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Fit everything you need for a two-week vacation in your carry on

Last Updated December 2018

What's the best way to fly? You take a carry on. That way, your things will always be in the same part of the plane as you are, so there will be no fear of lost luggage. There will also be no gathering around the baggage carousel after your flight has landed, no jockeying for an advantageous position, and no watching and waiting until your luggage eventually appears. If you can fit everything in a carry on, it will make your airport time less stressful and your vacation more enjoyable.

But for most airlines, a carry on can only be about 22 inches tall by 14 inches wide by 9 inches deep, including the handle and wheels. Your gym locker in high school could probably hold more! How do you do it? What kind of magic allows you to fit everything you need for a two-week vacation in your carry on?

It's not sorcery that gets the job done; it's careful planning and a willingness to strategically simplify. The following are some key tips that will make the seemingly impossible possible.

By practicing the above tips, you can reduce travel stress, simplify your life, and maximize your vacation!

Shoes first

If you have an arsenal of shoes that you love, you're going to have to make a tough decision. Pick two pairs — one sensible/casual pair and one dress pair. The rest of your wardrobe needs to revolve around those choices. Wear the bulkier pair and pack the other.

Pick a color

You don't need a variety of colors and patterns to mix, match, and dazzle. You're going on vacation, not walking a fashion runway. Choose one color and plan your entire wardrobe around that. Just make sure it works with the shoes that you’ve already picked out.

Be less prepared

"Be prepared" might be a wonderful, sound-byte-worthy motto, but it's also a major source of anxiety. You simply cannot pack for every eventuality. Focus on the known. For the unforeseen, there's your wallet.

Eliminate extras

Not only can toiletries and lotions cause complications at the airport — remember TSA's 3-1-1 security rule — they also take up unnecessary space. If you can't do it on the airplane, it can wait until you land. Are you really planning to wash your hair while you’re in the air? If not, shampoo and conditioner can be picked up after you land. Instead of your bulky electric razor, purchase shaving cream and disposable blades after you reach your destination.

Waste no space

This is where those Tetris skills come in handy. Leave no air. Use every pocket, every corner, every available inch of open space. That includes the inside of your shoes!

EXPERT TIP

To use overhead bin space efficiently and allow a quick grab-and-go when the flight’s over, remember that wheels go in first when you stow your carry on.


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Roll it up

Besides producing fewer creases, rolling your clothing instead of folding them takes better advantage of the available space inside your carry on. Alternatively, learning to bundle-pack your clothes — a process by which you nest smaller articles of clothing within larger ones, then wrap them all together — could also save you some space. However, it’s a little more complicated when you want to wear that T-shirt that's located in the middle of the bundle.

Think outside the carry on

Maximize the space that isn't inside your carry on. That would involve utilizing all the pockets of your clothing and taking full advantage of that second personal item, a purse or a daypack, that you can also bring with you on the plane.

Wear it

Don't waste valuable carry on space with bulky items. Wear them instead. Take advantage of the portable clothing rack that is your body and layer up.

Wash and wear

Just because you're on vacation, it doesn't mean you can stop doing the laundry. Pack the minimal amount of clothes needed for one week, then wash as needed.

Bag it up

There are two items that can help you pack a little more efficiently: packing cubes and compression sacks. A packing cube is a small fabric container that you pack with (preferably) similar items, zip shut, and stick in your carry on. Packing cubes not only help you organize but they also help you save space. Compression sacks are for bulkier clothing items. When you pull the drawstrings tight to squeeze out the air, it frees up a considerable amount of space in your carry on.

Weight — one last thing

Don't forget, carry ons also have a weight limit, usually about 40 pounds. It’s possible to be such an accomplished packer that you exceed that limit. Always check the weight of your carry on before heading to the airport so you don't have to hastily jettison any items before boarding.

Written by:
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer