Packing for Air Travel: Avoid Looking like a Newbie!

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Packing for Air Travel: Avoid Looking like a Newbie!
No matter the trip, packing is time-consuming. When you’re flying, additional restrictions can make the process even more stressful. Find out what you need to know while you pack for your next flight!
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Amidst all the excitement of getting ready for your next adventure, there’s one daunting element: packing. I always leave it until far too late purely because it’s stressful. 

I often pack within a few days of my flight, hoping I have everything in my bags. If you’re like me, then you worry about whether your bag will be overweight. Or if you’ve forgotten something crucial!

Airlines often have strict baggage restrictions, so you must pack wisely. While minimalism is an excellent packing strategy, it’s not always feasible. To help ease your mind, let’s go through how to pack for a flight!

What Are the Rules for Packing for a Flight?

A lot of rules around packing are dictated by individual airlines. There are a few things to look out for when getting your bags ready:

Size Restrictions

Both carry-on and checked baggage will have maximum size restrictions for your airline. More budget-friendly airlines tend to have smaller bag allowances. Bags that are too big for carry-on will be checked, often for a fee.

Weight Restrictions

Remember to check any weight limits for your bags before heading to the airport. I’ve checked into airlines that have weighed my bags before, and it’s not fun to have them overweight. 

How to Pack a Carry-on

Using a packing list, lay out all of your clothes next to your suitcase. When you’re sure you have everything, use your preferred packing method to make it all fit. Put the first things you’ll need, like pajamas, underwear, and toiletries, on top for easy access. 

If you’re flying with just a carry-on, smart packing is critical to getting everything in there. Using packing cubes is an excellent way to condense your clothing easily. 

Always remember to pack any medication you may have in your carry-on.

If you’re flying carry-on only, only bring what you know you’ll need. This could mean bringing only one pair of shoes or packing lighter-weight fabrics that hand wash easily. 

Backpack on the bed with travel essentials like phone and laptop
Photo by Dinh Ng. on Unsplash

TSA Packing Rules

If you’ll be passing through security in the US, you’ll need to abide by TSA rules for packing. TSA has a handy travel checklist, but you’ll want to be mindful of the following rules:


TSA only allows you to bring liquids under 3.4 ounces per container. This applies to makeup, food, facewash, etc. All of your fluids must fit in one 1-quart bag. When packing, keep all your liquids together for ease through security.


Depending on the airport, you may need to remove all electronics from your carry-on when going through security. Keep your laptops, tablets, and cameras on the top of your carry-on for easy access. 

What Is Not Allowed in a Carry-On?

Whether you’re traveling with just a backpack, or checked bags, carry-on bags have restrictions. In addition to size restrictions, don’t pack the following items in your carry-on:

  • Liquids over 3 fluid ounces
  • Firearms
  • Knives, box cutters, or blades
  • Aerosols
  • Chemicals
  • Self-defense items
  • Flammable liquids

How to Pack Makeup for a Flight?

Any liquid makeup you bring with you must be under 3 ounces if it’s going in your carry-on. Checked bag makeup can be any size, and powders over 12 ounces can also be pulled aside for extra searching. 

Before doing any packing, you should make sure you’re only bringing the makeup you’ll need. Once you know what you’re taking, put the liquids in your liquid bag and the rest in a regular toiletry bag. 

What to Bring on a Plane

In addition to your toiletries and medication, you’ll want to consider what else you put in your carry-on. You can fill any extra space with travel accessories to help you stay comfortable on your journey. 

You should also consider bringing a change of clothes in case any checked luggage is delayed. 

Other things to bring with you on a plane include:

To save room in your carry-on, wear your bulkiest items on the plane. These are generally sweaters, and as a perk, will keep you warm if you get cold on planes!

Person looking through his bag on an airplane
Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Packing Medication for Air Travel

You should always have any medication with you in your carry-on in case of emergencies or delays. Remember to bring a copy of your prescription, and ensure all medication is in its original packaging. You may also want a letter from your doctor explaining the medication, depending on why you take it. 

An important thing with medication and travel is to check the rules of where you’re going. Some medication is banned or limited, and you may need additional paperwork to bring it into the country. You can contact the embassy of the country you’ll be visiting to check the rules and where you’re going. 

Packing a Bike on a Plane

If you’re going backpacking, you might consider bringing your bike with you. Many airlines require that bikes be packaged in a bag or box to fit under the plane, which requires dismantling the bike and packing it up properly. 

Some airlines will consider bicycles as checked luggage, but others will charge extra to check your bike. When booking your tickets, airlines can provide more information about bringing your bike with you into the skies. 

If you’re hoping to do mountain biking on your travels, check out JAGZ to find other bikers in the area!

Packing Alcohol for Air Travel

Whether you’ve been to the beach or the mountains, alcohol is a common souvenir from travel. If you’re bringing it home via plane, you must pack it properly.

Alcohol has to adhere to the liquid rules for carry-on travel. Anything over 3 fluid ounces has to go in a checked bag. Remember to pack it carefully and keep it in its original container. To make sure any bottles stay intact, you should:

  • Wrap bottles in socks or other soft clothing
  • Place it in the middle of the bag, cushioned on all sides
  • Ensure bottles aren’t at the top of the bag
alcohol bottles with sunshine behind them
Photo by Alem Sánchez on Pexels

Time to Fly!

Now that you’ve packed your bags, you’re ready to fly! Now that you’ve saved time with these packing tips for air travel, it’s time to start thinking about other ways to make traveling less stressful. 

What about having all your trip details in one place? By saving all of your travel information in one place, like a trip planner app, you’ll be able to organize everything easily and smoothly. 

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Collaborate stress-free with your travel companions and have all the features you need all in one place with Pilot. It’s completely free and ready for you to try it out now!
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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Miriam Jaffe Blog
Written by:
Miriam Jaffe
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