Wether you are flying for an anesthesia school interview, a residency interview, or flying out to North Carolina for the Applied Exam, flying with carry on luggage is the way to go.  You have enough to worry about without having the stress of the airlines losing your luggage.  (Which also includes your interview suit.)

Every good anesthetist has a back up plan.  When you traveling with your luggage,  you have more options and less stress.

Instead of stressing how to cram all your clothes into a carry on bag and hope you have everything you need, follow a few tips to help you fly carry on only like a boss.

These 7 Tips will have you Flying Carry On Only Like a Boss

1.  Sign up for TSA Pre-Check

Technically, you can still sign up for TSA Pre-Check and check you luggage.   But when you Pre-Check with carry-on only, it helps make up for having to bring your carry on bag through the security lane.   I traveled with my luggage  for years before I signed up for TSA Pre-Check.  When I finally signed up Pre-Check, it made the trip through the airport that much better.

With pre-check, the security lines tend to be shorter, and they tend to be faster because people don’t have to remove their shoes or jackets.  Your laptop gets to stay in your suitcase as well.    By signing up for TSA Pre-Check, you will be able to smoothly move through the airport, even with your luggage in tow.  You can read more about TSA Pre-Check here.

2.  Get the Right Suitcase

If you already have a carry on only suit case, use it.  Just make sure that it meets the airlines’ size requirements.   If you need a n
ew suitcase, don’t feel that you need the absolute top of the line.  You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a suitcase to have a good carry on experience.  Make sure it is size appropriate.  Most fit the box at the front of a line when the case is not unzipped to accommodate more stuff in your suitcase.  There are some things you should look for:

a.  Look for a bag in the category of carry on luggage.    This will limit the size of the luggage you are looking for.  Check with the airlines that you fly the most often, but most airlines follow similar rules.  (International flights can
be a little more strict.)  American Airlines has carry on requirements here.

b.  The next large category to look at is either carry on luggage without outside pockets or one with pockets that allow you to access your things without opening your bag.  This is really a personal choice.  I personally like being able to access my things and slip my Kindle in and out of my bag.


c.  When given the choice, look for suitcases with casters such as this luggage.  It will allow you push, pull, and maneuver around the airport and getting on and off the airplane easier.  Most of the luggage being sold currently have these type of wheels.  (Both the luggage types on this page have the casters.)

Now that you have the right bag, you need to bring the right clothes.

3.  Bring the Right Clothes

This detail can make or break your carry-on plans.  You will be packing your suit in your bag, so you don’t want to overstuff your bag and wrinkle your suit.  You will want to pack for the trip you have ahead of you.

If you have going on an interview, you will be in your interview suit for the entire day.  (The same thing goes for the ABA Applied exam.)  If you have a dinner with current residents or anesthesia students the night before, then you will need to plan for that too.  (Usually business casual is the way to go.)

My secret weapon … my ExOfficio Give-N-Go underwear and undershirts.  These are some of the most comfortable underwear and undershirts you will find.   This clothing packs down very small, is odor resistant, and drys quickly.  For longer trips, you can pack less pairs, because you can had wash these in a hotel sink.  I hand wash these, roll up in a towel to get water out of them, and hang to dry.  In the morning, I have dry clothes.

My other secret weapon is my Nike Free RN shoes.  I bring with me two pair of shoes:  one dress pair and one casual pair.  The Nike Free brand of shoe, looks great and is comfortable for walking and running.  The two features that make this a great packable shoe is

  • the heal cup can fold down flat against the sole of the shoe
  • the sole of the shoe is flexible so you can pack the shoe in the corner of your suitcase

Remember that you don’t have to pack all the clothes you bring with you on a trip.

4.  Wear the Right Clothes

Wearing the right clothes will make traveling carry on only even easier.  There is some clothing that you need to bring, but you don’t want to pack it in your bag.

My favorite travel ensemble is the “California Suit”:

  • slip on dress shoes (these are a holdover from when I didn’t have TSA Pre-Check and had to take off my shoes to get through security.)
  • jeans with my dress belt
  • Lululemon Propel Golf Polo Shirt
  • suit jacket

If you don’t want to wear your suit jacket, you can always pack it.  I like wearing it, because it can dress up a polo shirt.  When you drop the suit jacket, then you are in business causal, and can head out to an applicant dinner.

5.  Don’t Forget Your Electronics

I you are like most people, it feels very strange not to carry your cell phone with you everywhere.  Now that many people also have other “wearable tech”, you also need to charge a watch most nights.  This doubles the charging cables that you need to bring.

If you also carry an iPad or Kindle with you to ward off airport boredom, then you may need to carry chargers for those as well. Charge your electronics before you leave on your trip and pack your cables in your bag.  You can always buy a charging cable in a crunch, but it is easier to not forget it in the first place.

6.  Bring Your Important Information and some Cash

You probably have all your travel information on your phone.  Gone are the days of carrying a map to show you how to get to the hotel, a printed confirmation of your hotel reservation and your flight info.  What happens if you lose your phone, it breaks, or it runs out of juice?

I recently begun carrying a single 3×5 index card with all the important information on it.

  • frequent flyer info
  • flight number and flight times for both inbound and outbound travel
  • my TSA Pre-Check number (incase it is not printed on my ticket)
  • my hotel name and phone number along with confirmation number

If you have this simple document, then you can still maneuver travel even if you have phone issues.

7. What Not to Bring

There is an old saying in travel.  “Take twice the money and half the clothes.”  With this philosophy, you can always buy something you need where you are traveling.  What would this look like for you?

  • Clothes you won’t wear.  If you are not in the habit of working out, don’t bring work out gear.  It will only add space.  It is very hard to build a new habit when you are traveling.
  • Things you won’t use.  Heavy coats and umbrellas are great if the weather is very cold or rainy.  But don’t pack them for routine trips when you can use your suit jacket or buy an umbrella when you get there.
  • Liquids.  Even if you TSA Pre-Check, you will have to  pull out your liquids.  I carry both laundry soap and shaving soap as “soap leaves” packages which can be left in your carry on.


Traveling carry on only takes a little work, but it is well worth it to reduce your stress.  Make a game out of it.  I once traveled carry on only for two back to back conferences which spanned 8 days.  It was a little tricky, but I made a game out of it.

Looking for other articles to help you with your training?

Looking for other articles to help with your ABA Board Certification?