We all know that packing isn’t as easy as it looks — well, efficient and organized packing anyway. Packing a carry-on suitcase is significantly trickier. Making sure you have all your essentials and valuables on hand, and that none of your liquids exceed 100ml — it’s a lot! However, given the many challenges airline companies are facing with luggage these days, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on our hand luggage packing skills. Here are our tips for how to pack the perfect carry-on!

how to pack the perfect carry-on

The Bag(s)

For starters, let’s make sure we’re maximizing all the onboard space we’re being allocated! On most international airlines, we’re allowed to bring one handbag and one main bag onboard, for a maximum of two bags. However, there is no *real* rule about how big your handbag can be — it can be a tote bag, a cross-body bag or even a small backpack! Some airlines, such as Air France, have started weighing all of your carry-on bags together to ensure you don’t exceed the weight limit, but most airlines thankfully aren’t doing that yet. I’d strongly recommend a tote bag or backpack, that way you can keep your in-flight essentials at your feet, and store your main carry-on in the overhead compartment. 

The Main Carry-on

While we often remember to bring a sweater or scarf in case we’re cold on the plane, we don’t always bring other items of clothing in our carry-on. I would always recommend packing at least one full outfit in your main carry-on as well as a bathing suit (if your destination calls for one). This way, if ever your checked luggage isn’t there when you land, you can at least still enjoy the first day or two of your holiday with minimal shopping! Especially lately, it seems people are waiting hours, if not DAYS for their checked luggage. Personally, I’d recommend packing three full outfits and making sure that I’m wearing my most versatile shoes just in case I’m stuck in them for a while.

Finally, I would also recommend packing anything fragile or valuable in your main carry-on. Delicate items are less likely to break if stored here, and you can rest assured that your valuables are safer than in your checked luggage! 

The Backpack/Tote bag

This bag is arguably the most important! It contains all of the items that will enhance your flight experience, as well as keep you feeling fresh when you land. We can divide these items into three categories: comfort and wellness, accessories, and entertainment.

Comfort and Wellness

One of the worst side-effects of plane travel is how dry the air is. It’s super important to pack items that will help keep you hydrated, such as water, lip balm and necessary toiletries. Personally, I never fly without makeup removing wipes, moisturizers, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant and a hair brush. I also like to throw in some hydrating facial sheet masks to apply during long-haul flights to nourish my skin and help with relaxation.

Next, trying to sleep — I always recommend a travel pillow, specifically the inflatable kind to save on space, as well as earplugs and possibly an eye mask. Finally, while less glamorous, compression socks can do wonders for your circulation on longer flights — trust me, your legs and feet will thank you.


You can’t forget about your electronics! In-flight essentials include a cellphone (of course), phone charger, any adaptor you may need, a power bank, cord headphones and, if you’re really on top of it, a password-protected USB key with a copy of all your travel documents. Last, but not least, don’t forget a pen — not everything is digital, and some arrival and customs forms need to be filled out on paper.


While most international flights have on-board entertainment, some people prefer downloading Netflix episodes, and podcasts or listening to music. Another must-pack on your carry-on is a book (physical form or e-reader) and a journal. Finally, plane snacks are non-negotiable! While these could also be considered comfort & wellness, I put them in entertainment because let’s face it, we eat when we’re bored, especially on planes!

Some of my favourite packable treats include trail mix, candy, cheese and crackers and dried mango. Packing your own snacks also means you won’t have to spend twelve dollars on a bag of cashews at the airport convenience store.

how to pack the perfect carry-on

Here’s to a great trip! And even if your luggage gets lost, you’ll be okay!

Written by: Sacha Vincent-Toskin

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