What to Pack in Carry-on Luggage for an International Flight
A Detailed Packing List for Australian Backpackers
- Destination picked? Check!
- Flights booked? Check!
- Bags packed? Uncertain?
The start of any holiday is an exciting yet nerve-racking time, especially when it comes to those pre-flight nerves.
Whether you’re planning a one-bag lightweight carry-on adventure or just looking to add a few creature comforts to your journey, correctly understanding carry-on requirements is key to proper prep.
To help you better prepare for your next trip away, we have put together the perfect guide on what to pack for international flights out of Australia!
1. Carry-on vs Checked Luggage – What’s the Difference?
A carry-on bag is any type of luggage that travellers can take on an aeroplane. Carry-on bags usually have a variety of restrictions placed on them, including content restrictions, weight and size.
They are most often stored in the overhead lockers or under the plane seats, meaning you can easily access your carry-on items throughout the flight.
On the other hand, checked baggage is transported in the plane’s cargo area. Aeroplanes are designed with luggage compartment spaces to store larger luggage and here you can have larger bags placed, for a fee of course.
Is carry-on luggage the same as hand luggage?
While most airlines do not differentiate between the two, some airline companies would consider a carry-on bag any smaller suitcase or backpack while hand luggage is usually a small handbag or bumbag.
2. Restrictions / Rules for Carry-on Luggage in Australia (Domestic and International)
All airlines flying into and out of Australia, as well as any domestic flight networks, have a variety of different restrictions and rules on what passengers can carry aboard an aircraft.
This also includes weight and size restrictions on carry-on luggage, which ensures a fair distribution of weight and size for every passenger.
1) Weight and Size Restrictions for Carry-on Luggage for Australian Airlines
Typically, as private companies, airlines are free to dictate both how much carry-on luggage is allowed as well as carry-on luggage dimensions, which means that one airline may allow larger luggage sizes than another.
These allocations also vary according to your ticket class and on average the more expensive your airline ticket, the larger your carry-on capacity is.
Whether you’re opting for carry-on luggage only or are actively seeking to max your baggage on your next flight, here’s a comparison of the size and dimensions for carry-on luggage for every major Australian airline.
a) Qantas Carry-on Baggage Restrictions
One of the world’s oldest airline companies, Qantas Airways is the flag carrier of Australia and its largest airline by fleet size.
Like many airways, they have different variations in size and weight requirements between classes.
First, Business and Premium Economy restrictions
- Dimensions / Size
- 1 x 115cm bag = 56cm + 36cm + 23cm
- 2 x 105cm bags= 48cm + 34cm + 23cm
- One bag up to 10kgs or 14kgs in total.
- Dimensions / Size
- 1 x 115cm bag = 56cm + 36cm+ 23cm
- 1 x 185cm non-rigid garment bag = 60cm + 11cm + 114cm
- Up to 7kgs in total bag weight.
b) Virgin Australia Carry-on Baggage Restrictions
The Australia division of the global Virgin airlines brand, Virgin Australia is the largest airline by fleet size in the country. It is also one of the most popular international airlines for flights into and out of Australia.
All flyers on Virgin Australia are allowed one standard piece of baggage and one personal item.
- Dimensions: 56cm long, 36cm wide, 23cm deep
- Weight: Up to 7kg in total
c) Jet Star Carry-on Baggage Restrictions:
A subsidiary of Qantas Airlines, Jet Star is an Australian low-cost budget airline that flies to over 30 different destinations.
As a budget airline, Jet Star has much harsher weight and size restrictions than other airlines as they charge for any deviation from the parameters.
- Economy Starter, Starter Plus and Starter Max passengers: Passengers can bring a main item and a small item, with a combined weight of no more than 7kg.
- Passengers with a Flex bundle, +7kg
- Extra Carry-On Baggage or Business Class Fare: Passengers can bring a main item and a small item with a combined weight of no more than 14kg. No single item can weigh more than 10kg.
Your main item must fit in the overhead lockers and be no larger than 56cm (height) x 36cm (width) x 23cm (depth). Your small item must fit under the seat in front of you.
2) Items You Can’t Pack in Your Carry-on Luggage When Flying Overseas?
Just like weight and size restrictions, all airlines flying into and out of Australia have a list of restricted items that are not permitted in a carry-on bag.
To help you know what not to pack in luggage when flying, we have put together a list of all restricted carry-on items for all airlines, as per the instructions of the Australian Government.
a) Restricted Items List
Sporting goods, kitchen utensils, tools, and other items with sharp edges or points capable of injuring a person.
- axes, hatchets or similar
- box cutters
- ice axes and ice picks
- ice skates
- knives or knife-like items
- open/straight razors
- rock climbing equipment such as pitons, hooks, hammers and bolts
- screwdrivers, crowbars, hammers, pliers and wrenches
Sharp items that are not weapons but are capable (with or without modification) of causing harm by penetration
- letter openers
- pointed metal scissors, manicure scissors and scissors with blades more than 6cm long
- razor blades
- hypodermic needles (without proof it is medically required)
Blunt items that can be used to bludgeon or threaten to bludgeon a person
- baseball, softball and cricket bats
- billiard, pool or snooker cues
- hockey and lacrosse sticks
- golf clubs
- pieces of wood, metal or any other materials big enough to threaten a person
Household flammable goods
- aerosol containers, including spray paint
- petrol and any other flammable liquid
- toy caps
Items capable of being used to restrain a person
- cable ties
- handcuffs (I must say… I was surprised by this one!! :P)
Firearms, Weapons and Chemicals
- firearms, flares, gun powders
- disabling and incapacitating chemicals, gases or sprays, such as mace, pepper or capsicum spray, tear gas, acid sprays and animal-repellent sprays
- billy clubs, leather billies, blackjacks
- ballistic knives and similar devices designed to discharge a projectile by means.
- stun guns, cattle prods and tasers
b) More Minor Carry-on Restrictions to Consider
While carrying any of the above aboard a plane is bound to raise some questions, you can also have trouble when trying to bring on even the most innocent of items in certain categories.
Below are some things to consider when packing your carry-on baggage.
The vast majority of border control organisations in the world have some form of liquid restriction, preventing anyone from bringing a certain volume of liquid on board a plane.
In Australia, liquid, aerosol or gel items must be in containers of 100 millilitres (volume), 100 grams (weight) or less.
Containers larger than 100 millilitres or 100 grams, even if only partially filled, containing liquids, aerosols or gels will not be allowed through the security screening point.
For example, a 200-gram toothpaste tube that is half-full will not be permitted.
Liquid container restrictions
All liquids moving through Australian border control must be in one transparent and re-sealable plastic bag like a snap-lock sandwich bag.
The four sides of the bag’s sealed area must add up to no more than 80 centimetres (e.g. 20×20 cm or 15×25 cm) and only one bag is allowed per passenger, with exceptions for carers who may carry the bags for people in their care, including children.
At the screening point all liquids, aerosols and gels in your carry-on baggage must be separately presented from your main bag for screening.
3. Carry-on Packing List: Top Items to Include in Your Carry-on Luggage(For an International Flight)
Carry-on luggage is the perfect opportunity to prepare anything you may need for your journal, whether it be a short domestic hop or a 14-hour-long international leg across the Pacific.
To help you prepare for your next long-distance trip across the world, we have put together an expansive list of some of the best travel gear to pack in your carry-on for an international flight.
a) Documentation and Stationery
Keeping all your travel documentation close by is key to a successful travel journey so it’s always wise to make sure you can easily access them.
Keep all of your important documents in a protected sleeve that can be easily found in your carry-on bag but is still secure. For added security make sure to keep your bank cards in a RFID-blocking sleeves.
Below is our list of some of the most important documents to keep in mind when packing for carry-on.
- Wallet including license, some cash and ATM cards
- Photocopies of important documents, including printed itineraries for your arrival
- Pen and paper
b) Technology and Entertainment
Long international flights can often be a little mind-numbing, especially if your airline does not provide in-flight entertainment systems.
That’s why tech and entertainment are so key to any long-distance flight as odds are you will be spending most of your time on them!
So, download a few movies on your phone or laptop, stash a notepad and prepare to kill time.
Don’t forget other tech devices that may help during your travels are important to have on stand-by as well, including a travel adaptor for any layovers.
- Small laptop
- Phone and headphones
- Travel power adaptors
- Portable power bank and charging cords
c) Health and Hygiene
A few toiletries like toothpaste, face wash and plenty of water are great for helping you feel refreshed after a long-haul international flight.
- Water bottle
- Toiletries and toothbrush
- Hand sanitiser
d) Comfort and Sleep
Long-distance flights are often overnight so a few items to help you get some well-needed rest is a big part of any carry-on packing list.
e) Personal Protection
Long-distance travel involves plenty of time on the move, with bus transfers, airport layovers and lengthy walks across runways. This is why it is important to have a few items like the ones below to keep you ready for anything on your journey.
- RFID card protectors/travel wallet
- Small first aid kit
- Lip balm
- Protective face mask (covid mask)
We have provided a variety of useful tips below when it comes to packing for carry-on luggage, really helping you maximise your luggage space.
- Take a small dry bag which you can clip to your backpack for extra carrying space when required
- Change of underwear/clothes/shoes depending on the length of flight
- Ensure you wear multiple layers of clothing so you can take layers off if you get hot or need to put layers on when your flight blasts the air-conditioning.
- Keep some of your bulkier clothes on when travelling to also help keep you within your weight limits
4. Best Backpacks for Carry-on Luggage – Our Top 3 Recommendations
Now with the perfect packing list for carry-on sorted, it is important to consider which backpack is best for your next long distant journey aboard.
Keep in mind features that you would want, for example, ventilated back panels, additional pockets and strengthened shoulder straps.
Keep in mind the size restrictions, benefits and cons when searching for your perfect carry-on bag as it will be one of your most important travel items.
To help narrow down your choices we have selected some of our favourite backpack options for you to look at.
A lightweight backpack that has a variety of features that make it perfect for long-distance travel or backpackers.
- Breathable AirScape ridged foam back panel with adjustable torso length for comfort.
- Made of water-resistant and durable polyester fabric with metal zippers.
- Fixed top lid with external zippered pocket and under lid zippered mesh pocket to keep all your documents within reach.
By far one of the best long-distance day packs available online thanks to its impressive plethora of features and ergonomic design.
The pack is great to use for your airline carry-on as it features a RFID-protected internal pocket that insulates your electronic devices and credit cards.
- Lightweight triple-span rip-stop material provides great travel durability.
- The easy-to-adjust harness system with padded shoulder straps ensures excellent comfort for even the heaviest loads.
- The Air Tech Flex back panel and contoured shoulder straps ensure a comfortable and breathable backpack.
Another excellent day pack that also works great as a carry-on option thanks to its concealable rain cover, which protects your gear in even the worst weather.
This is actually the backpack I used throughout my travels and it was excellent.
- Action Back Extreme padded harness system to ensure for comfortable movement.
- Multi-compartment design with a base zip pocket that has an internal zip divider for easy access to storage.
- The padded sternum strap for improved harness stability provides great support on even the longest treks.
No matter which style of backpack you prefer, it is important to have a reliable pack you can trust as it will hold everything you will need during your travels.
5. Can Backpackers Pack a Carry-on Bag in Addition to Checked Luggage?
Travelling with both a front pack and a larger travel backpack is one of the most tried and tested travel tricks of backpacking.
Not only does it allow you to keep all of your important valuables close to hand and most importantly safe, it means you can use your daypack for a variety of other activities outside of travelling.
Whether it’s for a day in the city or hiking across rising peaks, a carry-on bag has a variety of uses outside of the airport.
Overall, it comes down to personal choice in the end, but a carry-on bag is most definitely a useful addition when you are spending a lot of time in and out of airports.
6. Can You Get Away With Only Packing a Carry-on Bag for Travel?
Packing all you can into a carry-on bag isn’t impossible and is an art perfect for city break weekends away or the most minimalist of long-distance backpackers.
Choosing to use one bag usually means you have to focus significantly on what and how you are going to pack. So remember to focus on just the essentials, light clothes and perfect the art of the army roll!
7. Is a Hard Case or Backpack Better for Carry-on?
While this does of course come down to personal choice, backpacks do provide a variety of benefits for long-distance flyers.
Backpacks provide you with a lot more flexibility on the move as they tend to have more pockets, allowing you to organise your gear, while also giving you more freedom of movement.
However, if you are carrying expensive and fragile gear like cameras, a hard case will most likely provide better protection and greater peace of mind, at the cost of easier movement of course.
Hard cases usually have wheels as well, which puts less weight and pressure on your back when moving between destinations.
Overall backpacks are normally the best call for long-distance travellers as they give you greater flexibility when constantly on the move.
What to Pack in Carry-on Luggage for an International Flight
Properly utilising carry-on luggage is one of the best ways to maximise all you need for your trip, helping you keep your valuables near, entertainment on hand as well as all the other creature comforts you need for long distant travelling.
With the differences summarised, the perfect packing list for carry-on built and all the tips and tricks mentioned you now have everything you need for what to pack in carry-on for an international flight.
Here’s a summary of what we covered:
- Carry-on vs Checked Luggage – What’s the Difference?
- Restrictions / Rules for Carry-on Luggage in Australia (Domestic and International)
- Carry-on Packing List: Top Items to Include in Your Carry-on Luggage (For an International Flight)
- Best Backpacks for Carry-on Luggage – Our Top 3 Recommendations
- Can Backpackers Pack a Carry-on Bag in Addition to Checked Luggage?
- Can You Get Away With Only Packing a Carry-on Bag for Travel?
- Is a Hard Case or Backpack Better for Carry-on?
Happy travelling my friends!
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to bring in my carry-on when travelling internationally?
When travelling internationally, some essential items to pack within your carry-on luggage include travel documents (passport, visas), phone and charger, first-aid kit/medications, and any travel adaptors.
What tips do you recommend for efficient carry-on packing for international travel?
Packing comprehensive carry-on luggage for an international trip can take careful planning and special organization.
Given space will be your greatest limitation, it’s important to only pack items that are critical and/or that you’ll need to access during your flight/commute. This can include things like valuables, small tech (phone, travel adaptors, cameras, chargers), identity documents (passport), travel pillow, eye mask, earplugs, snacks, water bottle, and a first-aid kit.
What not to pack when flying internationally?
Avoid packing prohibited items such as sharp objects, liquids exceeding 100 ml, and items restricted by the airline or destination country. Check airline and country regulations for specific details.
What is the most important item you need when you travel overseas?
The most crucial item when traveling overseas is your passport (surprise, surprise!). Do ensure that it’s valid for at least six months beyond your return date, otherwise, you can be denied entry/stopped from boarding your flight.