Flying? Fit It All Into a Carry On

If you have traveled anywhere in the last couple of years, you know that airlines are charging when you check your bags. Many charge for the first bag you check. As a result, it can save you money if you can fit it all into a carry on. While you might not always be able to do this, if you are staying somewhere for less than a week, or if you will have access to laundry facilities, it should work to pack everything in your carry on.

1. Make Sure You Meet the Regulations for Liquids

You know that you can’t pack a carry on with big liquid containers anymore. Get travel sized shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash and lotion. I bring solid deodorant, rather than worry about the liquid or gel. Also, if you bring Pepto, try to get the tablets instead of the liquid. All of your toiletries can go into a gallon size bag. Put this bag on the top of your items, or in the outside pocket, so that it is easy to access as you head through airport security.

If you have pills, take them out of the bottles and boxes. Little snack bags, properly labeled using a sharpie, can act as holders. If I know I will need access to my pills (usually just the pain reliever), I actually keep them in my purse, or my laptop bag.

2. Pack Only What You Need

Consider what you will truly need. You want to travel light anyway, so try to keep your packing to a minimum. You can find a good basic packing list at MouseTours Travels. You should be able to fit a few shirts, a couple pairs of pants, underwear, socks and an extra pair of shoes (I wrap each individually in a grocery bag) without too much trouble. You should also be able to fit curling irons, brushes, and other items in your carry on back. There is a great how-to on packing a carry on at Instructables. However, note that you want to alter your packing so that your Ziplock bag of toiletries is easy to get at, and not hidden in the middle.

3. Use Your Laptop Bag

You can bring one carry on and one personal item. I’ve also noticed that no one calls you out on your purse. So I usually bring one carry on, one personal item (laptop bag goes under the seat in front of me) and my purse (which fits next to me on the seat). You can use your laptop bag to hold extra devices like chargers, iPods and more. I also like to slip a book or two, papers I need and a few other items in to my laptop case. It frees up some room in my carry on. Anything I want to get at during the flight, I keep in my purse or my laptop case because I don’t want to be trying to get into the overhead bin for my carry on.

Bottom Line

It is possible to pack for a trip of more than a week with only a carry on — if you plan it out. Most people have access to laundry facilities if they are planning to go for more than a week, and that should allow you to wash your clothes regularly. And don’t forget that you will be wearing one outfit on your flight. Sometimes, I like to take items that I don’t mind leaving behind. That way, I can donate my clothes to a local thrift shop or shelter to make room for souvenirs in my carry on.

If you absolutely must bring another suitcase, try to keep it only to one. It will cost you less to check, and it will be less of a pain as you travel. I will never forget the difficulties of navigating public transportation in Austria with a large bag, a carry on and a backpack, especially when I could have made do, quite easily, without the bag.

What are your tips for packing light?

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