You've done everything right. You've successfully prepared for your three-week trip. You're carrying a lightweight, regular-sized backpack. You've cut your clothes, toiletries, accessories, and electronics down to the core essentials. Every shirt is masterfully folded, every wire painstakingly wrapped into a perfectly compact bundle. You finally board the plane, stow your bag in the overhead compartment, and take your seat, breathing a little sigh of relief that you didn't oversleep your alarm clock and miss your flight. You're ready to travel!
Now, time to relax and listen to some...air conditioning? "Oh no," you think. "Where are my earbuds?!"
Well, they're buried in the bottom of your bag, of course! Beneath perfect roll after perfect roll of cotton-folded mastery! Nooooooooo
We've all been there. Maybe it wasn't your earbuds. Maybe it was your Kindle, your earplugs, or some other in-flight travel essential. Effectively packing all your needed luggage into a tiny backpack can take substantial concentration and planning. There are many things to consider when choosing how to pack your bag. How should socks be packed: all in one place, or spread throughout? Should I put this heavy item on the bottom? Which compartment is the safest for my passport?
Ultimately, though, most people don't bother too much with this (unless they're carrying a month's worth of camping gear on their shoulders). In the end, you only have the minor inconvenience of pulling things out and stuffing them back in.
That said, one thing to consider is this:
What is likely to come out first?
In an airport setting, this usually leaves just a few things to remove from your bag at security: 1 - toiletries, 2 - laptop, and 3 - what you want to use during your flight.
For this reason, I usually pack my toiletries in a front zippered pocket and my in-flight essentials in a plastic bag in the main compartment. Both are easily accessible. Why a plastic bag? Well, for one it's cheap and easy. But more than that, it's easily stored when not in use. After taking my seat and emptying out the contents of my plastic bag into the seatback pocket, I can smoosh that plastic bag into a tiny ball and stuff it wherever there's a crack of room. Ready to deboard? Pull it out, shake it back to life, and load everything back inside. It's lack of structure is what makes it so versatile!
Not sure what to put in the bag? Check out Tightwad Travel Tip #5 for some basic but useful recommendations!