I always recommend that, where possible, you fly with a soft bag rather than a hard-sided case. It is really handy if you have an item that may not fit inside the traditional case as the bag will more easily mould around it; However, the most important reason for packing a bag rather than a case is that once the first 90 or so passengers with cases have boarded, then rest will need to put their luggage in the hold. This not only increases the time taken at the arrivals airport (and possibly causing you to miss any connecting travel arrangements!) but the longer your baggage is away from you, the more chance it has to go missing. Using a bag means that you will be free to board the aircraft and leave the bag under the seat in front. I favour the rucksack-style and find these much easier to handle than a pull-along; I just need to throw it over my shoulders and I'm off... oh, and they don't tip over when handling corners!
Now that I've extolled the benefits of carrying a bag vs a case, it's important to get the right type of bag. You're looking for one that will adhere to the airlines' size requirements, fit all of your essentials and - very importantly - has a front pocket to keep your frequently used items in.
Getting through security
Everyone is aware of the security measures that we, very understandably, need to stick to when flying.
However, it would seem that not everyone is aware of security etiquette; hello extended and unnecessary queuing as we wait for people to trawl through their makeup cases to pull out all the liquids: to rummage through their cases to remove any items that must go through separately (electronic devices): the errant shampoo.
My advice is to separate all these items as you pack, pop them into a bag (ideal if you have one that will fit the security requirements, but a carrier will do until you get to the airport), and put them in the front pocket of your bag. As you're nearing the front of the queue at security, simply remove the bag so you're ready just to pop everything into the security tray.
My Front Pocket Essentials
I keep these in the aforementioned front pocket of my travel bag so that they are always easily to hand. I always have:
- reading material or other entertainment, whether this be a book, a magazine, an e-reader, a tablet or an ipod. And headphones!
- snacks; I tend to travel at what would be dinner time so to save relying on in-flight food (which on short haul, you tend to JUST be served as it's time for the stewards to come round and collect the rubbish - and god forbid you plump for something hot!), I make sure I have a ready supply of cereal bars. I've even taken chopped up fruit (this MUST be in an airtight container - unless you're into fruit-scented everything!) and sandwiches when collecting my daughter straight from school and then leaving.
- a portable powerbank - lesson learned from the time my phone switched itself off at 45% battery JUST as I was showing the flight attendant where I was sitting!
- a little pack of sweets for sucking during take-off
- lip balm
- separate wallet with all travel documents. To take this a step further, I usually organise these into the order that I'll need them in! I then discard as appropriate, so as not to unnecessarily clutter my bag.
- bottle of water - I buy this after passing through security.
What Else to Pack in Hand Luggage
I do a lot of flying to visit family, so mostly pack clothes and/or small gifts. If you're going on a short-haul (within three hours) holiday, you're probably going to want a camera. You may also take checked-in luggage, but I would always pack the following items in hand luggage.
- Underwear. We all know that, from time to time, luggage can go missing; imagine landing somewhere stunning... and only have one pair of knickers! I always pack underwear and other small items inside shoes. This has the dual benefit of helping the shoes/boots keep their shape and also maximising space for other items.
- Toiletries. Same as above.
I try to pack as lightly as possible - a few tops, one of my boyfriend's t shirts for nightwear. I also prefer to roll my clothes, rather than fold them as I can fit more in this way!
Do you have any tips for when you fly?