11.24.14Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro

For the past six months or so, I’ve been traveling quite a bit. I made weekend trips to NYC to visit my husband during his summer internship, I’ve been traveling to weddings around the country, and visiting friends all over. If there’s one thing I’m adamant about when it comes to packing, it’s this: never check a bag unless you absolutely have to. And by “absolutely have to,” I mean more than a week’s trip with heavy winter clothing. That’s about it. The ease and enjoyment of traveling increases exponentially when you don’t have to check a bag:


It boils down to more certainty when planning your travel timeline and fewer lines to wait in. For me, this makes a huge difference and is always worth the extra effort of a more thoughtful packing plan.

Here are some tips for packing a carry-on like a pro:

  1. If you’re staying at a hotel at your destination, don’t bother packing shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or soap. Just use whatever they offer you. In fact, you can even check on your hotel’s website to see if rooms have a hairdryer to borrow. Most do, now-a-days, and that is a huge space saver. Also, you are allowed to pack a razor in your carry-on bag.
  2. If you’re not staying at a hotel, pack all your liquids in one quart-sized Ziploc bag that is easy to remove from your carry-on at security. I’m the girl who always takes extra bathroom items home with me from hotels to use on other trips. Mini shampoos, individually-wrapped make-up remover wipes, mini bottles of contact solution, mini toothpastes… I’ve got a whole stash of these ready for a carry-on if need be.
  3. Wear your heaviest/largest shoes and clothes when traveling. Winter clothes are especially hard to fit in a carry-on, but if you wear your boots, chunky sweater, and coat then you have more space in your bag.
  4. Use a backpack as your personal item. I just started doing this, but it’s been a great solution. You get additional packing space and can carry it evenly on your shoulders (instead of a large tote bag weighing down one shoulder). I use a small cross-body as my purse and then throw it in the backpack when it’s time to board the plane.
  5. Finally, the hardest thing for me and what has made the biggest difference (improvement) in my packing: you don’t need as much as you think you need. Learn how to dress clothes up or down with accessories that don’t require much space. Wear the same pair of pants two days in a row (gasp!). Don’t pack six outfits for three days. Instead, know your itinerary and make a packing list accordingly. Pack clothes you’re excited about wearing so you don’t feel like you need to pack three alternatives.

In addition to clothing items that can change depending on my trip, the check-list below is a lifesaver for making sure I don’t forget the things I need on every trip.

carry on checklist

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