How To Pack Light & Travel With Only Your Carry-On

by Connie Mei · 1 comment

While traveling is fun, flying can be a headache. One of the hardest things is figuring out what to pack, especially when airlines put so many restrictions on traveling with luggage. The worst for me is to put the luggage on the scale and find out that there will be an exorbitant charge because the bag is overweight. Because then I get to find myself in the middle of the airport trying to rearrange items between different bags so that all of them stay under the weight limit.

Luckily, I happily avoid all this nowadays by just bringing a carry-on. I’ve traveled quite extensively over these past couple of years and have only needed to check a bag once (only because I bought a bottle of wine as a souvenir). It’s taken me many trips to perfect the art of fitting everything I need in just one carry-on, but I now feel freer not having so much stuff with me. If you want to avoid high airline fees, take a look at these tips to pack light and only travel with a carry-on.

Start with the Essentials

Don’t just dump anything and everything into your bag and then try to scale back right from the get-go. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, start with the essentials first. Pack your undergarments, a change of clothes for each day you’re away (or less if you will have access to a washer/dryer), a couple pairs of shoes, and necessary toiletries. Then gauge how much room you have left and what ‘nice to haves’ you can bring. When you start with the essentials, you realize that you might not need as much as you thought.

Choose Versatile & Light Pieces

How much you bring has a lot to do with where you are going. While warmer climates allow for minimal clothing, it’s much more difficult to pack for colder weather. Instead of bringing large bulky coats, opt for light pieces you can layer for warmth. Also take with you versatile pieces in neutral colors that you easily take from day to night and wear multiple times.

Use Packing Cubes

Packing a suitcase correctly is an art. You waste a lot of space if you’re just throwing items in. Be sure to fold every piece of clothing. You should also invest in a good set of packing cubes. These bags will help you organize and pack everything neatly. It will help you save a lot of space and make packing much easier.

Take Advantage of Your ‘Personal Item’

Aside from your carry-on luggage, airlines will also allow you to bring one additional personal item. This could be a purse, laptop bag, or backpack. Most personal items have to be around 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches. That’s actually a lot of space. Take advantage of your personal item by bringing a large purse or backpack.

Be Realistic

Lastly, be realistic. While it may be nice to have five pairs of shoes with you, do you really need it? Only bring what you will actually use. Plan out your outfits ahead of time so that you know what you need to bring.

Do you like to travel light? What are you best packing tips?

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  • Alley Kaye says:

    So agree with this! After a nightmare experience with a lost bag nearly 30 years ago (did I really just say that?), I vowed never to check a bag again, and I’ve stuck to it. One thing I do differently is I roll my clothes instead of folding them. I don’t worry too much about them getting wrinkled because most hotels have irons, etc., or if I’m staying w/friends or family, can usually dig one up.

    If I absolutely have to have extra clothing, toiletries, etc., I pre-mail it to my destination then mail it back at the end of my trip, but I’ve only had to do this a couple of times. Oh, and you know those plastic sleeves that things like sheets, pillowcases, etc. come in from Wal-Mart, Target, etc.? They make great packing cubes!

    My present go-to bag is a Leeds backpack that fits perfectly in the under-seat area of even small turbo-prop planes, and has room for a laptop.

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