Carry On Packing Strategies

Oh, the Freedom!

Master the art of carry on packing and you'll wonder how you ever believed you needed all that stuff.


young woman packing carry on luggage

Packing only carry on luggage means you'll give the baggage carousel a pass and you'll already be ON vacation while the others are still watching the luggage go round and round.

You'll be a little more restricted as to the items you can bring when you're carry on packing only but...the freedom you gain by eliminating the checked luggage more than makes up for the few things you leave behind.

On most airlines you're allowed to carry on 2 items - a personal item (large purse, camera/computer bag) as well as a small suitcase, duffel or knapsack. Allowable dimensions are different from airline to airline.

Find your airline's carry-on guidelines regarding dimensions and weight here.

If you'll travel on more than one airline make sure your carry on bags meet the specifications of the most restrictive one particularly if you'll be traveling in Europe where smaller dimensions are more common. There can be a big difference from one carrier to the next and some are more picky than others about enforcing the rules.


Here's how to make the most of it.



Make Good Packing Choices

  • The Bag Itself - Start with a durable bag that is properly sized as well as lightweight, without a lot of heavy decorative aspects that add little or no function. When you're carry on packing, the weight of the bag itself counts in the overall calculations.
  • .....


  • Double Duty - Packing items that serve several purposes reduces the number of things you need to pack. Check out our list of double duty things to pack for vacation.
  • .....


  • Laundry Accoutrements - A laundry bag, some laundry soap, a universal sink stopper and a few clothes pins with a hook on them take up minimal space and can triple (or better) the functionality of your wardrobe. The Tide Odor Eliminating Laundry Travel Bag that weighs just a smidge over 1.5 ounces will keep soiled clothing separate from the rest of your stuff.
  • .....


  • The Best Travel Clothes - If you find great travel clothing that doesn't wrinkle, washes and dries quickly, packs small and looks fantastic you'll be able to easily pack for a two week vacation with all your needs in a small carry on bag.
  • .....





See a detailed carry on packing list here.



Keep it to a Minimum - Carry On Packing Tips

smiling woman with carry on luggage

  • Choose Layers - Lightweight layers will get you the most mileage out of your travel wardrobe.

    Add some chic accessories that pack well (scarves, bandanas, a crushable hat) to change them up a bit.
  • .....


  • Lightweight Fabrics - Fabulous travel fabrics have emerged on the market recently that are going to make your life a LOT easier. Wrinkle free materials that weigh next to nothing are especially perfect for Air Travel.
  • .....


  • Quick Wash and Dry Items - Easy-to-launder and quick-to-dry garments mean you can pack way fewer items and wash them almost anywhere.

    Bring laundry soap (the little leaves of soap are all right for some climates but in humid environments they stick together making them inseparable). I prefer the Lewis N. Clark Laundry Kit contains little packets of woolite and a universal sink plug so you can do laundry pretty much anywhere - just add water. You can make your own travel sized laundry soap packets with some tiny plastic bags.
  • .....


  • Colors - Select a color palette where every item can be worn with most other items. Mixing and matching extends your wardrobe possibilities.
  • .....


  • Shoes - You'll be wearing a pair and packing a pair. Choose shoes that serve a useful purpose and keep a mind to how much room they need in the luggage.
  • .....





Increase Your Carry On Capacity

young man with carry on bags

The clothing you wear on the flught
can hugely extend your carry-on capacity.

Breeze in and out of airport and aircraft like a seasoned pro wearing clothing that is designed to carry a number of your most essential items.

Instead of having to empty your pockets when going through airport security, a jacket or vest can simply be removed and sent through the scanner. Pick it up on the other side and you're on your way.



  • Jacket - No one needs to know that you're carrying your smart phone, sunglasses, pen, lip balm, tissues, wallet, passport and boarding pass in the pockets of your jacket. Your belongings stay more secure and you don't need to find space for any of those things in your bags.

    Here's a fabulous little traveling trench coat for the women

    The men will appreciate the good looks and several pockets in this jacket.
  • .....


  • Vest - Add a vest with secure pockets to your travel wardrobe and you can keep your most essential belongings close to you all the time. Here's a travel vest for the men with pockets galore and here's one for the women.
  • .....





Pack it All In There

  • Strategic Packing - Pack your bags so that the smaller one holds all of your needs for the actual flight. The larger suitcase can be stowed overhead and you shouldnt need anything that's packed in it until you reach your destination. Here's a detailed carry on packing list.
  • .....


  • Keep Small Things Together - Underwear and swimwear go into the pockets of the bag so that they're easy to find. Medications, vitamins and herbals go together in a small bag. Shoes are double wrapped in plastic and are packed on the bottom of the bag.
  • .....


  • Roll Like Garments Together - T-shirts with T-shirts, skorts/skirts/shorts rolled together in a bundle. Pack clothing bundles along the sides of the bag and small bags in the middle.
  • .....


  • Backpack - When you're packing a backpack, roll outfits together and place them in the pack, toiletries go on top, shoes along the side. Undergarments and swimsuit are easier to find if kept in the pockets of the knapsack. Do similar with duffels.
  • .....


  • Overnight Stops - If you'll be stopping overnight in your travels, roll an entire change of clothes together (top, bottom, undergarments, accessories) and keep that bundle on the top so that you can easily locate it without tearing through your neatly packed luggage.
  • .....


  • Keep Handy - Keep your bag of liquids (1 quart, clear zipper bag containing liquids/ gels/ lotions in containers no larger than 3ozs (100mls)) handy for inspection at security gates.

    Additionally, your reading material, ear buds, pen and medications should be handy.
  • .....










Every gram you put in the bag counts when you're flying and never more than when you're carry on packing and don't intend to check any luggage.





More Articles for Air Travelers



Carry On Packing List
Air Travel Accessories



vacation lists compass







Home > Air-travel > carry on packing










Air Travel Pillow
woman wearing red travel pillow hoodie




Mother of all Packing Lists
colorful luggage



Packing Light
terrier with hobo bag




Find a FREE
Pet Sitter
mature woman and dog on floor with laptop




Get your FREE subscription to the

vintage postcard

Awesome deals on "all things travel" and tips for making every vacation the BEST EVER!.

email

name

then

We keep your e-mail address totally secure.



Best Travel Clothes
young woman in comfortable travel clothes




Wait! Did You Remember to...?
man heading out on vacation with suitcase




The Day Before You Leave
girl wearing snorkel mask and packing




Going to Disney World?
walt disney world castle




Dealing With
Motion Sickness
seasick woman on cruise ship




Travel Smarter
tourist




Vacation House Rentals
adirondack chairs, beach house




Cruise Tips
couple aboard cruise ship at sunset




To The Beach
beautiful beach and white umbrella