Top 10 tips for carry-on luggage

For those who don’t fly often, this article will help you deal with the borderline traumatic process of getting on and off of a commercial aircraft with 200 of your least favorite strangers carrying luggage.

#1 Grandma’s hand-me-down antique luggage

Old luggage is your worst enemy – the hand-me-down luggage you found in your closet is heavy and incorrectly sized for today’s aircraft. The newer luggage design guarantees a proper fit in the overhead bins and maximizes storage for all your travel necessities. However, the maximum allowed size for carry-on luggage does vary slightly in the USA by airline.

If you don’t know, now you know…

You don’t have to spend much on luggage; however, you get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a “one and done” carry-on, retail, and online stores have options starting at $20. However, if you’re a road warrior, you will want to spend more on quality luggage that will endure the travel shenanigans for years.

#2 Don’t be “The bin hog”

Most aircraft will allow standard-size hand luggage to fit wheels or handle first. Don’t place the bag longways – it wastes precious bin space. If you have to put it sideways, you’re either on a smaller, shitty aircraft, or your bag doesn’t conform to the maximum size guidelines. Overhead bin etiquette is straightforward – neat, organized, and do not waste precious (limited) space.

Passengers in bulkhead seats (with a wall in front of them) must put all bags in the overhead bin. All other passengers should put their smaller items under the seat in front of them.

#3 Traveling with oddly shaped things

I’ve seen every conceivable item placed in overhead bins – musical instruments, cases of liquor, paintings, guitars, and TVs. If you put something oddly shaped in the overhead bin, try and close the bin. If it latches – you’re good to go. Don’t be surprised if you get strange looks from flight attendants or fellow passengers trying to move your shit around if you take up too much room.

#4 Guitars

Unless you’re headlining a rock show, leave your damn guitar at home, hippie. They don’t fit anywhere inside the cabin or coat closets and are larger than the maximum allowable size. 

If you don’t know, now you know…

If you insist on bringing a guitar onboard that doesn’t fit somewhere secure, the flight attendants will force you to check it or you and your guitar can take the next flight. Use adult judgment and leave the guitar at home.

#5 Winter coat etiquette

Winter sucks for traveling due to the sheer volume of amatuer holiday travelers traveling (usually) to colder environments. Your fluffy-ass coat does not need to go in the overhead bin at boarding. Be mindful and hold on to your jacket until the bin is full. Trust me, your fluffy coat will squish down and fit on top of your luggage.

#6 Bin open or closed?

When a bin is full, it is customary for the person who filled up the bin to close it. A closed bin signifies no more room and to head to the next open one. Please don’t be “that passenger” who has to open all the closed bins looking for space and then not closing it – Your fellow frequent fliers and flight attendants will silently judge you. You may have to swallow hard and put your bag way farther back from your assigned seat (more on that in a moment)

#7 Swimming upstream

Contrary to your beliefs, you’re not guaranteed a bin directly over your seat. VERY IMPORTANT; If you’re the unlucky passenger(s) sitting 10’ish rows ahead of your luggage, you are not entitled to rush back to your bag or ask people to move out of your way. When passengers disembark, move to another empty row and wait for a break in the line to swim upstream to your luggage (think of this as a real-life version of frogger).

#8 Itty-bitty aircraft

Do your homework. Smaller regional jets have minimal bin space, so gate-checking your bag is a brutal reality. There’s no way around this unless you find a bigger aircraft or relocate so you don’t have to fly from such a shitty-small airport. If you have valuable/breakable stuff, ensure it fits in a bag you can slide under your seat.

Which aircraft will fit my luggage?

  • CRJ 200 = Nope, that shit won’t fit in the overhead bin, must gate check.
  • CRJ 700/900 = Yes, will fit standard size carry-on luggage
  • E175/190 = Yes, will fit standard size carry-on luggage
  • All Boeing aircraft will fit standard size carry-on luggage
  • All Airbus aircraft will fit standard size carry-on luggage

#9 Luggage Tetris

I know you remember the game Tetris; Pretend it’s 1984 and stack your carry-on luggage next to others like it’s the Tetris piece you’ve been waiting for – the flight attendants will appreciate not having to rearrange your shit because some asshole boarded late, and there’s no space left.

Regarding rearranging the bins, moving someone else’s luggage without the courtesy of letting them know is never acceptable. Instead, be respectful of other luggage as if it was yours. When it doubt, ask first.

#10 Be ready

When exiting the aircraft, be ready when it’s your row’s turn. Nothing is more frustrating to the people behind you than watching your disorganization delay them. Remember, people have connecting flights, and you don’t want to be the reason they miss it (nor would you like to miss a connecting flight due to someone else).

What other tips do you have for passengers?

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