Family Vacation Tips

How to Pack a Carry on Bag & What Goes in it

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 1, 2017 3:01:00 PM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Carry on.jpgAs the name implies a "carry on" bag contains the items you'll be carrying with you at all times, whether it's on board an aircraft or onto a cruise ship. Actually even when I take a car road trips, I still pack a carry on bag to keep with me in the back seat for items that I need quick and easy access.

Step 1: If you're flying, to avoid any unwanted surprises at the airport, make SURE you double check the carry on bag size requirements and any luggage fees.  Every airline and aircraft have specific rules and these can often change. Make sure you have the right size bag BEFORE you start packing.

Step 2:  Know the TSA 3:1:1 rules for packing any liquids, gels, paste and consumables

Step 3:  Understand which items are prohibited by TSA.

When it comes to carry on bags for cruises the biggest question is can you bring your own alcohol on board a cruise ship?   Even if you are driving to pier and the answer is generally no.

Step  4: Make sure your carry on has a luggage tag with your name, cell phone number and email. You may want to include the name of your hotel or cruise ship

So now that you know the rules, what should you actually pack in your carry on bag?

The basic answer here is the items of major importance that you absolutely cannot be without.

Must have items on this list include:

  • Money & Credit Cards
  • Passports & Driver's license/ID documents
  • Printed copies of E-tickets, travel vouchers or itinerary
  • Prescription medications in pharmacy containers
  • Over the counter medications that you may need
  • Cell phone/ ear phones
  • Car keys
  • Camera
  • Electronic devices
  • Chargers & batteries (electrical converter if traveling overseas)
  • Pens  (needed for custom forms)
  • Snacks, gum and water you buy or fill reusable bottle in the airport
  • Book, crossword, toys for the kids

* Jewelry - I reluctantly add this here to the carry on bag list. I HIGHLY recommend,  if at all possible, any important, valuable or sentimental pieces of jewelry should be left at home locked in your safe.  There is NO reason to make yourself a target for tourist theft or run the risk of losing something that is irreplaceable just to be a fashionista.  That said, destination weddings are very popular which means important and sentimental jewelry must travel.  By all means, keep important pieces of jewelry in your carry on, under your supervision at all times and never put it in checked luggage.

For guests heading to all inclusive resorts, theme parks or boarding a cruise, you'll want to start your vacation immediately.  You'll want to also pack:

  • Swimsuits
  • Cover up
  • flip flops
  • sun glasses
  • Sun screen
  • Hat

Cruises are a bit different from a regular hotel or resort check in.  Imagine if everybody in a large resort all decided to check out and then an entire horde of people decided to check right back in all at the same time.  Basically this is what happens every time a cruise ship is in port. With some mega ships holding around 6000 passengers, you can imagine what it takes to get everyone reunited with their luggage.  For this reason, cruise ship passengers should also consider packing clothes they plan to wear to dinner the first night on board into their carry on bag.  This way once your room is ready, you can freshen up and enjoy a bon voyage meal in the dinning room instead of being relegated to the buffet in your flip flops and cover up due to dress code.

OH...and speaking of "THE dress" and destination weddings, if you're a bride, groom or part of a wedding party, make sure your attire stays with you in a carry on/garment bag.  Flight attendants and ship staff are used to dealing with brides and wedding parties.  Just ask for special consideration kindly and mannerly...a box of chocolates for the flight crew doesn't hurt either.

Last but not least...Before you zip up and head out the door, use your phone to take a picture of your bag and it's contents like illustrated here. You should also snap a quick pic of your passport, driver's license and any other documents you may need along the way.  Save them to a secure cloud storage area just in case your bag gets lost and you need to access information to get replacements.

Talk To A Family Travel Agent


Topics: family resorts, Family Destination Weddings, Family Cruises, Family Vacation

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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