how to pack your carry-on

how to pack your carry-on

I always have carry-on packing tips to share for any of my friends going on long-term trips. It seems like a lot of people are traveling right now, so now is a great time to share!

I don’t consider myself a traveling pro – far from it, considering it makes me incredibly anxious – but I am an excellent packer. Only flight attendants do it better than me.

Thankfully, I do not travel for work anymore, so packing a carry-on isn’t something I’m doing every week. But I use what I know almost every time I go anywhere, so I’m carrying less stuff and packing more efficiently, every time.

my carry-on packing tips – never check a bag again

I hate checking a bag because of the time it requires – not to mention the cost. So, if I can avoid it, I will.

You’d be amazed at how much you can fit in a carry-on if you follow these carry-on packing tips!

1. Roll your clothes, never fold them flat.

I have been rolling my clothes for years when I pack, whether it’s in a suitcase or in boxes when I’ve been moving. The main complaint about rolling your clothes is that your clothes will wrinkle. Well, listen: They won’t, not really.

Unless all of your clothes are made from the most wrinkle-prone fabric on the market – and if that’s the case, what the heck is wrong with you? – you should have no issues.

When I get in to my destination, I open up my carryon and pull out any dresses, skirts or blouses to hang up in the hotel closet, and everything is just fine.

2. If you travel often, invest in clothes specifically for your travels.

If flying on an airplane is just a once-in-a-great-while thing for you, this won’t be as crucial, but if you’re hopping on a plane once a month or more than that, look for clothes that don’t wrinkle and things that are very versatile.

When you’re shopping, envision what you already have in your closet and how what you’re picking up will pair with those things. Avoid fragile or stiff fabrics that would wrinkle in your carryon, and go for polyester, spandex and cotton blends.

3. Don’t bring more than one of things like jackets, shoes, etc. unless you have to.

When Pat and I went to San Francisco in May after we graduated last year, I brought multiple jackets. I told myself, “You’ll wear multiple different outfits, so you’ll need different jackets!” We ended up checking two bags for that trip and paying a lot for checked bag fees. (I’m sure my jackets weren’t the only reason, but hey.) Similarly, Pat often traveled with both his black and his brown dress shoes.

My new rule once I started traveling: I don’t bring duplicates of things. I bring one pair of heels and one pair of flats or boots, one cardigan that goes with all of my outfits and one jacket that goes with all of my outfits.

4. Wear or carry your heaviest items.

I always wear my booties or heels (I promise I have a comfortable pair) on the plane and carry my jacket or cardigan with me, to minimize the weight in my carryon.

You can use the cardigan as a blanket or a pillow on the flight, and shoes honestly take up way too much room in a carryon. Maximize your space!

5. Use packing cubes and pouches to organize.

I don’t use packing cubes for everything in my suitcase unless I’m packing for a longer-term trip, but I do use cubes and other pouches for my unmentionables, my toiletries, jewelry, etc.

I use pouches in my personal item (aka my purse) too – to hold snacks, pens, electrical cords, all of that.

The cubes keep your carryon tidy and help compress things in your suitcase, and when you get to your final location, everything doesn’t explode everywhere. Win-win.

6. Put your shoes and bulky items at the bottom and fill in the spaces with smaller items.

I really try to make use of as much space in my carryon as possible. Most carryons have a side that is completely or mostly flat, and then a side that has grooves from the handles (or in my carryon’s case, the battery pack for charging devices).

I tuck my lightest clothes into the grooves (thin blouses, cardigans, t-shirts for sleeping, leggings) and then stack heavier clothes like pants or cardigans on top of those. On the flat side, I put my shoes on the bottom towards the wheels, and then my toiletries and flat iron above it, closer to the handle.

You want your suitcase to be balanced, and it’s easier to tuck smaller items into the spaces around your shoes and other heavy or bulky things.

7. Choose your personal item wisely.

I made this amateur mistake the first time I traveled for work – I flew with my Stella & Dot Getaway bag. Now, the getaway bag is amazing, and I love using it for weekend trips where I’m not flying, because it’s a more stylish duffel bag.

But it was a terrible personal item, especially because I was also using it as my bag for work during that week. You want something small enough to stash under the seat but still have leg room, but large enough and structured enough that you can organize your items without losing your mind.

Look for a bag that stands up on its own, has a zipper and has some pockets inside and outside. If you’re a backpack girl, look for one that isn’t too tall to fit under the seat without cutting out all of your leg room. I am passionate about my leg room.

Now, I use the Lo & Sons OMG Bag, and leg room isn’t a concern.

How to pack a carryon


Do you travel often? What are your packing tips to make the most of your carry-on luggage and avoid checking a bag? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.