Hand luggage is an essential item for most travelers. When you travel, you will take at least one bag of some kind, even if you are only going for a short period of time. The size of the bag may vary, but hand luggage is extremely popular. While not everyone who flies will take checked luggage (I’ve taken several short trips where I’ve not bothered with checked luggage), basically all fliers take some sort of carryon or hand luggage.
There are many different rules these days about what you can and cannot carry with you on a plane. For full rules, it’s best to check first the specific rules for your carrier. Also, check out the TSA official website to get a complete listing of everything you can and cannot carry with you in your hand luggage. Here are a few things to keep in mind. You cannot carry liquids past security, except for pre-approved sizes. You can take liquids and gels that are in containers that hold less than 100ml. Any and all that you wish to carry must be able to fit in a clear plastic baggie, and you are only allowed to have one per traveler, and it will have to go through the screener separate from all of your other objects. Anything larger than 100ml is best left at home or if needed, placed in your checked luggage. The only exceptions to this rule are medicines that have been approved, although you will have to get them approved before hand. You will also need some sort of letter or document from your doctor explaining why you need it. They also will make exceptions for baby food and/or milk, but you will be asked to taste it to prove it is what you say it is. There are other things to remember when packing your hand luggage. Sharp objects of basically every kind are a no-no, except for scissors that have blades that are shorter than 4 inches. Most sporting goods need to be checked, and firearms are never allowed on the plane, and can only be checked if you have the proper documentation for it. There are lots of other rules and restrictions, so it’s best to check out the TSA site and your carrier websites to be sure.
Size of your hand luggage is also a factor. You are limited by very specific size limits to what you carry onto the plane. Every carrier is different so you should check before you pack to see if your bag fits the approved size. Most airlines will allow you to take one carryon piece and one personal item (laptop bag, purse, backpack), though they have to, in general, be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Usually when I travel, I take two pieces of carryon luggage. One is your traditional piece of hand luggage and the other is a backpack that I can shove under the seat. Even when I pack light, I still generally take two carryons.
When it comes to actually buying a new piece of hand luggage, you have many choices. You can buy a rolling duffle bag, canvas messenger bag, or you standard upright piece. No matter what you decide to buy, I recommend that you get yourself a piece of hand luggage that has wheels. Bags that roll are much more convenient than ones that do not. When it comes to your underseat hand luggage, I would not recommend that you get an upright. They do not fit under the seat properly on most planes, and you will encounter problems if you are unfortunate to board the plane late or it is a very packed flight because the bin space is quite limited on most planes. Those that can’t fit under your seat or in a bin become checked luggage (they take your bag, stick a tag on it, and place it in the hold.) If you have things you need to access, this is rather a pain in the rear. This is why I take the one upright with rolling wheels, and one backpack or messenger bag. Backpacks tend to fit well under the seat in front of you and their design is not rigid, so you can squish it around until it fits.
Hand luggage is useful, convenient , and basically a necessity for any traveler. If you are carrying electronic or expensive things (that are permitted onboard, remember to double check the rules if you have doubts), you do not want to pack them in your checked luggage, as they can either be damaged or stolen. On long trips, you want to have some way to entertain yourself, like a book to read, a game to play, a notebook to write or draw in, and so on (I pack my Nintendo DS and my Sony PSP for my journeys). You want these things close, so hand luggage become crucial. Finally, you want to pack a small change of clothes, just in case your checked luggage gets lost (this happens often enough it’s best to take some sort of precaution). As long as you have these things in your hand luggage, you never have to worry about them getting lost.