Top 5 rules for traveling with carry-ons

suitcase handleI talk a lot about carrying-on your suitcase instead of checking it. In my opinion, it is the number one time saver in business travel. However, there are a few responsibilities that come along with that. No idea what I’m talking about? Read and learn, young grasshopper.

Here are my top five rules for carrying on.

  1. Put your bag over your seat. This is one of my travel pet peeves. Do your absolute best to put your carry-on in the overhead bins near your seat. Don’t put it over row 8 and then merrily walk back to row 24 to sit under empty overhead bins. Obviously there are some circumstances where this won’t work, but at least try.
  2. Don’t run into people in the aisles. For some reason, a lot of people forget that their bags take up room outside of their own personal space. Anyone who travels regularly has been wacked in the face by a stray bag. Backpacks are the worst—my theory is that because people can’t see them, they don’t realize how far they stick out.
  3. Put it in correctly, ie wheels first, on the correct side of the aircraft. Listen to the flight attendant when they are explaining how to put your bag into the overhead bin. In some planes they fit better wheels first, in others handles first. In some planes they’ll only fit on one side. If people follow the rules, there will be enough room for everyone who needs.
  4. Make sure it will fit before you leave home. If you are flying a new airline or with a new bag, check the airline requirements for carry-on before you leave. This is especially important when traveling in Europe, as many airlines have different dimensions that they allow.
  5. Don’t plan to gate check! When airlines started charging for checked bags a few years ago, things got crazy for a while—people trying to stuff enormous bags full of stuff into small overhead bins. I’ve also seen people deliberately wait until the end to board, wheeling their oversized bag along, assuming the gate agent will let them gate check because there won’t be enough room. Gate checking slows everything down, plus with a little practice and planning it’s not that hard to fit all your stuff into a regular carry-on.

Bonus: Make sure it’s not top or front heavy. Before you leave the house, let your bag stand on its own for a minute. If it starts to topple over, rearrange stuff! I have often been wacked by a carry-on handle because it’s owner let it go for one minute. Unfortunately, I have also been that unwitting owner whose bag has hit someone else. Y’all, that is super embarrassing.

Readers, did I get them all? What are your tips for traveling with a carry-on?

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  1. Rule #1 – be able to carry your carry-on. If you can’t lift it yourself and maneuver it into the overhead you need to take some stuff out or check it. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who cannot get their carry-on up and down themselves.

    I am understanding of this with elderly folks, etc. but I see regular travelers all the time crumbling under the weight as they try to press their 50-lb. carry-on over their head, hurting themselves, hitting other people and just generally gumming up the works.

  2. Also, manage your carry-on. Anything you think you could ever possibly need during your flight should be removed from your carry-on before it is stored overhead. Lord knows we’ve all been witness to those who seem it is easy to repack their luggage in an aisle or drop the neighbors jacket on the floor while wrestling to unzip and remove their book because they left it in their suitcase. Just say ‘NO’ to ever touching your overhead luggage once inflight.

  3. If you have a backpack and a roll aboard, please be kind and put the backpack under the seat in front. Only after everyone is aboard should you check the overhead for room.

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