How to travel with a carry-on only

In times where we are almost constantly on the go, travelling light and avoiding checking-in a bag can be both something of an art form and a necessity. For many business travellers, being able to travel with just carry-on luggage is critical. It can also make life a lot easier for leisure travel as well. In both cases, travelling with carry-on luggage means you have immediate access to all of your luggage and that losses and delays are much less likely.

A small suitcase that fits within the carry-on dimensions needs to be able to hold both clothing and footwear. To help maximize space, use a compression bag or roll your clothes tightly and tuck smaller items into your shoes.

Packing cubes are a good option to save space. Their main function is to keep your bag organized and your clothes wrinkle-free. Another way to save some space is to wear the bulky items on your own person.

Shoes are some of the heaviest and space consuming items in a luggage. Try packing light minimizing the pairs of shoes you’ll be using on your trip. Place no more than two in your carry-on and wear the heaviest pair on your feet.

Travellers are permitted a bag and personal item such as a purse, small knapsack, briefcase or computer bag. These items are also subject to size restrictions, so be sure to check the details for hand luggage of your chosen airline. 

Beware that you may be asked to skycheck carry-on luggage if your flight is very full or your luggage exceeds size limits. So, it’s best to carry any valuables you may be travelling with in your hand luggage for safekeeping.

Transport Canada allows up to two carry-on bags per person. Make sure to check the airline you are travelling with to confirm the acceptable size for carry-on bags. They should also be able to share the types of bags accepted as carry-on.

Be aware that carry-on liquids are the downfall of many well-intended travellers. Nothing is more discouraging than having brand new bottles of cologne or luxury shampoo and conditioner be confiscated at security because they are over the allowance. 

Double-check with the airline as most only allow 100ml or less for liquids. If you are bringing liquids, help make the process go more quickly and smoothly. Put no more than a few items in a clear plastic bag and have them readily accessible for inspection.

If travelling with carry-on luggage is new for you, make sure to review the regulations closely or your souvenir boomerang could end up in the trash bin at airport security. It's worth remembering that certain items are not allowed in carry-on luggage. These include flammables, firearms, flares and fireworks. So, be sure to pack with attention and finesse.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is a great place to start when embarking on any type of travel. Also, airline websites are another great source of information.

Before deciding what to pack, it's important to know the dimensions for carry-on and hand luggage. Air Canada, WestJet and other airlines provide carry-on sizing details on their websites, so know the limitations, otherwise, you may wind up having to do a lot of shuffling when you get to the airport. Don’t forget that handles and wheels are included in the measurements. Make sure to also contact your carrier or visit their website to confirm the weight limit for your carry-on.
Baggage losses or delays are far less likely with carry-on luggage. Just remember where your pieces are stowed in case they aren’t directly overhead or stored as underseat luggage. It’s always a good idea to put an identifying ribbon or belt on your carry-on luggage. Small black suitcases look alike. It's easy to mistake yours for someone else's after a long red-eye flight. 

Travel insurance is a great safeguard for this type of situation. It can help travellers get sorted if their luggage is lost or misplaced. Just keep in mind that there are coverage limitations around valuables. These items are also subject to size restrictions. So, be sure to check the details for hand luggage of your chosen airline.

Carry-on luggage is an excellent way to travel if you can make it work. Just be sure to follow the Canadian government and airline instructions closely and you’ll be flying high in no time.

Learn more about travel insurance or get a travel insurance quote online.

The Public Health Agency of Canada still advises against travelling for non-essential reasons. If you are still planning to travel, make sure that you are fully aware of all requirements, before leaving.


Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.

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