Packing your carry-on bag

Nothing says holiday quite like a plane ride. To make sure you travel in comfort (of mind and body), here are a few suggestions of what to pack in your carry-on bag*.

Travel documents and valuables

Always keep your ID, passport, airline ticket, travel cards (such as for the public transport system at your destination) and vouchers with you. You can put copies in your checked luggage if you’re worried about misplacing anything, but the originals should never leave your side.

This goes for your cash and credit/debit cards, jewellery and electronics (and chargers) as well.


If you take any prescription medication, pack this in your carry-on.

Remember to keep everything in its original packaging, with the inserts; don’t decant it into a pill caddy. Yes, it does make for a bulky addition to your luggage, but should you be stopped at customs or security, you’ll be able refute any accusations.

Some countries, especially in the Middle East, are sticklers about drug trafficking and by packing this way, you can avoid confusion.

If you are worried about the perception of your medication by authorities at your destination, ask your doctor for a letter that explains what medications have been prescribed.


For international travel, the rule about liquids is still enforced. And thankfully you can buy travel sizes of just about anything these days. Even if you don’t need shampoo and body wash, it’s a good idea to pack a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste in your carry on.

The LAG rule says that any liquids, aerosols or gas must be packed into containers that have a maximum capacity of 100 millilitres each. You may carry several containers with liquid contents, but these need to be packed in a re-sealable, transparent plastic bag and the bag must be removed from your suitcase at security for screening.

Snacks and entertainment

Personally, I never travel without stash – a few travel-sized packets of sweets or other snacks. And I usually pick up a bottle of water while waiting for my flight. On long-haul flights, these help to satisfy the munchies in the middle of the night. And if you’re travelling with a low-cost airline, you can avoid the high prices of onboard snacks.

And while long-haul flights will provide in-flight entertainment, it might not be to your liking. Download a few things onto your phone or tablet and pack a good book or magazine.


Sure, a quick flight to Durban doesn’t warrant a change of clothing in your carry-on, but in the unlikely event of lost luggage, you’ll be thankful for a clean pair of socks and underwear.

However, if you’ve got a layover on your journey, you might want to throw in a clean shirt as well. You never know if your next leg will be delayed and a few fresh items can help mitigate that grungy feeling of not being able to take a shower.

Whatever your destination though, a light jacket, scarf or blanket is always a good idea. Planes can get chilly.

Kate Kennedy

*Airlines are pretty strict with the size and weight of your on-board luggage so be sure to double check that your suitcase or bag doesn’t exceed these limitations.

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