Packing carry on luggage: secrets from a frequent traveler

by Beth Graham

How many times have you found a flight for just the right price? You click through to the order page and cha-ching, you’re hit with all those add-on fees. Often, checked bag fees can add $50 or more to the cost, each way!  As much as I travel, I’ve become a master at packing carry on luggage, even for trips lasting a week or more. The secret is pre-planning and a little organization, along with these tips for packing carry on luggage with everything you’ll need.

1. Don’t pack toiletries 

Toss that plastic bag with all of your TSA-approved bottles. These take up just too much weight and space when packing carry on luggage. Rely on the hotels amenities. Hint: the nicer the hotel, the nicer the amenities. Many hotels are stocking L’Occitane products. 

2. Packing cubes

I didn’t jump on the packing cube bandwagon until my son took an 8-week backpacking adventure and we had to learn to fit two seasons of clothes in a single backpack.  Trust me, these are great for organizing all of your clothing when packing carry on luggage. And you end up with a bonus cube for bringing home dirty laundry!

3. Roll clothes 

I learned this nifty tip from a friend whose husband is a pilot. I’ve since seen a number of articles and videos from flight crew who swear by this space saving method.

4. Wear outer layers

I was leaving sunny Southern California for a quick trip to New York last winter and didn’t want my heavy coat and scarf taking up space in my carry on luggage. So I may have looked like vagabond, but I wore it all getting on the plane.

5. Pack smart 

I’ll admit. This is not my strong suit. But when push comes to shove (or cram), I’ll learn to part with shoes I’m taking simply because “they’re cute”. Shoes are often bulky and do take up valuable space. When traveling with a carry on, the rule is generally to limit yourself to two pairs of shoes – one casual, one dressy.

6. Take advantage of your “personal item” 

I often get the stink eye from gate personnel because my personal item is, well, rather large. Most airlines allow you to carry a personal item – a purse or briefcase – in addition to your carry on. So my purse tends to be one of those one size fits all. And I do mean all. I carry snacks, my electronics, reading material, medications, and of course, the kitchen sink.

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