Ask my husband and he’ll tell you that when we first met I was an over packer and desperately needed carry-on packing tips. I believe his highly hyperbolic recounting of the story includes the words “steam trunk.” Hardy har har.
Fast forward nine years and I can say with total confidence that I’m a completely reformed packer. No more steam trunks for me. I travel—almost always—with a carry-on only and have learned how liberating it is to travel light. Now, there’s no other way for me.
But packing a carry-on—and only a carry-on—comes with a bit of forethought and a dash of sacrifice. If packing isn’t your strength, here are some of my carry-on packing tips that help shed pounds from my suitcase.
Cary-On Packing Tips 101
Pack Things That Can Do Double Duty
Try to pack items that will serve more than one purpose. For instance, do you really need your tablet AND your e-reader? If your tablet can also act as your e-reader while you’re traveling, you’ve just alleviated a little room in your bag. A blanket scarf is one of those great multifunctional items to always have on hand: it’s perfect for staying warm on chilly airplanes but can also cover your shoulders if you’re visiting a church or temple where this is required.
It’s tempting to pack all kinds of “just in case” items, but be realistic about where you’re going and what you’ll need. Pack only clothes that you like and feel comfortable in. If something doesn’t feel great, you probably won’t wear it; meaning, you’ve wasted valuable suitcase space for nothing.
Don’t Pack Unnecessary Items
Shampoo and conditioner? No way. The hotel you’re staying at might not have your favorite brand, but they’ll have something that will get the job done. Travel irons and blow dryers? Again, you’ll find these items in your hotel. You may not have the exact products you prefer but why weigh your luggage down with things you’ll be able to find at your destination?
Find New Uses For Old Things
Get creative with things you probably already have lying around the house. For example, those tiny little plastic bags that spare buttons come in can be used to keep earrings safe and paired up. The zippered plastic packaging that many sheet sets are sold in can be used in a myriad of ways—consider using them for toiletries, accessories or shoes. Tic Tac containers can be used to hold things like bobby pins. Put straws on your necklaces to prevent them from tangling. Staying organized and following some simple carry on packing tips will help you better manage what you’re packing and help you determine what you can leave at home.
Don’t Let an Inch of Space Go to Waste
Even when you think your suitcase is full, chances are you can squeeze a few more things in. Stuff socks into your shoes … that’s valuable space in there! And belts can easily be rolled up and inserted into the neck of a collared shirt.
Mix and Match
Choose a color palette. By doing so, every top will match every bottom, so you have an exponentially larger number of possible outfit combinations. Your color palette should include at least one or two neutrals and if you like, a color choice that will go with both. I’m a big fan of navy, white and emerald green so I’ll pack clothes in those three colors for lots of combinations.
Roll Your Clothes
If you roll your clothes, you’ll find that you can fit as much as 20 percent more into your suitcase. I roll all my clothing as tightly as possible and lay them in stackable rows across the bottom of my suitcase and layer up as far as I can go.
Pack No More Than Three Pairs of Shoes
Shoes are usually the heaviest and most awkwardly shaped items you’ll be packing, making them difficult to accommodate. Decide what three pairs you want to take with you. I recommend one pair of dress shoes, one pair of sandals/walking shoes and one pair of sneakers. Wear one pair to travel in and you only have to pack two pairs. Don’t forget to wrap your shoes in plastic bags so you don’t spread dirt and germs to your clothes.
Ladies: Opt for Dresses
Especially if you’re headed to a warm climate, dresses are the easiest choice. Not only will they look great and keep you cool, but this one item of clothing makes up an entire outfit as opposed to a top, bottom and belt.
Wear a Scottevest Jacket
Scottevest jackets and vests are made with tons of hidden pockets and will provide lots of extra storage so you can carry your stuff on your person instead of squeezing it into your bag. For instance, the stylish Sterling jacket for men has 24 hidden pockets for things like your wallet, phone, sunglasses, tablet, passport, travel documents and even a water bottle, just to name a few.
Learning how to pack a carry-on isn’t always easy but, in my experience, has always been worth the effort. I like traveling unencumbered, always having my things with me and not having to wait at the baggage carousel for my bag—praying that it actually made the journey. When you travel with a carry-on only, it’s easier to get around and you can use public transportation more easily, which is a great way to go local! You have added flexibility if you want to change your flights when you don’t check a bag, and you save on the added costs of checked luggage. It just makes sense.
And sure, it comes with a few sacrifices. You might not have the perfect shoes to complete your outfit or maybe you left some of your favorite toiletries at home. But remember: those are little things. Let them go and just immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of travel.