Carry-on baggage only? Learn how to pack light

Planning on travelling with a carry-on? Stop over-packing or doubting what’s essential in your bag with these tips on how to pack light with ease

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Once you've packed, don't look back

Category Tips & tricks

Date 25th February 2016

You’ve booked your flight ticket and are already imagining yourself walking barefoot on the beach … but unless you’re planning on leaving with just the clothes on your back, you’ve got to pack some kind of luggage.

Whether you’re leaving for a short vacation, a business trip, or you want to cut the cost of checking in a suitcase, carry-on baggage is a great way to travel efficiently. Although some of these tips about how to pack light may seem logical, we sometimes forget all about them in the frenzy of catching a flight.

Breathe deeply, stare your empty bag in the face, and tackle this packing like a champ!

Prepare or beware

Preparation is the very first step. To each their own preference, but the good old fashioned list seems to do the trick.

Making a list will help you visually imagine what you’re planning to pack – as a rule of thumb, keep it short and precise. If you’re not sure you’ve thought of everything, PackPoint is an app that can help you by generating a list based on your destination, number of days abroad, and type of activities you’ll be doing. Once the listing is done, you’re half way to your vacation!

Bring only the essentials

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They see me rolling

This brings us to a key point: is what you’re bringing really necessary? Pack the bare minimum to cater to a maximum of activities: an everyday outfit (other than the one you’re already wearing), something warm, and a nicer outfit for going out. Jogging apparel? Who are you kidding – you’re on vacation!

A change of shoes is debatable as they can be cumbersome but indispensable for some people – one pair for day and one for night is a good compromise, as long as the 12 inch stilettos don’t take up all the room.

As for beauty products, give your skin and hair the break they deserve, and go light and natural. If you need more than the 100 millilitre limit allows, favour the non-negotiable necessities and for buying the rest upon arrival (or asking your hotel if they provide it).

What shouldn’t you bring

Sharp objects a given, you should also try to avoid travelling with fresh animal-based products like meats and cheeses, they might be confiscated upon arrival.

So what can you take in your carry-on? If you have any doubts, check the page of your airline or your destination airport to make sure you won’t have anything confiscated. If you want to see what kind of things people actually try to take through security, check the TSA’s Instagram.

Keep your important items close at hand

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Keep your important documents at your fingertips or within reach

The obvious forget-me-nots are your passport and your boarding pass. An extra type of identification is a good thing to bring if you don’t plan on walking around with your passport while on vacation. Think of making copies of these documents in case you misplace them, it could save you a lot of grief.

What about all the cash?

When it comes to travelling with cash, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if you’ve changed a large amount. Split the amount in half between your small carry-on luggage and a pouch or money belt you can keep on your person. There’s nothing sexy about a fanny pack but it beats crying your eyes out on the airport floor after all your cash has disappeared.

There’s a right bag for everyone

Your hand luggage will follow you everywhere, so choose comfort over style with a suitcase on wheels (but make sure you respect the airline’s maximum carry-on luggage dimensions). A classic, versatile model can be useful to you on a leisurely vacation as well as business trips – a real 2-for-1 deal.

Nevertheless, the ideal hand luggage for blending in with locals is a backpack. Throw your bag on your back and get exploring right away with the freedom of having your hands free while on the go. Better yet, opt for a backpack-on-wheels hybrid like these Samsonite bags.

You can find online comparisons of the best carry-on luggage bags based on function, price, or style. The crowd-funded suitcase Jurni, for instance, considers your need to quickly reach your essentials with a separate zipped compartment on the top, has sections and shelves to organize your things easily, and has a sturdy case ideal for a make-shift stool when waiting in long lines.

Respect weight requirements

Unless you plan on stowing bricks in your carry-on, you shouldn’t have too many issues respecting weight limitations. Luckily, some airlines don’t have any restrictions as long as the bag can be lifted and placed in the overhead compartments.

Other airlines, such as Air Canada, have weight allowances up to 10 kilos (depending on your destination), that must be respected to avoid getting your bag placed in hold at extra cost. Check beforehand; each airline has specific rules.

The art of packing

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Find the packing technique that works for you

You could buy the best suitcase and write the nicest list, but if you just randomly throw things in your bag, you’re going to be stuck sitting on your bag again trying to shut it. Avoid bag-pocolypse by mastering the art of packing.

Space saving techniques include rolling your clothes into burrito forms instead of flat folded stacks. You can use the rolls to optimize empty spaces inside shoes or between items towards the end.

Another technique is to put the rolled items in zip lock bags, and seal them just tight enough to compress the air, effectively vacuum packing your clothes. The ultimate trick on how to pack light is to wear your thickest and heaviest garments and accessories when you travel, even if you end up looking like the abominable snowman.

The order in which you pack can also help. Use flat and rectangular items to fill the awkward ridges on the bottom of your suitcase, and place heavier items, like shoes and toiletries (other than liquids which should be easily accessible for security check), on the bottom and outer parts.

For those extra souvenirs and trinkets you might buy during your vacation, remember to leave a bit of extra room. Splurging in duty free is absolutely encouraged – the duty free bags don’t count as extra luggage.

Need extra help? Read these essential packing tips and check out the travelling checklist on momondo’s Inspiration page.

Originally published

25th February 2016