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The New Carry-On Strategies

(January 3, 2002)

The days of bringing everything but the kitchen sink onboard an aircraft are officially over, as the FAA and airlines are permitting only one carry-on bag per passenger. So, with limited packing space, what are the essentials to bring? Well, consider what you would never fly without. For me, it's a bag with overnight supplies, even if I travel out and back the same day.

Ask yourself this question: If I became stranded, what would I really want to have with me? Here's some advice on what to bring, and what not to bring, on your flights.

What to Pack in Your Carry-On

  • Tickets
  • Hotel, cruise, and/or car rental reservation numbers or vouchers
  • Passports and visas
  • Credit cards
  • Cash
  • Travelerís checks
  • Medicine (Vitamins and over-the-counter remedies must be packed in their original containers, as customs officials will confiscate unlabeled medicines of any kind.)
  • Change of clothes
  • Jewelry
  • Basic toiletries (These items tend to leak because the aircraft is pressurized, so make sure to store them in a sealed bag.)
  • Some cosmetics
Be ready for random searches of carry-ons, and carefully consider what you put inside. If searched, security personnel will go through your bag by hand, and items of personal nature could be in full view of others.

Donít try to anticipate every contingency. Travel light and know that unless youíre in the most remote corner of the globe, youíll find shops where you can buy extra supplies you need.

The Rules

Along with one carry-on, you are also allowed to bring an additional "personal" item, which may include a purse, laptop computer, briefcase, small backpack, diaper bag, or crutches. However, you can squeeze a few more items onboard that don't count in the allowance, including books, magazines, umbrellas, and coats.

Electronic devices

Make sure you have all your electronic devices within reach before you reach security screening. You can still carry-on cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices, but prepare for a little extra scrutiny. Laptops will be thoroughly examined and must be taken out of their cases to go through x-ray. Label the outside of your laptop with your name, as there have been numerous instances of people picking up the wrong one.

What Not to Pack in Your Carry-On

  • Knives
  • Pocketknives
  • Cutting instruments such as straight razors and scissors (Safety razors and disposable razors are allowed.)
  • Cigar cutters
  • Corkscrews
  • Metal nail files
  • Envelope openers
  • Crochet needles
  • Screwdrivers
  • Lighters
  • Lighter fluid
  • Mace and pepper spray
  • Large hairspray cans
  • Perfume (if the container holds more than 16 ounces)
  • Golf clubs, hockey sticks, baseball bats, pool cues, ski poles, and figure and hockey skates.
For athletes, especially those attending the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, it is necessary to adapt to the new rules by checking athletic equipment. To make things easier, some airlines are offering priority handling of equipment. However, consider breaking in an extra set of equipment, as some figure skaters are doing with their ice skates, just in case checked baggage gets lost.

If you're planning to take some gifts along, hold off wrapping them until you get where you're going. Security officials may have to unwrap them if they can't detect what's inside.

The One Bag

Picking the right size carry-on is essential. It must fit under the seat in front of you, or in the overhead bin. Airlines have very strict rules about the dimensions of carry-on luggage. Bags cannot exceed 45 linear inches (the length, plus the depth, plus the height) or (22" x 14" x 9"). If the wheels or handles don't retract or lay flush against the bag, the distance they protrude will be counted in the total dimensions of the bag.

Domestic carriers don't weigh carry-ons, but some foreign airlines do. And weight limits vary among carriers, so check with the airline if you have any concerns.

As always, be sure to tag your baggage with your name and address. And, since so many bags look alike these days, place a bright colored ribbon or tag on your bag. That way you can help avoid someone taking your bag by mistake.

Carry-on Responsibly

Understandably, limiting the amount of bags is aimed at improving security and speeding up the screening process. And following carry-on rules is essential to make the travel experience go smoother.

Those who choose to bring a carry-on aboard need to stick to the size and weight guidelines. Carry-on etiquette also should be observed onboard, especially during the winter months when overhead bins are full of bulky winter coats. Never place items on top of coats because these items shift during flight. Many passengers and flight attendants have been hurt from falling bags that were improperly placed in the overheads.

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