After years of traveling, both domestic and internationally, I’ve learned the hard way the many advantages of learning to pack to only bring a carry-on. Some of these advantages are: You will avoiding baggage fees, not have to worry about lost luggage and you will enjoy being less encumbered by heavy bags while navigating unknown airports and cities. And finally, while other fliers are waiting at baggage claim watching the belt go round and round, I’m breezing past them to hop in an Uber and get on with my trip.
I’m often asked how I manage to squeeze everything that I need into a single carry-on and one personal item (tote bag), even for trips as long as a few weeks. So, I’ve put together my best advice for packing as well as a list of general carry-on rules of thumb. So, if you want to lighten your load but don’t know how — this one is for you.
- Plan ahead (Climate, Outfits). I think about the place I’m going and the climate and any events that I’ll be attending. Then I count out the days and plan specific outfits, keeping in mind any items that might be about to do “double duty”. ie. a cardigan buttoned up one day and over a summer dress another. It’s a good idea to color coordinate your outfit pallet so things interchange as much as possible.
- Make a list of outfits and items. It’s good to write out a list of all the outfits and items you will need.
- Pack a few days ahead. I put my socks, pj’s and undergarments in the suitcase a few days ahead. I have multiples of these and I don’t want to run out before the trip. Then I start packing the outfits that I’ve planned so that I don’t wear something and then it’s dirty and messes up my outfit plan.
- Shoes. Two pairs of shoes should be the perfect amount for a week’s trip, unless one needs extra footwear for special activities. I generally plan to pack one pair of flats and one pair of heels or sandals. You also have a third pair that you wear on the plane.
- Check with your hotel. See what amenities they have such as an in room hair dryer, toiletries and toothpaste. Sometimes these items are not in room but can be requested from housekeeping. This is important as it saves you the space in your bag. Be sure to double check and call them if you have to.
- Pack a Toiletry bag. I use travel sizes of shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste when I travel. I also keep liquids in a zip-lock that need to go thru security. This way everything is all in one little bag and easy to just toss in the carry on.
- Bring a Coat. I try to bring something thin such as a rain coat or a thin down jacket, depending on the climate.
- Pack smart and pack your suitcase heavy to light. Put the heavy items on the bottom of the bag and towards the wheels. You don’t want your clothes smashed and wrinkled and you don’t want your suitcase top heavy. I’v found that folding and then rolling items helps and you can tuck things into nooks and crannies. Put sock in shoes if possible to save space.
- Don’t over pack! Make sure you leave a little room in your bag for the things you might purchase on your trip. Also, you will be hefting this bag up into the overhead bin. Make sure you can manage it. And remember, you only have a 50 lb limit. If your bag looks too big and over stuffed, you will be asked to check it and may incur a baggage fee.
I’ve been packing and travelling this way for the past several years and it works like a charm! I hope you can now see the many benefits of packing only a carry-on. Saving money, no lost luggage and breezing through the airport are priceless! I hope you will consider these tips and give it a try the next time you fly. Good luck!