Fashion & Beauty Food & Drink Packing

Can You Find These 10 Carry-On Mistakes?

Does something seem askew with this picture? If you answered yes, you’re on the right track!

What’s Wrong with This Carry-On Bag?

There’s a total of 10 errors in the way this carry-on bag has been packed. Test your packing prowess by finding as many mistakes as you can, in terms of both TSA rules and packing strategy. Then scroll down to see the answers.

Wrapped Gift

[st_content_ad]Air travelers should never pack wrapped gifts in their carry-on bag or their checked luggage. The TSA may have to rip them open for screening, destroying your beautiful wrapping-paper masterpiece in the process. The solution? Put your goodies in gift bags, or wrap them at your destination.

Multiple Pairs of Jeans

Jeans are one of the bulkiest clothing items a traveler can pack. They’re heavy and thick, taking up significant suitcase space. If you must bring jeans, stick to a single pair and wear them on the plane.

Loose Mascara and Lip Gloss

Mascara and lip gloss are items that travelers frequently forget to put in a quart-size zip-top bag with their other liquid and gel substances. Liquid foundation, eyeliner, and concealer should also go into this plastic bag.

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Bulky Shoes

Never pack your largest clothing items when you could be wearing them on the plane. You might not win any fashion awards in your Gore-Tex hiking boots, but who’s going to be looking at your feet on a flight anyway? Save yourself some suitcase space—and weight—by wearing your bulky shoes instead of putting them in your carry-on bag.

Stack of Guidebooks

A glut of guidebooks is on SmarterTravel’s list of what not to pack. If you must bring a guidebook, limit yourself to one. Furthermore, books should never be stacked. The TSA requests that travelers spread out their books and documents to make for easier screening. This also helps distribute weight more evenly throughout your carry-on bag.

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Oversized Bottles and Bag

For frequent travelers, this one’s obvious: All liquids and gels must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces, and those containers must be inside one clear, quart-sized, zip-top bag. The bag pictured here is gallon-sized, which won’t pass airport security.

Oversized Scissors

Scissors with blades that are four inches or longer are not permitted in carry-on luggage, says the TSA. The scissors pictured here would most likely be confiscated.

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A bottle of wine like this one might be permitted if you purchased it internationally from a duty-free store and it’s in a transparent, tamper-evident bag. You must also have a receipt showing that you made the purchase within the past 48 hours. But a freestanding bottle like this one won’t fly. Cushion it well and stow it in a checked bag, instead.

Snow Globe

A snow globe might make a charming souvenir from your tour of German Christmas markets, but the screeners won’t be so charmed if you try to carry one this size through security. From the TSA’s website: “Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces of liquid (approximately tennis ball size) can be packed in your carry-on bag ONLY if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit into your one quart-sized, resealable plastic bag.” Got a large snow globe like this one? You’ll have to check it.

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Full Water Bottle

There’s nothing wrong with packing a refillable bottle in your carry-on bag—in fact, it’s a great way to save money on overpriced drinks at the airport. But you can’t fill it until after you go through security.

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Editor’s Note: This story was originally written by Caroline Costello for SmarterTravel’s Sarah Schlichter also contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at

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