Tips and Tricks for Packing Light

Whether you are team "Carry On Only" or are just looking to step up your packing game, these are some top packing tips & tricks.


The Traveling Shopaholic

8/9/20234 min read

black DSLR camera near sunglasses and bag
black DSLR camera near sunglasses and bag

Mastering Efficient Packing: Tips and Tricks for Carry-On Only Travel

Are you tired of lugging around bulky suitcases and waiting at baggage carousels? Have you been victim of carrying your giant checked bag up and down the stairs of a metro station (*sigh: ME*)? If you're a wanderlust-driven explorer looking to streamline your travel experience, then carry-on only travel might be your next best friend. Packing efficiently for a carry-on adventure requires careful planning, strategic choices, and a dash of creativity. In this guide, with help from our wise Facebook group, I'll delve into the art of packing light while still ensuring you have everything you need for an unforgettable journey.

1. Start with the Right Bag:

Choosing the perfect carry-on bag is essential for efficient packing. Opt for a versatile and well-designed backpack or rolling suitcase that adheres to airline size regulations. Look for compartments, organizers, and compression features to make the most of the available space. Check out backpack recommendations HERE and carry on suitcases HERE.

2. Plan Your Wardrobe:

To maximize space, plan your outfits based on mix-and-match possibilities. Stick to a color scheme (I always pick black as it's less likely to show stains and can be dressed up/down as needed) to ensure your clothes can easily be paired together. Choose lightweight, quick dry and wrinkle-resistant fabrics (merino wool and synthetic fibers are great!) that fold compactly, and consider clothing items that can be layered for various weather conditions. Read about capsule wardrobes HERE.

3. Embrace Minimalist Toiletries:

Invest in travel-sized toiletries or transfer your essentials into reusable travel containers. Consider solid toiletry options, such as shampoo bars and solid moisturizers, to save space and avoid liquid spills. Opt for multi-purpose products whenever possible.

4. Roll, Don't Fold:

Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save an incredible amount of space in your carry-on. This technique also minimizes wrinkles and makes it easier to spot specific items in your bag.

5. Packing Cubes and Compression Bags:

Packing/compression cubes are a game-changer when it comes to efficient packing. They help keep your clothes organized and compact. Compression bags are another excellent option, allowing you to squeeze out excess air and reduce the volume of your clothing. I use a combination of compression bags and compression cubes and it's been great for me to stay organized and save space.

6. Choose Versatile Footwear:

Footwear can take up valuable space in your carry-on. Opt for versatile shoes that work for various activities and occasions. One pair of comfortable walking shoes and perhaps a dressier option should cover most of your needs. Check out favorite travel walking shoes HERE and sandals HERE

7. Digital Documentation:

Skip the pile of paper documents and opt for digital versions. Store your travel itinerary, tickets, hotel reservations, and important contacts on your smartphone or tablet to minimize clutter.

8. Pack Travel-Sized Laundry Supplies:

Carry a small supply of laundry detergent or laundry sheets. This allows you to do a quick wash in the sink or shower, extending the life of your clothes and reducing the need to pack excessive amounts of clothing. Read all about doing laundry on the go HERE.

9. Utilize Travel-Friendly Accessories:

Invest in travel-sized versions of essential accessories, such as a compact umbrella, microfiber towel, portable charger, and a universal power adapter. These compact items take up minimal space, are lightweight and can be true lifesavers during your journey.

10. Wear Your Bulkier Items:

If you're traveling to a destination with colder weather, wear your bulkier items, such as jackets and boots, during transit to free up space in your carry-on. In general wear your heaviest items and shoes to avoid needing to pack them.

11. Limit Electronics and Gadgets:

While it's tempting to bring along every electronic gadget, try to limit yourself to the essentials. Choose a versatile device like a smartphone that can serve multiple purposes, such as a camera, map, and entertainment center. As another example, while noise cancelling headphones may be essential for overnight flights, weigh the pros and cons of needing to lug around bigger/bulkier options, when a pair of compact ear buds would be lighter/easier to pack.

12. Consider Renting at Your Destination:

For specific items that you'll only need temporarily, such as snorkeling gear, ski equipment or other outdoor equipment etc consider renting them at your destination. This eliminates the need to pack and carry bulky items for the entire trip.

Efficient packing is an art that, once mastered, can greatly enhance your travel experience. By following these tips and utilizing the right tools, you'll be well on your way to becoming a carry-on only travel pro. Embrace the freedom of traveling light, and embark on your adventures unencumbered by heavy luggage, ready to explore the world one compact carry-on at a time.

2 weeks worth of items in a carry on + personal item!

The finished product

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