Rising baggage fees, cancelled flights, and misdirected luggage are some of the hassles that travelers are dealing with these days. To save money and reduce the risk of luggage not arriving where you do, experienced travel pros use carry-on luggage to save time and money, and to minimize risk. Here’s how to effectively pack a carry-on like a pro, for a better travel experience.
CREATE A WARDROBE GAME PLAN
When you’re packing, try your best to match your packing list to your itinerary. Identify daily outfits and bring a few neutral-colored items that can be mixed and matched with other clothing. You should also use packing cubes to streamline the process and save space.
Alisha McDarris of Fayetteville, Arizona, is co-founder of Terradrift, a sustainable travel and outdoor adventure blog and YouTube channel. She says packing cubes keep her carry-on “stupendously organized” and allow her to compress her clothing, so she can include additional items. If you don’t want to invest in packing cubes, rolling your clothes can also keep garments wrinkle-free and conserve valuable packing space in your carry-on.
Your wardrobe plan should include layers to maximize space and reduce the number of items you pack. “We all want to bring that cozy, bulk sweater or big puffy coat, but they take up tons of space in your bag,” says McDarris. “So if you’re packing light, plan to dress in layers instead.” For example, she suggests packing a pair of leggings and a pair of jeans, both of which can be worn on their own, but could also be layered for warmth. “Bring a tee, a long sleeve shirt, a mid-weight sweater, and a light jacket that can be worn in many combinations depending on the weather,” continues McDarris. “That way you have versatility without the bulk.”
And, rethink your shoe decisions, says Mandy Picchiottino, owner of Land + See Tours, based in Atlanta, Georgia. “I recommend taking only one pair of shoes. The lightest and smallest go in your carry-on, and the bigger pair go on your feet,” explains Picchiottino.
CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST
Hanna Ashcraft of Eugene, Oregon, is a travel blogger with the Moderately Adventurous Travel Blog. She recommends packing specifically for the trip you are taking, so you don’t stuff your carry-on with “just-in-case” items. “Take a moment to check the weather and deeply consider your trip,” she explains. “Only pack exactly what you need and know you'll wear on this specific trip. This might mean forgoing an extra jacket or just-in-case rain pants if it's only going to rain one day.” While it's essential to be prepared, Ashcraft says to consider if it’s an option to purchase items at your destination, if needed.
PICK THE RIGHT CARRY-ON
Invest in a quality carry-on that’s durable, easy to wheel and can take bumps and jolts along the way. “I use one rolling, sturdy, expandable carry-on and a backpack,” says Maria Leonard Olsen, an attorney, author, and frequent traveler based in Washington, D.C. She has also adapted her travel style to match her commitment to carry-on luggage. “My laptop is now a tablet with a removable keyboard, which is smaller than a typical laptop,” continues Olsen. And, she says she is committed to prioritizing her trip packing list. “I lay out all of the clothing that I need then pack in order of importance,” says Olsen. “Whatever does not fit into my suitcase or backpack is left behind.”
PLAN TO DO LAUNDRY AT YOUR DESTINATION
Pack laundry pods in a sealed plastic bag and do laundry while you’re away so you can bring less on your trip. You may think it’s a hassle, but doing laundry saves space in your carry-on bag. Another tip is to pack a reusable bag in your carry-on to make toting dirty and clean laundry easier.
SKIP THE LONG LIST OF TOILETRIES
Leave the trial-size beauty items at home to save space. Plan on using the hotel’s shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and shower gel that’s typically provided free of charge. Also, most hotels have vanity sets that include combs, brushes, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, and other personal care necessities. If you do need to bring travel-sized products like suntan lotion, deodorant, or cosmetics, remember to check on the latest TSA guidelines for carry-on liquids.