Packing: The Personal Item

Over the past two years I’ve learnt (nearly) every trick in the book for bringing as much stuff on to a plane with you as possible.  I’ve discovered the beauty of unique travel times when you can have a couple extra kilos in your suitcase without paying overweight baggage.  I’ve realized that putting large shoes in a carry-on does make a difference.  I’ve learnt that, during Christmas, even carry-ons have a weight limit.  But, above all, I’ve become enlightened to the beauty of the “personal item”.

What is the personal item you ask?  It’s the carry-on’s best friend.  It’s that other thing you bring on to the plane.  The casual traveller may not need an addition to their carry on.  Those of us who fly back and forth between two different lives, however, yearn for some extra room.

The personal item is unique.  It reveals things about that individual.  That family in the front seats might choose a bag of toys to keep their child entertained in case there are no family-fun movies on the entertainment system.  The woman sitting in the extra-leg room seat might need the latest issue of Tattler, Hello and her just-purchased lipstick.  Hopefully you won’t be sitting next to the guy who puts a pret sandwich and a nail file in his personal item (I have, unfortunately.  He also takes the mid-flight ice cream.).

My personal item looks a bit like the above.  Kindle, filofax, magazine, hand cream, facial mister, nail cream, ipod, collection of international phones, sleep mask, water bottle, lip balm and travel wallet.  And an unshown 100% chocolate bar.

This is the bag that stays right by my side from the moment I leave my house to the moment I hug my parents.  While I’ve gone through a variety of bags during my first two years of university, I’ve found that the best option—by far—is something that you can carry in the crook of your arm.  That way your boarding pass and passport are never far away.

This is the bag that I shove underneath the seat in front of me so I don’t have to open the overhead carrier mid-flight.  Because, let’s be honest, that annoys everyone.  This is the bag that gives you peace of mind.  Your favorite things don’t have to leave your side.  Just because you aren’t on the ground, doesn’t mean you don’t have your life with you.  Just because you are in transit doesn’t mean that you don’t have a good book, some lip balm and good chocolate.  You are still you, just consildated to seat 35G for a while.

Respect the personal item—I mean carry on—it’s there to help you and make you feel a bit more human in the crazy whirlwind that is international travel.

What is the one thing you must have with you when flying?  Besides your passport that is!


2 thoughts on “Packing: The Personal Item

  1. Kathryn

    One thing I have noted is that Americans in general have a very different attitude towards packing and what they take on planes to Brits (although we are heading the same way). I take a bag very similar to yours with me but that would be my only carry on, everything else I would check in. I absolutely hate carrying too much stuff on the plane and I always take the absolute minimum that I can with me. This is also no doubt shaped by many EasyJet flights where you can only take one thing on with you in total – no extra handbag or shopping bag or anything like that.

    Quite apart from my inane comments about packing, I really loved this entry. You write so beautifully.

    1. Emilia Post author

      Thank you so much, that means so much to me!

      I completely agree about not wanting to take a lot on the plane and Americans definitely pack more than the Brits do. The one thing I’ve never understood are the people who bring a proper wheelie suitcase onto planes, that seems so uncomfortable to travel with. 🙂


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