What Not to Pack in Your Carry-On Suitcase

What Not to Pack in Your Carry-On Suitcase

As a frequent flyer who has crisscrossed the globe more times than I can count, I’ve become an expert packer out of sheer necessity.

Whether I’m jetting off to cover the latest hot spot for the Travel section or taking a personal trip, I’ve learned the hard way what should and shouldn’t make it into my carry-on suitcase.

Packing light is the name of the game these days, with airlines cracking down on oversized bags and overstuffed personal items. But avoiding excess weight is about more than just dodging checked baggage fees.

An overstuffed carry-on can slow you down in the airport, leaving you disheveled and breathless by the time you arrive at the gate. Trust me, nothing puts a damper on the start of a trip like having to stuff your belongings back into a busting-at-the-seams bag while holding up the security line.

So what exactly should you avoid packing in that carry-on suitcase? I’ve compiled the ultimate list of 10 no-nos that will save your back, keep you moving, and have you arriving at your destination refreshed and ready for adventure.

Heed my advice and you’ll never again be “that person” holding up the security line or arriving looking like you were caught in a hurricane.

What Not to Pack in Your Carry-On Suitcase 1

High Heels

ladies high heels outdoor

I get it – those brand new Louboutins are calling your name and they’d look fierce with your airport attire. But do yourself a favor and leave the skyscraper heels at home.

Have you ever tried running in 5-inch stilettos to make a connecting flight? It’s not pretty. Stick to flats or low wedges to navigate terminals with ease. Your feet (and fellow passengers) will thank you.

A Heavy Raincoat

Outerwear is essential when hopping from plane to arctic airport terminal. But choose wisely – that heavy-duty winter parka is more hindrance than help for carry-on purposes.

Sure, it’ll keep you toasty, but you’ll be struggling under the weight as you lug it through security and overhead bin Tetris. A lightweight rain jacket does double duty for wet weather and over-air conditioned plane cabins without weighing you down.

Excessive Toiletries

We’ve all been there – you meticulously lay out every serum, moisturizer, and makeup item you own before a trip, terrified of being without your favorite products for a few days. But then you try to jam it all into those pesky 3-1-1 bags and…chaos.

Do yourself a favor and streamline your routine to the essentials – facial cleanser, moisturizer with SPF, makeup remover wipes, and a tinted moisturizer. You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is to travel with just the basics!

All The Accessories

By all means, do bring your favorite accessories to amp up your outfits. Just don’t go overboard – four pairs of statement earrings, two necklaces, three bracelets, and a stack of rings take up valuable real estate. Pick one or two pieces per outfit and leave the rest behind.

Your suitcase (and travel outfits) will look clean and polished rather than weighed down.

Oversized Hair Appliances

Just as essential as accessories, your hair tools help you look polished on the road. But that full-sized blow dryer and straightening iron are a major space hog and added weight.

Invest in a great travel-sized ionic dryer and a miniature flat iron – they’ll take up way less room and you won’t have to sit the airport terminal looking like a hot mess after going through security screening.

Hard Cover Books

I’m just as loathe as the next literature lover to give up my paperback reads on trips. But hauling multiple hardcover tomes? No thank you – those puppies are heavy and inflexible, making them a major carry-on no-no.

Stick to softcover books or better yet, load up your e-reader with your must-reads to save space and weight. Plus, you’ll have way more options at your fingertips than you could possibly cram into a suitcase!

The Wrong Adapter/Converter

Raise your hand if you’ve arrived at your destination only to realize you brought the wrong adapter or converter for charging your devices.

Slowly raises hand.

It’s beyond frustrating to be phoneless with a dead battery simply because you didn’t plan ahead. Do your research and make sure you have the proper plug adapter and voltage converter for your destination. Better yet, invest in a universal travel adapter to cover you worldwide.

Too Many Snacks

We’ve all been victims of overambitious airport snack shopping, only to be stuck with way too many calorie bombs. While a few solid nourishment options are smart for delaying hanger, don’t go overboard trying to ration supplies for the entire plane ride.

I once watched a woman board lugging two big reusable bags filled with grocery store snacks—cookies, chips, rice krispies treats, you name it. Let’s just say the crumbs were everywhere by the end of the flight.

More Than One Outfit Per Day

One of the biggest carry-on space wasters has to be packing a different outfit for every part of the day. You know the drill – one look for the airport, another for sightseeing, something dressier for evening.

Clothing takes up major real estate, so be smart about packing versatile pieces that can transition. Stick to one outfit per day and re-wear items, mixing and matching as needed. You’re on vacation, not filming a movie!

Excess Jewelry

I get it, you want to have your baubles at the ready for any possible outfit combination on the horizon. But letting your jewelry box explode into your luggage is a recipe for tangled necklaces, scratched pieces, and weighted baggage.

Only pack the essentials – a statement necklace or two, simple studs, delicate bracelets, and no more than two rings. Anything more is just asking for a mess and weigh-down!


should i carry my passport

There you have it – 10 items that, in my well-traveled opinion, deserve a hard pass from anyone trying to pack a carry-on like a pro. Now you know what to skip on your next jet-setting adventure!

Of course, over-packing plagues even the most experienced travelers. One of my most cringeworthy travel memories was attempting to lug an oversized carry-on bursting with too many clothes, shoes, and accessories through Miami airport during Art Basel.

Between the monstrous size of my bag and the dizzying heights of my platforms (I clearly failed on my own no high heels rule), I was both over-stuffed and teetering.

Let’s just say I spent more time picking my belongings up off the floor in front of my horrified fellow travelers than I care to recall!

So learn from my excess and follow the 10 commandments next time you pack that carry-on. Your shoulders, feet, and dignity will remain blessedly intact.

After all, exploring a new locale should be the grueling part of your trip – not just making it from your Uber to the hotel lobby!

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