How to Cram Everything Into One Carry-On Bag

You’ve already proven you’re frugal by finding those cheap airline tickets. Now you just need to avoid paying exorbitant amounts of cash for checked bags. Here are 11 tips for squeezing everything you need into one carry-on.

Essential Carry-On Items for Any Flight

1. Get rolling: Pack more efficiently by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Rolled clothing fits better into gaps and odd spaces in your suitcase, too.

2. Look for freebies: Leave your shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion at home. Why? Because most domestic hotels will offer them to you for free. While we’re on the topic of personal grooming, don’t bring a blow dryer, either – you’ll probably find one of those in your room, too.

3. Leave no shoe un-stuffed: Take advantage of any and all potential storage space. This means stuffing smaller items in your shoes (think socks and underwear) and pockets (if you’re forced to bring a coat, make the most of it!)

4. Zip it: Fold items into a zip-lock bag and squeeze all the air out. It will not only save space, but it will also help you stay organized.

How to Travel Light

5. Color coordinate: Pack clothing in neutral colors (think black, tans, grays and whites), so you’ll have an easier time mixing and matching pieces. If you can’t do without a little color, use accessories (a scarf or a bold necklace) to add some pop.

6. Double up: In addition to wearing neutrals, also look for pieces of clothing that can be worn in multiple situations. For example, a pair of khakis can be worn for a hike and then dressed up with a nice sweater.

7. Wear layers: You can leave the bulky winter coat behind and create extra space in your suitcase by wearing multiple lightweight layers. Depending on the climate of your destination and the time of year, start with long underwear and add a shirt, a sweater and a jacket from there.

8. Plan ahead: Make categorized lists of the items you need to take with you (clothing, toiletries, documents, medicine, miscellaneous) and stick to it. Only allot yourself two pairs of shoes (wearing the bulkier ones on the plane, of course) and plan to wear pants, shorts or skirts more than once.

Create a Grab-and-Go Carry-On

9. Lay it out: Spread out everything you plan to take with you on your bed, and try to pare it down as much as possible. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to over-pack when you’re just tossing everything into a bag.

10. Do your research: Before packing, look at the long-term forecast for your destination city. If they’re predicting sun, leave your raincoat and umbrella behind. Packing light means ditching all the extra “just-in-case” items. Remember: you can always buy anything you need when you get there!

11. Do laundry: If you’re traveling for more than a week, take along some detergent and plan to wash your socks and underwear in the hotel sink. Keep in mind that synthetic fabrics will dry faster.

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Published: May 16, 2012