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Travel Hints And Tips

STS-132 Space Shuttle Launch - Kennedy Space Center Causeway Florida, USA
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Hints, tips and checklist for the airplane carry on bag

Page Summary
  • Packing an organized carry on bag
  • One of my favorite travel accessories: Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes
  • Carry on bag checklist
  • Pack light but think about delays, layovers and lost luggage

My carry on cubes
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
These are the cubes I use in my carry on. Not included in
this picture are the ones that I use in my check in suitcase
Shown from top to bottom:
(These links will open an Amazon.com page)
2 - Eagle Creek Pack-It Half Cubes
1 - Eagle Creek Pack-It Tube Cube
2 - Eagle Creek Pack-It Quarter Cubes
1 - Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube
1 - Unknown small possibly REI brand 7" x 3"

Note: you can see that the small quarter cubes look different.
That's because I bought one a few years after the other.
They all look slightly different now but still function the same.
If you travel enough sooner or later you'll encounter a trip with an extended delay or layover. Fortunately, having a well thought-out and organized carry on bag can turn what would otherwise be a terrible experience into a much better one. Here are some things to consider when packing your carry on bag:
  1. Making sure your carry on bag is easy to physically move around and you won't be required to check it when you get to the gate if the airline decides the flight is "too full". This deals with the actual bag itself and is covered on my Selecting the best carry on bag page.
  2. Packing the bag so you can easily access the contents
  3. Packing in such a way so it's easy to get through airport security
  4. What if you have a layover because of bad weather, a late connecting flight or a mechanical problem? I mention these because I personally experienced all three. In these situations, you will not be able to access your main check in bag until you get to your final destination.
  5. What happens if you get to your destination and your check in luggage is delayed or lost? Will you have a change of clothes and will you be able to charge your phone? Again, this is something I personally experienced.
  6. What happens if you have to sit on the plane for 4 hours before you even take off? I've even seen a case where people were on the plane for 12 hours before they even took off. Cases such as these seem to be happening more and more frequently.
Fortunately, a little preparation now can really pay dividends later and my advice is simple. Pack your carry on bag with only what you need. This includes your valuables, the things you will need on the actual trip and things you might need if you have a layover or your checked bag is lost. Everything else can go in your checked in bag.

Some others recommend you don't check a bag and carry everything on the plane with you. I don't like that advice and I feel one of the biggest mistakes you can make (and I initially made) is trying to take too much on the plane with you. If you do this your bag (or bags) will often be packed too full and will likely be unorganized. This would often mean you wouldn't be able to find what you're looking for until you get to your destination when you can completely unpack the bag. I also don't want to lug too much through security, the terminals, into the restrooms and on and off the planes. This is especially true if the trip has multiple flights involved.

To keep things organized I use quite a few Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes. I really like these cubes as you can probably guess by looking at my checklist below. As an example you can see I keep my snacks in a half cube, that half cube is in the full cube and the full cube is in the main bag. At first glance it might seem a little a little strange to do it this way but bear with me, I'll explain why after I show the list.

My Carry On Bag Checklist
Main
Bag
Outer
Cube
Inner
Cube
Contents Note
wallet, id's, purse, cash, car insurance card Wallet/Ids/money
Make sure you don't only have big bills especially if needed for a taxi because some drivers might not have change. This includes when you're overseas and you're dealing with the local currency.
phone phone
A Batphone would be cool but a cell phone would probably be better
Passport passport
watch watch
Many people find it inconvenient to use a phone to check the time on a plane.
X itinerary/travel docs itinerary
X camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 camera
Click to see on Amazon

We used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 camera for a lot of the pictures on this site.
Ours is waterproof, robust and user friendly.
X pens
X windbreaker jacket
X baseball hat
X computer / ipad / kindle
X ziploc bag toothbrush / toothpaste / deodorant / floss
X cube half cube Snacks - M&M's / mints / gum / lifesavers / Shot Bloks Shot Bloks
Click to see on Amazon

Clif Shot Blocks are a nicely packaged food used by many endurance athletes.
They have the consistency of thick Jello.
X cube book book
X cube reading glasses glasses
X cube noise canceling headphones Noise Canceling Headphones
Click to see my noise canceling headphone comparison page
X cube small AAA batteries for headphones AAA batteries
X cube small inflatable neck rest Inflatable neck rest
Click to see on Amazon
X cube small inline volume switch for headphones inline volume switch
Click to see on Amazon

Note: I didn't try this exact model

To see more about the inline volume switch, see my noise canceling headphones page.
X cube small Sleep mask Sleep mask
Click to see on Amazon
X half cube sunglasses sunglasses
X half cube travel clock
X half cube cell phone AC charger / car charger
X half cube charger for computer/ipad/kindle / velcro strap for charger
X half cube car gps, charger, stand
X half cube extra camera battery / camera battery charger
X half cube USB battery / USB battery cable USB battery
Click to see on Amazon
X half cube lifestraw lifestraw
Click to see on Amazon
X half cube flashlight
X half cube mouse
X half cube work badge/secure id/lanyard
X quarter cube 1 Gatorade and Propel drink packets gatorade drink packet
Click to see on Amazon

I put some Gatorade packets in the red cube as well.
This way I can refill a Gatorade bottle with water and easily use the packets.
X tube cube shirt/underwear/socks/sweatpants
X quarter cube 2 medications
X quarter cube 2 asprin / imodium / decongestant / allergy medicine
X quarter cube 2 rolaids
X quarter cube 2 vicks inhailer
X quarter cube 2 chapstick
X quarter cube 2 empty ziploc bags
X quarter cube 2 hotel cards, frequent flier cards
X quarter cube 2 Photocopy of passport
X quarter cube 2 bandaids
X quarter cube 2 wetwipes
X quarter cube 2 kleenex
X quarter cube 2 copy of this list for the return trip

Having a detailed checklist can help keep you from forgetting anything important and it can help keep you from overpacking. This way when I get to my seat I can just pull out the red cube (in the Outer Cube column), put it under the seat and put the main bag overhead. It's very fast and I only block the isle for a few seconds.

Some of the benefits of packing like this: The colors of the cubes are also picked for a reason. For me the most visible color is red so I put the items I use the most in the red cubes. The stuff in the black half cubes are the items I hopefully won't be needing until I get to my destination.

Some more benefits to the Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes: Finally, I keep the above checklist in an Excel file so it can easily be modified and printed. It takes a little planning to pack like I do but if you put in the effort I'm sure you won't be disappointed - especially if you ever have a long delay, a layover or your luggage is lost.

Happy travels.