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How to Pack Your Carry-On Like a Pro


It’s always the shoes isn’t it? When your checked suitcase is already overflowing—requiring human weight on top to make it close—the thought of making the move to a carry-on seems otherworldly.

But once you make the switch, you’ll never go back. The convenience alone will make you wonder why you ever schlepped that ionic hairdryer, color-correcting shampoo, and an eighth pair of shoes. Believe us, when you are packing and unpacking less, not waiting at baggage claim, and breezing our of the airport within minutes of landing, you’ll understand. Plus, the lines to just check bags always stretch at least twice as long as those to print your boarding pass and be on your way.

Thankfully, with some planning, a smaller space doesn’t mean forcing your wardrobe into meager proportions; it means adopting a ‘less is more’ mantra.

Here are some fool-proof tips for successfully accomplishing this packing feat.

Choose a Bag

Bring a rolling suitcase that’s near the airline’s maximum allowable carry-on size. Invest in a darker-toned bag that’s tall and slim with inset wheels. Short and wide bags in bright colors are always targeted by nitpicky airlines. And don’t forget, most airlines also allow a purse or laptop bag small enough to be stored under the seat in front of you, as well.

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Keep it Fashionable

1. Build your travel wardrobe around a few neutral basics and accessorize with colors.
2. Edit as you pack. If you see two similar items, leave one out.

3. Bring more tops than bottoms for maximum mix-and-match potential.
4. Bring double-duty garments: the long t-shirt that turns into a bathing suit cover-up, the LBD or black jeans that can be dressed up or down, or the blazer you wear on the plane that provides a layer of extra warmth at night. Five, for comfort wear flats for the typical airport corridor marathon; alternatively, for packing efficiency, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane. In both scenarios, pack two or three other pairs in your bag, and then stuff small items like socks and rolled belts inside.

Wear the Big Stuff

Limit bulky jackets and blazers, and wear these on the plane to save space in your bag. You can always take them off as soon as you board.

Wash Clothes Mid-Trip

If needed, wash small garments in your sink and hang to dry. For two or three week trips (yes, in a carry-on!), send garments out to be cleaned or find a Laundromat nearby.

Select Tiny Toiletries

Go to your local travel store and find re-sealable, non-leaking containers under three fluid ounces that can be used to hold liquids in a clear, Ziploc-sized case. Bring a back-up of products like sunscreen and bug spray, and purchase more as required at your destination. Keeping this bag fully packed, refilled, and ready to go will make packing for your next trip a breeze.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Trish Friesen

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