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Clever Carry-Ons – How to Pack Light for your Next Flight

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Packing light takes practice and knowing when to leave that extra something at home.

Flying is expensive. Pack light for your next flight.

Believe me, we know. And it seems to be becoming exponentially more so every year. So naturally, we are on the lookout for ways to save when we fly. Here’s our guide to clever carry-ons: how to pack light for your next flight.

The easiest way to save $25-$50+ per person per flyer is by eliminating your checked baggage.

I know, I know. Some of you are thinking right now, I can’t cram all my shoes in a carry-on or How am I supposed to fit everything I need in a bag with dimensions under 45″! I’m here to say, it’s totally doable! Well, you might not be able to fit all your shoes, but at least a couple you really need.

First, consider how long you will actually be spending at your destination.

If you’re only going to be there for a week, you probably don’t need 14 complete outfits. Start with 5-7 outfits if you’re going to be staying for at least a week, but remember you can get away with less if you have access to a washer and dryer or even a sink and a shower rod. And no one will get on your case if you wear the same shorts 2 days in a row. Just ask yourself Do I really need this? Now stop and re-evaluate your answer. Do you really?

Then consider the weather forecast.

If it’s going to be hot and humid the whole time, you probably don’t need to bring every pair of pants you own – one or two will be fine. On the flip side, if you’re visiting a cooler climate, you’re less likely to sweat through your wardrobe and so can get away with wearing the same garments several times before anyone starts to notice the smell. ; )

You should also seek to pack multi-purpose pieces.

Pick a pair of jeans that you can wear both for a night out or dress up with a nice shirt instead of two separate pairs of pants. Bring shirts you can play and work in. Garments that serve more than one purpose can save a lot of space in a bag.


As far as shoes go, I know how difficult it can be, especially for women, to leave that stunning pair of stilettos behind, but let’s be honest, how often are you actually going to wear them? If only once, leave them at home. Same with any shoes. I usually bring one pair of tennis shoes because I like to exercise when I travel, one pair of more casual sneakers that could also be paired with a skirt or sundress and worn in the airport for fast and easy removal, and a pair of flip-flops or adventure sandals – because I can’t live without my sandals. Whatever shoes you bring, make absolutely certain that you’re going to wear them multiple times because they take up a lot of space in your bag.

Packing Methods

The method we found that seems to cram the most clothing in the smallest space is rolling. Roll your clothes instead of folding them and you may not only snag yourself a few more inches, but you may cut down on wrinkling, too. And here’s a sneaky trick for saving space and keeping TSA out of your unmentionables: stuff your socks and underwear inside your shoes. When packing tight, every little open space counts! You can wrap up jewelry and stuff it in there, too.

Don’t forget about liquid restrictions when packing only carry-ons! You can only take liquids in 3.4 ounce bottles and they must be in clear zip-top bags for easy TSA retrieval. Trust me, you need everything in clear bags. I’ve seen traveling companions get stuck at security because they had an extra bottle of hand sanitizer in their purse. Check out the guidelines here: TSA What can I bring on? And remember that most hotels offer free necessities like shampoo, conditioner and soap to their guests, so don’t even bother with it if that’s the case.

And sometimes you don’t even have to actually carry on your carry-on! If your flight is full, more often than not the airline employees at the gate will make a plea for passengers to check larger carry-ons for free to create extra space in the overhead bins. This option may not work or be available every time you fly, but it’s a great way to unburden yourself so you don’t have to lug two heavy bags through terminal after terminal. A checked bag with no checked bag fee? Uh, yes please!

It may take a bit of planning and even more packing and unpacking as you narrow down the list of things you originally thought you couldn’t live without, but it’s a small price to pay to save $50+ per flight!