you will need during your trip

  • Camera

  • Essential toiletries / makeup

  • A change of clothes (in case your checked bags get lost)

Once you've packed your essential items, you can add the "nice to have" things, such as magazines, newspapers and snacks. Do a test pack before your departure date to make sure everything will fit and that you can easily reach any electronic items that will need to be screened separately, such as your laptop.

Remember that prescription medications and medical supplies don't count against your carry-on baggage allowance. While the TSA does not require you to bring your medications in their original containers, it's a good idea to do so if you take prescription drugs. You don't have to bring a 90-day supply of medication on a week-long trip, but having the container with you could be helpful. Never pack prescription drugs in your checked baggage.

Use space-saving packing strategies to effectively use your available space. Roll up your clothes to save room in your carry-on luggage. Tuck small items inside larger ones and bring only the identification cards, travel documents and travel money you need on your trip. You'll be amazed at how compact your wallet or purse will become if you take out loyalty program cards, receipts and unneeded credit cards before your trip begins.

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