Guest Author - Christine Wilcox
Many people don't want to hassle with carrying their luggage on the plane, rather than checking it. I'm a big proponent of carrying on because the odds of my arriving at my destination with all my necessities are greatly improved. If you follow a few simple procedures and plan your packing, you can keep your luggage with you and maintain your sanity.
TSA Golden Rule #1 - the Transportation Security Administration does not permit liquids, gels or creams in bottles bigger than 3.4 ounces, unless specified on the outside of the bottle that it meets TSA requirements. They don't care about the price per ounce. They also don't care if it's eight ounces and it's mostly gone - it's an eight ounce bottle. If it exceeds their requirements, consider it a donation to them if you try to carry it on. If you plan ahead, you can purchase a compliant travel kit and transfer precious liquids to it if you can't live without it.
TSA Golden Rule #2 - all your carry on liquids MUST FIT in ONE quart-sized clear plastic zip-closure bag.
TSA Golden Rule #3 - your quart-sized bag containing all your liquids must be removed from your bag and be screened separately. No exceptions.
Chris's Golden rule regarding liquids, creams and gels - Don't carry anything on that is more than 3/4 full. Because of air pressure changes, your small bottle of lotion may explode and cover everything in the bag.
And Chris's Golden Rules regarding security in general - Tape your business card to the top of your laptop for easy identification when it rolls out of security's screening process. Though you can put your shoes directly on a screener belt, I always put mine in a bin to prevent them from getting crushed between bins that are coming off. When you get through the metal detector, push all your items as far down to the end of the line as you can. Don't stop right as your items are coming out of the screener to collect anything. Make as much room as you can for fellow travelers.
Each traveler is permitted 2 bags - the largest being a roller bag (generallly no longer than 22 inches) and the other being one small personal item such as a briefcase, backpack, or purse. Yes, ladies, your purse counts as carry on. Don't take two roller bags thinking you're meeting baggage requirements. One roller bag, one small item. No exceptions.
If you carry a laptop, consider getting a small wallet to put in your briefccase so you can skip carrying your purse. If you can't live without your purse, get a small wallet anyway and consider packing your purse in your roller bag.
I strongly recommend against packing anything fragile in a roller bag that you wouldn't want checked. You never know when your bag may have to be gate checked. Depending on when you board, there may not be room for it. Generally, when bags are gate checked, the airlines waive the associated fees since it was out of your control.
With some advanced planning, packing carry on luggage is a breeze for any solo traveler, and you can smile as you pass everyone else standing at Baggage Claim.