Traveling with only a carry-on bag is often the most efficient way to travel, whether you’re going for business or pleasure. The proliferation of checked baggage fees and long wait times at baggage carousels make checking a bag more trouble than it’s worth.
Packing for a trip isn’t as simple as it used to be, including the rules for carry-on luggage. In addition to the restrictions on liquids that can be brought on board (3.4-ounce/100 milliliter containers), it seems like there are ever-changing restrictions on the bags themselves. Different airlines have different rules from the size of the carry-on to whether a personal item is allowed. Some budget airlines even make you pay for everything you bring on board. So before your trip, it’s important to know the size and weight restrictions as well as the possible fees charged by your specific airline.
But once you know what (and how many) bags to take, how can you make the most of your limited space? Many people have clever packing techniques like rolling their clothes rather than folding them and using space inside shoes for smaller items. But after you’ve used all the tricks you know, here are some packing accessories that can help you fit even more in your carry-on.
Packing squares, sometimes called packing cubes, are small cases for separating different types of clothing or outfits, and they’re very helpful for organizing a carry-on. Ideally, the packing squares should be lightweight and made from durable fabric so they don’t add weight to your bag and will last through many trips. They should also vary in size to accommodate different clothing items and vary in color so that you can find what you’re looking for in your bag easily.
While packing squares help with organization, compression bags actually allow you to make more room in your bag by removing excess air. The best options are made out of fabric and use zippers or straps to cinch down the items inside, expelling the excess air through a small valve. Compression bags are particularly useful for bulky items like jackets, towels or sweaters.
Travel Container Alternatives
For a short trip, you may not need all the liquid that can fit in a 3.4-ounce travel-sized container. If you can manage with less than a bottle, try filling contact lens cases with the products you need and save the room.
Multi-Purpose Medicine Bottle
While you may want to have access to pain medicine, allergy pills and other medications during your trip, it’s unlikely you’ll need a full bottle of each. Instead, fill one bottle with a few pills of your key medications—just make sure you know which pill is for which ailment. You can also find a multi-compartment pillbox at your local drug store if that’s more convenient for you.
A universal or multi-pronged charging station can eliminate the need to carry multiple chargers that take up unnecessary room.
Spot Treater and Detergent
If you still don’t have enough room after you’ve made the most of the space in your bag, throw in a Tide To Go or other spot treater. It will let you address any minor spills along the way to maximize the clothes you brought.
Travel packs of detergent are also handy to have if you want to wash shirts or underwear in the sink at your hotel. This can help you pack less.
Even with all these suggestions, sometimes the best thing to pack is nothing but air. As you pack for your next trip, give it a shot. If an item isn’t absolutely essential, leave it at home. If it turns out you truly need it, you can buy one on your trip. You’ll likely find that you didn’t really need it at all.