Flight Attendants Share Wisdom on Carry-On Bags

If you fly regularly, you know the annoyance of having to check bags, especially if you have to pay extra for them. Even worse is getting to your destination, tired and jet lagged, and realizing your luggage didn’t make it to the baggage claim. There is a better way — it’s called the carry-on bag.

What flight attendants and frequent fliers have known for years is that with the right bag and some smart packing techniques, you can cruise through security, onto the plane and out of the airport with ease.

Get a good carry-on bag.

It’s called a 22″ spinner carry-on bag. It’s the bag you see speedily rolling behind many pilots and flight attendants as they make their way to their next gate. Look for a sturdy, well-designed but lightweight bag with roomy pockets and a wide wheelbase. Spinner carry-ons get their name because of their four wheels. Bags with four wheels are easier to move around than those with just two. Airlines require carry-on bags that are small enough to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Maximum size limits are typically 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall and 40 pounds. That’s why the 22″ spinner is a popular carry-on size. Most airlines allow you to carry on one small bag plus one personal item, including a laptop, purse or briefcase as long as it doesn’t exceed 36″ total and fits under the seat in front of you.

Understand what you can pack.

While you’re allowed to carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag, there are restrictions you must be aware of before you pack. According to the Transportation Security Administration website, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or rolled up are not allowed. All liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. For more details about what you can carry on an airplane, visit TSA.gov/311.

Utilize all the space.

The key to maximizing space in a 22″ spinner carry-on is to roll your clothes into “tubes” instead of folding and stacking them like in a store. Rolling saves space and also helps prevent wrinkles. It’s also easier to select what you want to wear from your bag without unpacking the whole thing. Roll several items together to prevent more wrinkles. Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier things such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.

Wear your nice, and harder to pack clothes and shoes on the plane. They won’t wrinkle or take up space in your carry-on. Even if you’re able to pack everything you want in the bag, keep in mind the typical 40 pound weight limit.

Useful Travel Etiquette Tips

Even if you’re a savvy traveler with hundreds of miles under your shoes, it doesn’t hurt to review some tried and true travel etiquette tips. Because no matter how smart, accomplished, or attractive you are, if you make a major faux pas in front of a decision maker, the deal’s probably not getting done.

Here’s a review of business etiquette for the traveling executive. If you travel often, especially out of the country, be sure to take a few minutes and research the business etiquette and customs of that country or region—it may mean the difference between a successful or disastrous business trip.

Better overdressed than underdressed. Assuming you know the basics of professional dress, just some reminders are in order. Stick with timeless styles and darker colors—they visually demand more respect. Dress one over your paygrade, or for the position you want for your next promotion. When traveling, be sure to check the weather and dress appropriately for the temperature. You don’t want to be the only guy in the room with a sweater on. Make sure your clothes are neatly pressed. Most hotels have irons in them. In a pinch, hang up your clothes in the bathroom and run a hot shower to steam them. And if you haven’t gone shopping in a while, commit to doing so to freshen up your wardrobe.

The art of the handshake. A good handshake is an art full of variables, such as the right timing and pressure. Done correctly, it can show your confidence and create rapport with associates. Don’t extend your hand too early to seem overly eager, and don’t squeeze too hard as to intimidate or cause pain. Also, remember to smile and make good eye contact. When traveling abroad, research the customs and etiquette of that country or region. When in Asian countries, for example, refrain from shaking too hard or too long, and don’t make direct eye contact. A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the person you are looking to impress.

Napkin on the lap. As mentioned in the opening, no matter how smart, accomplished or attractive you are, a major faux pas at a meal can ruin the deal. Even if your coworkers or guests are less than formal, stay true to the rules of mealtime etiquette — you never know who’s watching, and it can only benefit your career. Some things to remember: Never talk with your mouth full, take small bites, and be nice to the wait staff. You won’t impress your guest by being overly particular. Also, come to the meal with a few topics to discuss besides business. When in doubt, ask your guest about something you know he or she is interested in, such as golf or wine tasting.

Don’t be a stingy tipper. The old adages, “Money talks” and “Don’t be stingy,” strongly apply when you’re on the road. Tip well at airports, restaurants, hotels—and anywhere a harried business traveler needs a little extra help to get what’s needed. Don’t forget to tip housekeepers, too. Be generous and the staff will take care of you. And in most cases, you can get reimbursed as a travel expense.

Snail mail can go far. Business people are bombarded with emails. In our technological age, you can really stand out by doing a simple thing: handwrite a request, reminder or thank you card. Pick a simple, classy card, and keep it short and tasteful, with phrases such as, “I just wanted to remind you,” and “I’m looking forward to our meeting.” Of course, make sure the recipient’s name and title are spelled correctly.