Waiting at baggage claim after a long day in the sky has never been one of my favorite things.  Simplifying how I pack and only taking a carry-on and personal item/backpack has eliminated checked bags for a few years now.   I’ve learned to minimize what I pack and still manage to have all the travel essentials I might need.

Whether you are going away for a long weekend or up 10 days here are a few tips to help you lesson the load and fit your necessities in a carry-on bag.  The suitcase I use is similar to this one.

My 9 year old daughter travels with me and I purchased this bag for her items instead of another rolling suitcase.

It has the ability to slide over the top of the handle on a rolling bag and I can fit almost as much inside of it as I can in the rolling suitcase.  Last year we explored the east coast (from Virgina to Maine) for 10 days and packed everything we needed in the bags above in addition to each of us having a backpack.

   herschel backpack perfect for travel

Tips for Packing Everything You Need in Carry On Bags

Plan ahead – Think about what your daily activities will consist of and get the must have items out ahead of time.  Set all the items you need to pack in an area together.

Check the Weather – There is a big difference between a sunny 55 and cloudy windy/rainy 55.  If you don’t have to take a bulky winter coat and boots don’t.  A thin wind breaker/rain jacket is easy to pack and usually doesn’t wrinkle.  I don’t mind adding these items to my luggage but large winter gear makes a big difference in what can fit…or not fit.  A quick glimpse at the weather where you are going to travel can save you from bringing unnecessary items.

Multipurpose Items – What items can you wear more than once.  I make a cardigan work with a few outfits…wear it over a dress and a few days later with jeans, over a tank.  Multipurpose items save space so finding more than one are great ways to save space.  A cute pair of your favorite sneakers can double for a casual look and be functional for working out or a long day on your feet exploring.

nike sneaker

Minimize the Shoes – I always try to wear my bulkiest shoes on the plane to save space in my luggage.  I try to only bring one or two other pairs of shoes in my luggage and rotate them on my trip, sometimes using all 3 in one day.

Pack for Each Day or Activity – I pack everything I need for an outfit together.  I place the largest item, folded nicely on the bottom of the stack and then add smaller items finishing with the undergarments and socks.  A common stack would include jeans, button down, tank and undergarments.  Once I have the stack complete I tightly roll it and place it in the suitcase.  The only time I don’t include an item with an outfit is if it will be worn more than once.  Those items are rolled individually and placed toward the top of the bag.  Pajamas are also rolled and placed on top because they are usually the first item that will be needed after a day of traveling.

Hats – I often stuff extra socks or smaller soft items (the wind breaker I mentioned above) inside a hat to help keep its shape while it’s stuffed in the suitcase.    vineyard vines hat

Toiletries – When traveling by plane I always back two bags with bathroom essentials.  One bag is small and clear and contains all liquid or gel items that need to be taken out of my bag at security.  Be sure to check the TSA guidelines to make sure you are following the rules.  tsa liquid travel bagI buy travel sized items of all the regular products that I use to fit in this bag and comply with the TSA requirements.  When traveling with more than one person, you can save space by sharing items like toothpaste and shampoo and conditioner.  travel size toiletriesThe bag containing liquids goes in my backpack with my laptop so that I only have to open one compartment when I’m going through security.  I remove the laptop and bag of liquids at the same time.  The bag I use is similar to this one.

I put all my other bathroom items in another bag (it’s not clear but it could be) that is placed in my suitcase.  It’s usually close to the top so that I can take it out easily when I get to my destination but it can go anywhere in the bag.    kate spade travel bathroom bag

Medication – If you regularly take medication and/or vitamins place the amount you need for your trip, plus a few extras for emergencies, in a travel pill organizer.  It’s a good idea to keep these items with your personal item so that in the rare event your carry-on must be checked you still have the medication with you.  travel pill case medication

Cords/Chargers – I use a small zipper pouch to corral all the cords and chargers that I need.  I also bring a portable power bank/charger fully charged incase I don’t have access to electricity for an extended time.zipper pouch gold dot

Do you have any tips to make packing more efficient?  I’d love to hear them, please share in the comments.

Some favorite travel items are linked for your convenience.




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