With ever-increasing baggage fees and stringent TSA regulations, it's important to pack your bags for a flight carefully. If you're taking a backpack on board, you'll need to maximize its space, but keep the weight down so you aren't overburdened with baggage. Take a look at a list of the on-board essentials before you begin packing.

Clothing & Accessories

Flights can be delayed and checked bags lost, so pack one set of spare undergarments and a clean T-shirt in your backpack should you have an overnight stay at the airport. Roll up and pack a light cotton jacket to combat the chilly air on board, and sunglasses to help you darken the lights and sleep. An inflatable neck pillow, which folds neatly into a thin, flat shape about the size of your palm, should go into your backpack's side pocket.


Keep your passport and a passport copy in your carry-on bag (or on your person) at all times. A snug, deep pocket in your backpack is a good place for it. Copies of rental car and hotel reservations should go with it. If you have visa documents that you must present upon arrival at your destination, slip them into a clear plastic document holder to avoid crumpling them and slide them into the flat part of your pack that touches your back.

Entertainment & Electronics

These should make up the smallest percentage of your backpack's contents so resist the temptation to fill your backpack with paperbacks and puzzles. Choose one small, lightweight book and one magazine. Add your personal music player with headphones and your smartphone, and you should have enough entertainment. If you pack your laptop in your backpack, download a couple of new movies before takeoff. Small electronics, such as a digital camera, personal DVD player or handheld gaming system, should also go into your backpack and never into checked bags. International travelers should pack a small converter for charging electronics at the arrival airport if necessary.

Personal Care & Refreshments

Fill a quart-sized zip-top bag with 3-oz. portions of your toiletries, such as shampoo and body lotion. Add a 100-ml. tube of toothpaste and a folding travel toothbrush. If you plan to wash your face during the flight, pack your own washcloth. A personal first aid kit, with motion sickness medication and a general painkiller, is also advisable. Females should pack sanitary napkins or tampons if needed. Pack your own snacks, such as transparent zip-top bags of mixed nuts or peanut butter sandwiches, to avoid paying the hefty on-board prices.