Skip to main content

How to Pack Everything for Your Vacation into a Carry-on

Want to travel light? With a little research – and a lot of editing – you can lose your luggage dependency one overstuffed bag at a time…


  • Step 1: Check the forecast Check the 10-day weather forecast of your destination so you’ll know whether you’ll need more warm- or cool-weather clothes. You also don’t want to waste space on an umbrella, shorts, or a heavy coat if they’re not likely to be needed.
  • Step 2: Choose neutral colors Allow yourself a few favorite pieces of clothes for fun or special occasions in colors that you love. Everything else should be dark or neutral colors that can be worn with these pieces and mixed and matched with each other to create a number of outfits.
  • Step 3: Think two Follow the general rule of two: pack 2 short-sleeved shirts, 2 long-sleeved shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, and 2 pairs of long pants.
  • TIP: Limit pants to your favorite jeans and a pair of black pants that can be dressed up or down as the situation warrants.
  • Step 4: Choose fabrics wisely Choose clothes made from synthetic fabrics, especially underwear and socks. When hand-washed, they’ll drip-dry twice as fast as cotton, so you can pack fewer of them.
  • Step 5: Bring two pairs of shoes Do your very best to bring only two pairs of shoes: comfortable walking shoes and something that can be worn to a nice restaurant or club at night. Wear the bulkier of the two on the plane.
  • TIP: For times when you don’t need to be dressed to impress—like if you’re going on a hiking trip or to a nudist colony—pack clothes you can throw away to make room for any new purchases.
  • Step 6: Roll Tightly roll your tops and pants and secure them with rubber bands. Save extra space by stuffing your shoes with socks and filling outside pockets with smaller items like underwear.
  • Step 7: Pack toiletries The FAA prohibits liquids in quantities of more than three ounces—a rule that forces you to pack wisely. Buy three-ounce containers to fill with your most essential toiletries, and put a couple of each into one-quart zip-top plastic bags. Stuff the bags into the nooks and crannies of your luggage.
  • TIP: Be ruthless when editing your toiletries. Take only what you expect to use—not every shade of lipstick you own, or every medicine in your cabinet.
  • Step 8: Pack straps Bring some extra straps for your carry-on so you can attach bulky items like a jacket or sweater. You can also use them at night to create a laundry line.You’ve done it. Now don’t you feel as light as a feather?
  • FACT: So-called 'carry-on champs' tie with 'armrest hogs' as the third most annoying type of air traveler.

You Will Need

  • Neutral colored clothes
  • Washable fabrics
  • Rubber bands
  • 3 oz. plastic containers
  • Plastic baggies
  • Extra bag straps

Popular Categories