Looking for the best tips and tricks for packing in a carry-on? You’ve come to the right place!
As a self-proclaimed packing nerd, I love to share the travel hacks I’ve learned over the many years I’ve been traveling with a carry-on – for both domestic and international trips! It can feel daunting trying to cram everything into a tiny, poorly designed suitcase. That’s why I’m super picky about the luggage I use.
This may be a bold statement, but I truly believe that the suitcase and packing tools you choose can either make or break your entire trip. After trying to haul a heavy suitcase with broken wheels five miles uphill in Italy, let’s just say I learned my lesson. (There may or may not have been crying involved.)
In this post, I’m going to share my top packing hacks and recommendations with you, so you can hopefully avoid your own nervous breakdown while traveling! You can thank me later.
1. Choose The Right Suitcase
Let’s start off with the most important building block of successful packing – your luggage. If you, like me, like to save money and the hassle of waiting around at baggage claim by traveling with carry-on luggage only, you know how vital it is that your suitcase is well made and has plenty of space to organize!
While researching the best luggage companies a few years ago, kept coming up as a top traveler favorite. I’d heard of Travelpro® before, and knew my own family members used and loved their suitcases. I also found out that Travelpro® has been the brand of choice for professional flight crews and frequent flyers (for over 25 years!), which obviously made me trust the brand even more.
After my last suitcase kicked the bucket, I decided to go with the Travelpro® Crew™ 11 21″ Expandable Spinner Suiter, which is a beautiful soft sided suitcase built with high-quality ballistic nylon fabric (it even has DuraGuard® coating for stain and abrasion resistance, which is great for frequent travelers like me who want their luggage to hold up for many years).
The Crew™ 11 range is Travelpro®’s flagship collection and has the perfect combination of durability, modern technology and style. These beauties are so high-quality and clearly made with lasting use and style in mind. The collection is available in four colors including Black, Indigo, Brown, and Patriot Blue (I opted for Patriot Blue).
2. Get Organized
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m sure we all know (or are) that person whose suitcase constantly looks like it exploded one day into their trip. Staying organized while on the road is such a great way to keep stress levels down and truly enjoy your travels!
When you know where things are, and they’re easy to locate, you save time, worry and possibly your relationships – because let’s face it, no one wants to wait for their friend or significant other to rifle through their bags for an hour when they could be out exploring.
My top tip for staying organized while traveling is to divide and conquer! Let me tell you, having a bunch of different pouches and compartments is a life-saver while packing (and while traveling!) because it keeps things so well organized. For instance, I use a backpack with plenty of compartments such as a padded laptop pocket, small zippered section inside the top flap, a big zippered side compartment, a side pocket for water bottles, etc.
To divide things up even further, I use pouches and small bags (think pencil case sized or small cosmetic bags) to separate things by use. One pouch for any medicine or health-related items, a hard-sided case for all my cords and memory cards, a carry-on friendly pouch for all my liquids and creams – you get the picture. I love a good pouch!
Some suitcases have surprisingly bad design, making packing a huge chore. Knowing that my suitcase has enough space to easily pack all of my stuff is such a relief! Travelpro® designs its luggage to help you pack more efficiently, making travel easier and less stressful – which is such a lifesaver.
3. Utilize The Space In Your Luggage Effectively
Knowing where all your things are (and not having to freak out every day looking for items in a messy suitcase) is SO nice. Once I started using smaller suitcases like my Travelpro® Crew™ 11 21″ Expandable Spinner Suiter, I realized I had to make better use of the space in order to make it all fit.
I survived a long, two month trip around Europe with just a carry-on, and absolutely loved how freeing it was! If I can make the switch to carry-on only travel, anyone can. All it takes is a bit of creativity, the right suitcase, and some helpful space-saving tools.
Packing cubes have been another valuable discovery since becoming a carry-on traveler over six years ago. I use them to separate items by category (rolled up underwear in one packing cube, all my socks in another, tank tops in another, etc). It makes staying organized on the road (and getting dressed!) infinitely easier, not to mention all the physical space it saves in your suitcase!
My Travelpro® suitcase also has expansion capability of up to 21″ for maximized storage, in case I want to add a little extra space while on the road. An interior full length pocket, side mesh and wet pockets provide lots of smart and easy packing options, which I love. It’s so nice to be able to pack everything away in its own designated place and not have to worry about items ending up in one big, confusing pile inside my luggage!
4. The Less Clothes, The Better
Especially if you’re traveling during the summertime months, and will be in a warm climate, dresses (if you’re into them!) are such a great option. You can pack lots of undergarments and simply wear the dress over and over again, since they tend to not get dirty very quickly.
I find that I only need a few shirts as well. Shirts and tops can usually be worn many times without feeling grubby. If I’m wearing pants, I like to wear a clean pair of leggings every other day – so I tend to pack more of those. Same for underwear – the more, the better. Then you can do laundry far less often!
Another common sense tip many of us frequently forget:
If you don’t wear it when you’re home, you probably won’t wear it while traveling.
I know it can be tempting to want to pack that super cute romper that’s been sitting in your closet for the past year, thinking you’ll finally get some use out of it. But guess what? If you haven’t worn it lately, it’s probably for a reason. Don’t pack a bunch of new or random clothes and expect to suddenly want to wear them. I always opt for tried and true favorites that I know are comfortable!
Looking for the perfect Europe winter packing list? Check this one out!
5. Buy A Luggage Scale
If you’re packing in a carry-on and flying internationally (particularly on multiple budget airlines), you’ll have to check each airline’s weight limits and make sure you’re well under them to avoid the insanely high baggage fees. I’ve been thinking about compiling a big list of airline weight and size limits for the blog, let me know down in the comments if you think that would be helpful!
There’s nothing worse than getting to the airport and having your baggage come in over the weight limit. The panic that ensues when you realize you’ll either have to get super sneaky or throw away a third of your precious belongings in the trash is not fun. Don’t put yourself through that.
There are lots of scales available online for less than $10. These bad boys definitely pay for themselves with all the money you save on checked or overweight baggage fees. I highly recommend grabbing one before your next trip!