Tips for Packing a Carry-On Like a Pro

September 24, 2019

Travel, Travel Tips

One of the biggest struggles of travel is packing! Especially if you’re limited on packing space by your flight. Trying to cram a week’s worth of clothes into a single suitcase can seem daunting, but if you just use these simple tips, you’ll be packing like a pro! Follow these steps and you can fit everything you need for a week or even longer into one suitcase!

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Lay everything out

The most important thing you need to know about packing like a pro is: be organized.

Before you start packing, make a list of everything you need to take. You can download a free printable packing list from my resource library right here!

If I don’t make a packing list, I will forget something. But if packing lists aren’t your thing, you should at the very least lay out everything you want to take. Throwing stuff in a suitcase as you go is definitely not the way to do it. It makes it easier to pack if you can see everything you need (or don’t need) to fit into your bag.

tips for packing a carry on suitcase like a pro flawless make up bag, pink necklace and shirt in luggage

Divide out the essentials

There are some things you need to take on every trip, and there are some things that would be convenient (but aren’t always necessary). Divide your items into the essentials and the things that would be nice to take. You can fit these things into the leftover space after you’ve packed everything you really need. This tip has really helped me not to overpack–which is so easy to do!

For example, you might want to take a straightener and a curling iron to fix your hair, but these can take up valuable space when just one would be good enough. Or even better just take some hair ties and wear a ponytail or braid.

Or maybe you are into photography and you want to take all your lenses and your tripod. Try to limit it to one or two lenses that cover the zoom range you need. I’ve been on trips where I just took my 18-135 mm lens and did just fine. Odds are you aren’t going to want to carry all that extra weight around and set up a tripod for every shot anyway. Check out my favorite photography gear here!

Maximize packing space

tips for packing a carry on suitcase like a pro rolled up pink and blue clothes in luggage for maximum packing space

There are several ways you can pack to maximize the limited space you have in your suitcase.

  • Roll up your clothes tightly instead of folding. You can fit in a lot more clothes this way.
  • Pack smaller items in tiny spaces. (Ex. Fill up all the nooks and crannies with your socks or other small or flexible items)
  • Use a Ziploc bag or some kind of plastic waterproof bag for your liquids like toothpaste, sunscreen, nail polish, etc. You don’t want these to spill out on your clothes.
  • Wear your bulkiest shoes and pack the smaller pairs. If you are taking running shoes and flip flops, wear the running shoes. Small, flat shoes take up less space.

Black lace up hiking boots on tile floor with light walls

Research your Flight Luggage Requirements

If you are planning to fly, you will only have a certain amount of luggage you can take before you have to start paying to check bags. Find out the maximum size carry on and personal item your airline will allow. My advice is to get the biggest bag they will let you take for free. Most flights allow you to take one personal item and one carry on for free, but this changes with the airline and flight duration.

If you want to know more tips for having an easy flight, check out my post 5 Tips for Your First Time Flying.

Pack a Personal Item the Right Way

I always use a backpack or big purse for my personal item on a flight. Try to bring the most important items in your personal item so you can keep them close. This includes irreplaceable items like your passport and ID, expensive items like your camera, and items you’ll want on the flight or drive like headphones and snacks.

Here’s my favorite bag to use as a personal item.

It’s also a good idea to pack a change of clothes in your personal item. If the airport requires you to check your carry on bag because they ran out of overhead space, it’s always good to be ready with anything you might need in your personal item (just in case your checked bag gets lost or delayed).

Bring Neutral Clothes

Unless you have a specific outfit you have to wear, you should try to bring clothes that match each other well. If you are going somewhere for a longer period of time and are only taking one bag, you may want to wash and wear some items again. If you take a few basic items that you can mix and match to make different outfits, you will have more space.

Do you have any tips and tricks for packing light and organized? Tell me in the comments! And if you’re looking for more awesome travel essentials to add to your packing list, check out my travel must-haves.

Don’t forget to subscribe below for your FREE printable packing list!

Tips for Packing a Carry-On Like a Pro


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