- I worked as a flight attendant for two years, so I learned how to pack a carry-on like a pro.
- I always recommend packing snacks, a neck pillow, and a phone charger in your carry-on.
- But leave out most sharp objects, flammables, liquids, and fragile items.
When I worked as a flight attendant, I had to pack and unpack my carry-on at least three times a week.
It’s very easy to overpack or forget essentials if you’re not a frequent flyer, so I rounded up everything I always bring, and what I think most travelers don’t need to pack.
I recommend packing a neck pillow
Neck pillows are great for long flights or any flights where you’re stuck in a middle seat.
Once you use one, you’ll never go back. It’s so much more comfortable to fall asleep — plus it saves you from accidentally waking up on your neighbor’s shoulder.
I prefer inflatable pillows that fold in a compact case and are easy to inflate during the flight.
Always have your phone charger with you
Nowadays, more planes feature power outlets under or between seats, and I couldn’t be happier.
This is a great opportunity to charge your phone so you don’t run out of battery before landing.
If you’re leaving the country, make sure you have the proper power adapters
Travelers often forget that countries have different power outlets that require special adapters.
Don’t miss the opportunity to buy international adapters at home or order online instead of paying twice as much at the airport or hotel.
For everyone’s sake, pack your headphones
There’s nothing more annoying than a seat neighbor who watches videos without headphones.
Although a few airlines have adapted to install wireless connections, if you want to watch anything on the seat-back screens, you might need wired headphones.
Always bring some snacks on the plane
Traveling to the airport and boarding can be stressful.You won’t always have an opportunity to purchase something before you get on the plane.
Depending on the duration of the flight and the airline, there may not be food available on board, so I always have a snack with me.
You’re allowed to bring solid, dry food through TSA as long as you finish it on the plane before landing in another country.
And with a delicious snack, the flight always seems to go faster.
But I wouldn’t suggest packing any important or fragile items in your carry-on
Although it may feel like you have more control over how your carry-on is handled, if you end up on a full flight, you may suddenly be required to check your bag at the gate.
Sometimes, if the configuration of the plane is small, everyone needs to check a bag regardless of boarding priority.
I always suggest packing documents, medications, expensive items, jewelry, and easily breakable belongings in your small personal bag instead.
Most sharp objects are prohibited on planes
Sharp knives, box cutters, and large scissors (nail scissors are usually fine) are prohibited in carry-on luggage, but you can typically pack them in a checked bag.
The only knife you can bring in your carry-on is a round-bladed butter knife, which may come in handy if you travel with homemade food.
I’ve flown with a butter knife many times and never had a problem. But check with each specific country’s guidelines because the rules might be different outside the US.
I never pack too many liquids in my carry-on
Liquids can easily leak during the flight and you’re limited to TSA-approved sizes.
There are so many solid alternatives to liquid toiletries, like a bar of soap, solid deodorant, powdered foundation, or sunscreen sticks. Certain brands also produce toothpaste in powdered capsules and dry shampoo that foams with water.
These are some great alternatives when traveling.
Be careful packing a lighter if you’re traveling abroad
You shouldn’t put any flammable devices, like matches and lighters, in your checked luggage.
In some countries, such as the US, you can have up to one lighter or one box of matches in a carry-on bag. But in Europe, you’re not allowed to bring any flammable devices in checked or carry-on bags.
I recommend avoiding packing any fire sources.