travel

Exactly how to pack the perfect 7kg carry on bag that'll make it through airport weigh ins.

If you’ve ever lined up to board a flight and not feared your carry on luggage will weigh more than 7kg, you’re a liar.

We’ve all been there, when you know deep down in your soul your bag would not pass the test if a grumpy flight attendant forced you to weigh it.

When you hear the announcement to bring your carry on luggage forward to be weighed over the speaker, you hang back and pray to whoever you pray to that you’ll be able to sneak through unnoticed.

Sadly, anyone who’s flying this Christmas is going to become very well acquainted with those feelings of dread once more. Yes, even if you’re a Qantas lounge regular.

On Monday, it was announced all major Australian airlines – Qantas, Virgin Australia, Tigerair Australia and Jetstar – will present a united front and weigh all passengers’ carry on luggage to ensure it complies with the 7kg weight limit.

Tigerair Australia and Jetstar customers would be used to this (although admittedly, some of us might have come up with ways to slip through the cracks noticed), but from December 17, all airlines are seriously cracking down in an effort to reduce passenger and cabin crew injury and boarding times from tousling with heavy bags.

This news strikes fear into anyone who thought it’d be smart to save money by buying cabin baggage-only flights to get home for Christmas. Now, you’re facing the reality of actually having to make do with 7kg of carry on luggage, or risk paying up to check your bag in at the gate in front of other judgemental passengers.

All of this made us wonder – how does one pack the perfect carry on bag?

To find out, we asked people who travel all the time how they get their carry on luggage over the line.

How to keep your carry on baggage under 7kg.

1. Buy the lightest suitcase you possibly can.

This might seem like common sense but we’re willing to bet so many of us are using bulky, cheap carry on suitcases that take up precious kilos you can’t afford to lose.

“Buy the lightest suitcase you possibly can. If it’s a bulky case, you’re already at 1kg before you’ve even put anything into it,” Aussie flight attendant Jess told Mamamia.

Full time Where To Fly Next and @anniesbucketlist travel blogger and content creator Annie Nguyen, who’s travelled to added, “I prefer to use a backpack rather than a suitcase or luggage on wheels. Backpacks (especially day packs used for hiking and camping) are much more versatile and much lighter than hardcover and wheeled bags and you won’t need to stress about whether the width of the bag with comfortably fit in the overhead compartments of the plane.”

Go for a soft, lighter material case over a durable one with a hard one if a suitcase suits your travel plans better – because the case will spend the flight in the overhead compartment rather than under the plane, you don’t need to worry about baggage handlers throwing your luggage everywhere.

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2. Be realistic about what you actually need.

Yes, t-shirts are light, but ten t-shirts jammed together aren’t.

Putting thought into what kind of outfit you’d like to wear on each day of your trip (e.g. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, lounging around wear) will save you from packing excess tops and bottoms.

A good balance of basics that go with anything (black, white or neutral t-shirts or shirts, a basic skirt or jeans) and statement items (a printed skirt or top, something colourful) will keep you from feeling like you’ve got nothing to wear.

Bonus points if all your tops and bottoms could be worn together. Resist the urge to throw in something you have either never worn before, or never wear in your ‘real life’. You won’t wear it on holiday.

Jess added, “I think just being realistic about what you actually need makes a difference. If you’re going on a beach weekend, are you actually going to go to the hotel gym or are you just wasting space taking your gym gear and joggers to sit unused? I try to plan exactly what I’ll need and not take an excess of outfit choices, I make those choices before I leave home.”

“I think as well, just remember you can buy something if you really need to, you probably won’t need to but it takes the pressure off having to pack everything for every possible situation.”

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3. Think carefully about what shoes to pack.

Shoes are one of the heaviest things you’ll need to pack and it’s where most people go wrong. In general, less is more.

“Shoes have been my downfall – too many and too heavy. You need shoes that can be dual purpose – sandals that go from day to night, joggers you can go to the gym in or hit the street for sightseeing. And lightweight thongs for the beach/pool,” Expedia’s travel expert Lisa Perkovic told Mamamia.

Think black sandals or boots, or a pair of white sneakers that can do walking and still be acceptable at night. Heels are tricky – only pack them if you really need them. A good rule is to always wear you’re heaviest pair of shoes on the plane, and try not to pack more than two more pairs in your luggage.

4. Use packing cubes.

One of the things everyone we spoke to swears by is packing cells. Before you roll your eyes, hear them out.

“The top packing hack that has really helped me is using packing cells and rolling your items instead of folding. This saves you so much space inside your bags and the packing cells will prevent you from opening up a bag of chaos whenever you need to open your carry on bag. I can easily pull out my packing cell for “phone chargers and tech” or “cosmetics and toiletries” without having to take everything out of my bag,” Annie said.

Another Aussie flight attendant Maddison said since she bought a pack of packing cubes on eBay years ago, she hasn’t looked back.

“No matter where I’m travelling, I always use packing cubes, I buy them for everyone now and they are such a game changer. You can group outfits, particular items or just throw all your underwear into the smaller ones and it genuinely saves so much space. Also incredibly useful when unpacking and not wanting to empty the entire suitcase looking for that one particular shirt. Honestly, just buy them. You’ll be a changed woman!”

If you don’t have quick access to packing cells, Lisa suggested laundry bags as an alternative.

“They help with space, organisation and privacy if you need to open your bag in security. But make sure the bags are drawstring, no zips, so they are very lightweight.”

Side note – which kind of packer are you? There are two types, find out in the video below, post continues after video.

Video by MMC

5. Keep toiletries simple.

All the experts said they wouldn’t ever pack a full bottle of product in their carry on luggage, unless it’s already tiny. Both flight attendants said they use travel sized toiletries for the basics like moisturiser and toothpaste, and make do with the body wash and body moisturiser provided at your accommodation.

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For hair, Jess suggested washing it before you go if it’s only a long weekend, and packing dry shampoo. Maddison added, “if you’re picky about your hair, take your own shampoo and conditioner, but decanted into smaller travel bottles.”

Jess and Maddison also recommended keeping your skincare and makeup routine as streamlined as possible, utilising multi-use products.

“This obviously depends on the trip, but if it’s a quick trip, I just pack my BB cream, some bronzer, mascara, one lipstick and a lip balm in my little ziplock bag,” Maddison said.

Lisa said calling ahead to find out what amenities your accommodation has (hairdryer, hair straightener, iron etc.) will save you packing those bulkier items unnecessarily. Clear pencil case style bags or smaller packing cubes are great for packing toiletries so you can easily pull them out if needed at security. Sticky tape over the lid of the bottle will also stop things from exploding throughout your bag.

After a few bad experiences, Annie said it’s also worth bringing extra resealable bags for any liquid or cream items that you have in your carry on.

“There have been a few incidents at different international airports where my expensive cosmetics and skincare items have been thrown out because I didn’t have the bags!”

6. Always ask yourself, is this multi-use?

Lisa advised the one question to ask yourself before adding an item to your ‘packing’ pile is, is this multi-use?

“When travelling carry-on only, the one thing you need to keep in the back of your mind is multi-purpose. Items need to have more than one use on your trip or it’s a waste of space. You need to be resourceful, or you may end up over your limit,” she said.

For example: a tinted lip balm can work as blush, tinted moisturiser with SPF, one day bag that isn’t too big to also use at night, sandals that can be dressed up or very short heels that are comfortable enough to get around in during the day.

7. Don’t forget to check the weather.

Finally, Maddison’s number one tip is to ALWAYS CHECK THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU FLY! Literally, that’s how she said it in our interview.

“Check the weather of your destination the night before, the morning of, when you’re walking out the door, double and triple check it again! There’s nothing worse than showing up thinking it’s going to be boiling to find it’s actually pouring with rain and only 20 degrees.”

With all those tips in mind, all that’s left to say is good luck and godspeed.

Do you have any carry on bag packing tricks? Are you worried about getting through baggage weighing now new rules are coming in?

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