Tips for Packing for a Flight

Last updated on 03/27/2023

Packing for a Flight

Packing for a flight can be a challenge due to diminishing room in overhead bins and space in general. We've put together a list of tips for not only packing for a flight but also making sure your carry-ons are compact and lightweight. After all, who wants to pay for additional baggage fees when it's avoidable? Learn how to pack efficiently while saving your precious travel budget.

Airlines have changed since their inception. Everything evolves, but the industry has gone from being a luxurious mode of transportation to flying Greyhound buses filled with sweatpants and headphones. I’m glad smoking was banned, but the ham sandwich dinner option (when there actually is an option) is far from the prime rib dinners of the late 60s. Sure, some airlines offer lavish quarters with lay-down seating, televisions and showers. Yet here we are, spending most of of the time in the middle seat watching a B movie through spotty Wi-Fi as the guy in the window seat asks to exit for the bathroom for the third time in 45 minutes. But then again, the flight only cost $212.00.

Because the cost is so low, we tend to suck it up. That’s the way we've convinced ourselves to be okay with minimal leg room and peanuts alongside four hours of confinement. But the minute airlines start dipping into our wallets unnecessarily, we become resentful. It's difficult to justify paying for that spotty Wi-Fi, and travelers always prefer their bags fly free.

How can you charge a person for flying with stuff? Who could head across the country for two weeks, but not bring anything with them?

Kayak has a great resource that compares what airlines charge for flying with baggage. The list of bag fees, displayed by airline, could arguably be the most depressing page on the web.

So how can airline passengers beat the system? How can travelers give a big “not my bag” gesture to the airlines? Pack smart, pack light, and leverage carry-ons. If you're like most travelers, you have have no intentions of handing over more money to the airline once you've purchased your tickets.

How to Pack for a Flight

1. Buy a Small, Lightweight Carry-On Bag

Treat yourself. Get a fun color, something you’ll love, because this will be your only bag. Make sure the one you select meets TSA guidelines and fits easily in the overhead bin.

2. Don’t Pack Extras

You don’t need that extra jacket; you have a jacket on. Yes, it will be warm enough. You still don’t think so? Then wear the other jacket and leave the lightweight one at home. No, I’m sorry, but if you're looking to maximize space in your carry-on, you probably can’t bring both.

3. Pack for Half Your Trip

If you’re going for 7 days, pack for 4. Laundry service is typically still cheaper than forking over more money to the airlines.

4. Rubber Bands

You can roll clothes even tighter when you secure them in rubber bands or hair elastics to save even more space in your luggage. But if you plan on rolling your clothing, you should probably master that hotel iron too.

5. Skip the Toiletries

If you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t offer you shampoo, conditioner, soap and face wash, you should step up your travel game. Leave that room in the bag for something else.

6. No Books

Seriously, take a nap or watch a show on the spotty Wi-Fi. Times have changed so now you can easily download a book to your tablet. This saves valuable space that bulky books would otherwise monopolize.

7. One Pair of Shoes

You’ll already be wearing one pair of shoes when boarding your flight. How many feet do you have? I know, it seems like a challenge. It’s up to you. For many travlers, it’s not the $35 fee they're looking to avoid but the principle of being presented low-fares and then hit with non-essential add-ons.

You Decide

Our guide to packing for a flight may just be what your travel game needs. However, if you insist on bringing more than a carry-on on your trip, you may want to consider insuring your baggage to protect against delay, damage, or loss. Whatever you decide, see you in the air! We'll be in the middle seat enjoying the free pretzel sticks until they take those away too.