The 10 things (at most) you should actually pack in your carry-on luggage

Packing puzzle.
Packing puzzle.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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Let us all take a moment to thank the US government and commercial airlines—hear me out—for making this The Summer of Traveling Light.

Endless security lines, on-again, off-again bans on transporting personal electronic devices, restricted access to overhead bins, greater Transportation Security Administration scrutiny of dense items from chocolate to books that might appear on scanners as more dangerous matter—these things add up to why it makes sense to carry as little as possible on board. (Even items that are permitted, like breast milk and violins, can still cause some trouble for passengers.)

My proposal for taming some of the confusion and chaos of air travel: Pack only what you absolutely need. Don’t make summer travel worse for everyone else by holding up the security line.

In the interest of encouraging transport of only the bare essentials, here are some of the TSA-approved items we recommend for your carry-ons, separated into three kindly offered categories from Quartz, with our top 10 listed first:

True needs

  • Clothing, thankfully
  • Shoes (but leave your pistol stilettos at home)
  • Toothbrushes, and less than 3.4 ounces of toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Hair brushes

Nice to have

  • Digital cameras (in case your phone dies and you need to record an interaction on board)
  • Binoculars (to see the end of the security line)
  • Stuffed animals (for stress)
  • Putty balls (see above)
  • Candy (bring enough for everyone)

You can, but must you?

  • Tortilla press
  • Uninflated balloons (to celebrate your on-time arrival at the resort)
  • Sand (everyone’s favorite souvenir)
  • Body armor (if you don’t mind answering a few questions, can help you win that armrest battle)
  • Bocce balls (note that flight attendants probably won’t appreciate a game in the aisle)
  • Live fish or lobsters

Travelers paid US airlines more than $4 billion to check their bags last year. If what you want to bring isn’t allowed in the cabin, what’s a few more bucks? We all might get to our destinations faster.