Stephanie Yoder a RoamRight Blog Author

How to Pack Carry-On Only

The overhead bin is the shared place above your seat that allows for bag storage.

Photo Source: Flickr - Michael Cote

There are a lot of reasons to travel with only a carry-on: you avoid extra fees, skip the endless baggage carousel wait and reduce the chances of the airline losing your luggage to zero.

Packing everything you need in only a carry-on bag though can take some serious planning, particularly if you are traveling for a longer period of time. Here are some tips to make sure you have everything you need and nothing that you don't.

Streamline Your Wardrobe

Carry-on baggage is subject to ironclad size limits, so you will have to be very judicious with what your pack. Carefully go over your itinerary and determine the minimum amount of clothing you can comfortably bring. Avoid single-wear pieces and instead choose basics and neutrals that you can mix and match to create multiple outfit combinations. Colorful accessories like scarves or jewelry can help liven up your look.

If you are traveling somewhere chilly, try to pack thin but warm layers instead of heavy coats and sweaters. Two light sweaters can take up less room than one bulky one; yet keep you just as warm.

Get Your Liquids Right

The rules for liquids in carry on baggage are very strict: you can have 1 quart sized bag filled with liquids. No item can be larger than 3.4 ounces (there are some exceptions for medications and baby formula). Stock up on travel-sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner etc. Alternatively you can just buy your toiletries when you arrive, or use the free hotel ones.

Usually the TSA will screen your liquids separately. To prevent delays, keep the Ziploc bag near the top of your luggage so that you can easily slide it out during security.

Organization is Key

How much can you pack in a small bag? Maybe more than you think if you pack carefully instead of just tossing everything in. Make a plan before you pack and organize your clothing for maximum space efficiency. Take advantage of empty spaces like the insides of shoes (the perfect spot for stuffing underwear or socks). Many frequent fliers keep their bags organized with compression sacks, packing cubes or even large Ziploc bags.

No matter how much you believe you can cram in your suitcase, always save a little space to bring back souvenirs.

Wear Your Heaviest Items

It might not be the most comfortable trick, but it's certainly effective. Instead of trying to find packing space for bulky jeans, jackets or sneakers, wear them on the plane with you. After all there is no limit to the amount of clothing you can put on your body, and most planes are chilly anyways.

Take Advantage of Your Personal Item

Don't forget that in addition to your hand luggage you are allowed an additional personal item like a purse, laptop bag or small backpack- anything that will fit underneath your seat really. Consider packing your purse and using a larger personal bag where you can pack more necessary items.

What are some of your best carry-on only packing tips?

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About the Author

Stephanie Yoder

Stephanie Yoder, a RoamRight Blog Author

Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.

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