It's tempting to devote all of your attention to your checked or carry-on bag, but try taking your packing strategy to the next level by focusing on what you should pack in your personal item. Most travelers can bring on board one full-sized carry-on bag to be placed in the overhead bin as well as one personal item that fits under the seat in front of you — such as a shoulder bag, purse, laptop bag or other small item (9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches or under) — free of charge. (Please note: If you are traveling on a Basic Economy ticket, you will only be allowed one small personal item on board, with some exceptions.)

For even the most frequent travelers, departing from one's bag — whether it's checked or in the overhead bin — can be an inconvenience, especially when they contain important items. Keeping a few key things at arm's length can make all of the difference on a flight. Follow these packing tips to make the most of your personal item.


While there are restrictions against bringing a full water bottle through security, an empty drink container is perfectly fine to take with you. Prior to boarding, you can visit a water fountain or a filtered water bottle refill station and fill up before your flight. Bringing your own water on the flight can be quite convenient, especially if there is a disruption in inflight service.

2. Keep comfortable

Consider the amount of time you will be on board. What will help you stay comfortable in the air? Items such as eye masks, earplugs and neck pillows can go a long way. Don't forget to bring a pack of mints and lip balm in your personal item to feel fresh throughout your flight. Since you may be starting and ending your travel in very different climates, it's a good idea wear a few layers. On longer flights, dress in loose clothing for optimal comfort and circulation. Be sure to leave some room in your personal item if you plan to shed your jacket on board or at your destination. If a flight is full, you may not be able to use the overhead bin space.

3.Pack an extra outfit

Take one lightweight outfit and pack it in your personal item. If your bag is delayed arriving to your destination or weather leaves you stuck in the airport overnight, that extra, clean outfit can make all the difference. On a long-haul flight, you can change before your descent to freshen up.

4.Power up

We're pleased to offer personal device entertainment on many of our flights. This free service gives you access to a library of movies and TV shows that you can watch on your personal laptop, tablet, Apple iOS device or Android device. In order to use this service, download the United app prior to your flight and remember to not leave your headphones behind. While most of our flights provide power outlets, not all aircraft seats are currently equipped to offer power. Charge your device before your flight or bring a portable phone charger so you don't have to worry about running out of juice.

5.Back up your entertainment plan

Flying can give you a rare opportunity to unplug. Bring at least one option to give yourself some quality screen-free entertainment. Pack an adult coloring book with a small pack of colored pencils or bring that novel you've been meaning to start. A magazine, puzzle or game can help pass the time and provide some relaxation on board or even at the gate. Plus, you'll get that much-needed "me time" you've been craving.

6.Be kind to your feet

If you plan on going straight to an event or a business meeting upon arrival, put your dressier shoes in your personal item. Wearing a comfortable pair of shoes while traveling will allow you to move easily through larger airports or more quickly if you have a tight connection.

7.Keep your medication and keys close

If you need any medication, stow it in your personal item. While it's fine to pack medicine and house keys in your carry-on bag, if you end up having to check your bag at the gate, you won't have to worry about parting from these items. This step will help save valuable time for you and those around you during the boarding process.

Your personal item is personal to you. Find the right strategy to feel prepared to travel. Now you can relax and enjoy your flight because you have everything you need within reach.