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10 Hacks to Maximize Your Carry-On Space

And never check a bag again.

With airlines now raising their checked baggage fees, packing light has never been more appealing. Not only is it economical, but it also saves time and allows you to skip the annoying process of waiting for your suitcase to arrive on a crowded carousel—if it ever does. For the environmentally conscious, it’s also the greener way to go, as it reduces a plane’s overall weight and carbon emissions, and eliminates waste associated with baggage tags. While cramming a week’s worth of clothing into the typical carry-on (often sized around 22 x 9 x 14 inches) is challenging, a few simple hacks can make it easier to the skip the stowaway (and the fees) for good.

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Upgrade Your Luggage

When it comes to carry-ons, even a few extra inches can make a world of difference, allowing you to pack that one extra pair of shoes or, better yet, save room for some vacation purchases. Several luggage companies have caught on with bags that boast a few extra inches. Away’s The Bigger Carry-On, for example, is one inch taller, one inch wider and a half-inch deeper than the average carry-on, but still perfectly fits in the overhead bins of major US airlines. Meanwhile, Briggs & Riley Commuter Expandable Upright features a compression system that allows you to pack 33% more, while still adhering to carry-on parameters.

Want more luggage reviews? Fodor’s has recommendations.

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Choose Your Fabrics Wisely

Depending on the climate your traveling to, it’s wise to consider fabrics that are thin enough to be layered and packed with ease. Lightweight cotton is breathable when worn in tropical destinations, while wrinkle-resistant pieces like Everlane’s Japanese GoWeave Tank Wrap Dress or The North Face Destination Anywhere Dress can be worn straight out of the suitcase. For cooler climates, skip the bulky sweaters and instead opt for sleek Merino wool pieces such as SmartWool’s range of base layers, which are breathable, odor-resistant, moisture wicking and insulating without taking up half your suitcase.

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Know When to Fold

The age-old debate about packing vs. rolling is still alive and well. While army-rolling your clothing is the most effective way to cut down on creases, it can actually wrinkle some items more than others. Rolling is best for small items made of synthetic fibers such as nylon like shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops. Folding is more effective for bulky items like jeans and sweaters, as well as structured items like linen button-down shirts. Other travelers swear by “bundle wrapping,” which involves rolling a bundle of clothing with the most wrinkle-resistant clothing on the inside of the bundle, and easily-wrinkled garments on the outer layers.

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Pack by Outfit and Follow a List

There’s a massive difference between packing what you want and what you need. Rather than just packing your favorite items, organize your outfits by day and activity to ensure you’ll wear everything in tow. Thankfully, there are a few packing list apps that make this process easier. With PackPoint, you can select your destination, trip type (business or leisure), gender, length of stay and other personal filters to create a custom and editable packing list. The concept is taken one step further with Packr Travel Checklist, which automatically pulls in real-time and forecasted weather data to generate a custom list suited to your destination.

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Make Use of Empty Spaces

While simply rolling and folding clothing can result in gaps, packing cubes are an effective way to solve this problem and also keep your suitcase organized. eBags Ultralight Packing Cubes are sold in a set of five nylon cubes (weighing less than eight ounces) that feature a spring-loaded frame design that holds shape yet compresses down once packed. Other tips for filling gaps include stuffing your shoes with your socks and storing small items, like USB cords, in an old sunglasses case.

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Only Bring the Toiletries You Need

While using hotel toiletries can save you room in your suitcase, it can also create more waste. For a greener alternative, pack your essential toiletries in small reusable silicone bottles. HumanGear’s GoToob+ bottles are renowned for being leak-proof and lightweight. For a budget-friendly option, fill your old contact lens cases or mini-toiletry bottles from past trips with your go-to moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and other cosmetics.

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Plan to Do Laundry

If you’re on a longer trip, plan to do laundry while you’re on the road. Most hotels offer laundry services and those on a budget can easily pack a laundry soap bar like The Laundress Wash & Stain Bar. LifeVenture’s All Purpose Soap is also a great option for backpackers, as you can use it to wash everything from your skin to clothing to fresh fruit.

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Lean out Your Tech

There’s nothing like the feeling of reading a hardcopy book while traveling in a new destination–except when you realize how much room it takes up in your bag. This makes for a compelling case to invest in an e-reader. Depending on your needs, there are a few different options: The Kindle Oasis is best for longer trips as it’s significantly smaller than other readers and its battery life lasts for months thanks to its charging cover but the Kindle Paperwhite remains the best budget option at $80. If you’re a frequent flyer, consider a lightweight laptop such as Apple’s new redesigned MacBook Air, which is thinner and lighter at 2.75 pounds, and a compact camera with a mirrorless system like the Sony a6000 or the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, which are both priced under $550.

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Pack Multi-Use Cosmetics

If you’re keen to slim down your cosmetics bag, consider products that perform double duty. Instead of packing a blush, lipstick, and eyeshadow, try Vapour Beauty’s award-winning Aura Multi-use Stain, an eco-friendly pigment stick that can be used on cheeks, lips, and eyelids. For stressed-out skin, turn to Charlotte Tilbury’s Multi-Miracle Glow, a three-in-one cleanser, mask, and balm. For everyday needs for him and her, try Fig + Yarrow’s Hair & Scalp Tonic, which in addition to being used as a shampoo, can also double as a facial cleanser, nail strengthener, aftershave and facial serum loaded with nutritive oils.



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Make the Most of Your Personal Item

In addition to carry-on, most airlines allow you to bring one personal item, such as a laptop bag, purse, or shoulder bag. Dimensions vary but several airlines allow anything under 18 x 14 x 8 inches. If you have extra stuff (or planning to do some shopping abroad) opt for one with a flexible shape that can expand, such as bucket or duffle bag like the O.G and O.M.G Overnight Bag. If you’re traveling with a lot of tech gear, try a backpack with several pockets and padded sleeve for your laptop like the Tumi’s Voyeuger Calais. In any case, choose a personal item with a back panel sleeve that allows it to attach to your main roller luggage for effortless transportation from A to B and beyond.



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