What to pack in your carry-on

Mary is taking her first trip overseas and is starting to panic about what she can and can’t take in her carry-on bag.

What to pack in your carry-on

Mary is taking her first trip overseas and is starting to panic about what she can and can’t take in her carry on bag.

Q. Mary
I am travelling overseas in November and would like to know what I should take in my cabin bag? Also, I was told that I could no longer take toothpaste for cleaning my teeth or anything to freshen up at the end of the flight. Can you please help me as this my first trip and I'm worried now?

Taking your first trip overseas can be daunting and the prospect of a long flight can be enough to make you want to cancel your holiday. It’s important not to panic and think about things logically.

Firstly, check the size of the cabin bag, and any associated weight restrictions, which you are allowed to take on the flight. This can vary between airlines and should be stated on the airline’s website, or you can give them a call to clarify.

Secondly, think about how long your flight will last. If it’s only a few hours then you will want to keep the contents of your cabin bag to a few essential items. If it’s a longer flight, then you may want to consider a few extras to keep you occupied.

Liquids and pastes (such as toothpaste and perfume) can be taken on board, but each individual container should be no larger than 100ml. You will also have to fit all of your liquids and pastes in a see-through bag, about the size of a medium sandwich bag. These bags are usually available at security/screening checkpoints.

I would consider the following, keeping in mind the above tips:

To freshen up
Toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, anti-perspirant, travel wipes – you can buy all these in travel sizes or decant the right amount into smaller plastic bottles and tubs available at pharmacies.

To keep you occupied
A good book or magazine or, if you’re really lucky, an eReader – some people find it difficult to concentrate on long flights, so think about what you really need to keep you occupied. Most long-haul flights show movies and television shows which can help you pass the time.

For your comfort
Take a neck pillow if you have one.
Have some lollies to suck on for take off and landing.
A thick pair of socks will keep your feet warm if you remove your shoes.

Your wellbeing
Keep close to hand any medication which you require. You may want to carry a letter from your pharmacist or doctor explaining what each drug is.
Carry a couple of your preferred painkillers just in case you get a headache.
Consider compression stockings if you are prone to clots or swelling.

Your documents
Consider putting together a folder that will enable you to keep all your documents, such as tickets, itineraries and your passport together. Keep these separate from other sections which you will be accessing frequently. Make sure you have a pen, as you will probably need to fill out a landing card before you reach your destination.

Before you land
The climate at your destination may be quite different to the one you have just left. Consider packing a change of clothing (including fresh undies); you will feel much better after having spent so long in the same clothes.

I hope this helps allay your fears and you can get on with being excited about your trip. You may also wish to watch our video on how best to pack your suitcase.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    19th Feb 2014
    Having been caught out with a long unforseen delay in the transit lounge in between flights where nothing was available I always now carry something to eat like a snickers or muesli bar or lollies etc. I always tick yes in the box to acknowledge I am carrying food and have always been allowed to carry these pre packaged items.
    Interested lady
    19th Feb 2014
    If you have contact lens fluid these need to be under 100 ml or have a letter from your doctor saying that you need it. Mine was recently confiscated at Heathrow Airport because it was 125 ml container even through that 50% had been used. May sure you have a letter from your doctor listing all your medications to get through any customs.
    19th Feb 2014
    the video on how to pack your suitcase is no longer available
    20th Feb 2014
    That's a great list! The only comment I would add is to wear comfortable stretchy pants, a short sleeve top and make sure to carry a jacket as it can get really cold on the plane.
    20th Feb 2014
    Add any prescriptions for meds to the list as they are important both for customs inspections and if you need to buy any more. Also a list of meds with your drs signature is something I make up and ask him to sign for each overseas trip. The cheap shops sell 100ml bottles for travel about 2bucks each. Travel toothpaste,travel tissues, etc. all are available in small sizes, I do a test pack weeks ahead to make sure I can fit everything in the bag.. If going to the US, wear shoes that are easy to remove. They like to check your shoes. Above all, ENJOY the experience, RELAX, REMEMBER to tick YES if taking food items on the customs cards. Even for a little pack of lifesavers. Good Luck and Safe Journey
    20th Feb 2014
    Lip balm is good and also I always take a hotel size bar of soap, spare underwear and a small hand towel. Delays or cancellation of flights means you can at least take a shower in the airport.
    20th Feb 2014
    Always pack your valuables (jewellery, electronics etc.) in your carry-on bag. In fact, pack anything you don't want to lose in your carry-on, not in your checked-in hold luggage.
    20th Feb 2014
    Couldn't view the video - says it is now under copyright!
    7th Mar 2014
    My partner and I recently completed 8 weeks of travel thru central america and our ONLY luggage was carry on with mine weighing 7 kg and hers 6 kg. We each had three pairs of lightweight quick drying tops and bottoms, one pair of lightweight walking shoes, a fleece and a raincoat, plus various personal items such as travel towels etc. No waiting for luggage, easy to carry around [they were two backpacks: mine 55 kg and hers 45 kg capacities]. 2 x daypacks were small lightweight simple strapped bags for a water bottle and any other day tour needs.
    Thai Traveller
    10th Dec 2017
    In Australia, Customs have nothing to do with security. Their important role is to ensure that what we bring into the country is not going to cause harm. Apart from the drugs, there's plant matter, food, seeds, protected items, wood and bamboo.
    16th Sep 2018
    what about diabetic insulin pens with needles can these be take in o cabin bag

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