6 Tips for Fitting Everything into Your Carry-On Bag

Nothing wears down on a traveller’s joy quite like luggage problems. Hoisting unruly duffle bags through airports, wearing the same outfit for weeks while the airline tries to locate your lost luggage, juggling multiple suitcases as you flit from one hotel to the next – it all adds up to a travel nightmare.

Fitting everything into a carry-on bag is the holy grail of international travel. We all aspire to do it someday, yet when it comes time to pack, we give in before ever really putting up a fight. Whether you’re traveling for one week or one month, it is possible to strike a balance between traveling light and having the essentials on hand. It’s a challenge of course, but if you’re brave enough to set out for distant shores, you’re certainly brave enough to take on this suitcase challenge.

Benefits of travelling with only a carry-on bag

Increased mobility between hotels
Ease of travel between destinations
No risk of the airlines losing your bags
No extra luggage fees to pay
Fewer items to protect from theft

Choosing the ideal carry-on bag

If you’re serious about making minimalistic packing a part of your travel future, it’s essential to choose a carry-on suitcase that actually gives you a fighting chance at success. Here are some tips of what you should look for:

360 degree spinning roller wheels
Lots of pockets (inside and out)
Reinforced external seams
Malleable material (as opposed to a hard-shell bag, which will not stretch to accommodate more items)

*Keep in mind that luggage regulations vary by airline and country, so be sure to brief yourself on carry-on policies, size restrictions, and prohibited contents.

Now that you’ve got the perfect carry-on suitcase and you’re committed to the cause, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty business of squeezing all your essentials into your carry-on bag. This is an exercise that is best attempted at least a couple days prior to your departure date – you certainly don’t want to induce any panic attacks the night before departure because your sixth pair of socks can’t fit into the bag. Take your time, plan ahead, and challenge yourself to travel light and pack right. Here are our six tips for fitting into your carry-on only:

Tip #1: Anticipate destination climate & tour activities

A great deal of over-packing is the result of not knowing what to prepare for and therefore wanting to bring the entire closet “just in case.” The more you know what weather to expect and what activities to prepare for, the better you can only pack for what you’re most likely to need. Check online weather sites, ask your tour company to clarify how much you will be walking/ the formality of restaurants/ special occasions, if and when you will have access to laundry services, and if they have any packing requirements or recommendations.

Tip #2: Calculate your outfit count

Eliminate packing overwhelm by turning the task into a simple math problem. How many times can you re-wear a specific item and how many total outfits do you need to have? Estimate the minimum number of clothing changes per day that you will require, while still ensuring that you’ll feel fresh and comfortable. It’s best to anticipate one new shirt for each day, while planning to re-wear shorts/ pants multiple times. Then translate that number into a selection of clothes from your wardrobe. Just don’t forget to add in pyjamas…

Tip #3: Know what you can buy

Most personal care items and toiletries are monstrously bulky, heavy, and illegal to carry on board, particularly on North American airlines. Thankfully, staple items such as these are easy to find even in the far reaches of the world. Shampoo, sunscreen, toothpaste, razors, lotions etc. can be purchased in phamramcies and supermarkets. You may have to settle for an off-brand, but in the end you save big. If you’re unsure of what you can buy at your destination, ask your tour company to clarify.

Tip #4: Fold & roll

Roll your clothes into tight, compact logs and stack each piece on top of each other to maximize every cubic centimetre of suitcase space. If you’re opting for a rolling suitcase, take advantage of those divots between the metal bars at the bottom of your suitcase. Fill the vacant space with small items such as boxers, socks, scarves, or tank tops.

Tip #5: The rule of 3 pairs of shoes

No matter who you are or where you’re going, three pairs of shoes is a traveller’s golden rule. With just three pairs of shoes (maximum) you’ll be well outfitted for the vast majority of travel experiences: a pair for physical activity, one for formal occasions, and one for daily usage/ walking. Pack each pair in a  Ziploc baggie to keep your clothes protected, then layer them on top of the rolled-up clothing.

Tip #6: Take advantage of your “personal item”

Aside from your carryon that will reside in overhead storage, most airlines permit one purse/ personal item (backpack, briefcase, tote bag, etc.). Utilize this space to tote all your smaller miscellaneous items including electronics, travel documents, health & beauty products, reading material etc. Keep in mind however that this item often has to stay on your lap or underneath the seat in front of you, so don’t get too carried away.
What are your favourite tips and tricks for traveling light? Tell us in the comments section below!

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