How to Pack Only a Carry-On |

Packing Only the Essentials: The Carry-On Guide blog: Packing Only the Essentials: The Carry-On Guide

Packing just a carry-on may seem farfetched if you are traveling abroad or for an extended period. However, with checked baggage fees on the rise and incentives like priority boarding for light travelers, more and more airplane passengers are opting for simplistic baggage. Whether you are trying to travel like a minimalist, attempting to avoid extra fees by airlines or just want to enjoy the convenience of packing light, the below guide can help you choose the basics when gathering belongings for a trip.

Step 1: Preliminary Research

Before assembling your clothes and personal items to pack, the team at recommends checking the weather forecast of your destination and the carry-on limitations of the airline. This can prepare you for unexpected rain or humidity. If you do not own clothes to match the conditions, plan to make the purchase on the trip to save packing space, as well as to double as a souvenir. Likewise, verifying the airline’s current size and weight restrictions can save you later frustration when you check in. If you look into the airline’s baggage policies, you may realize you can bring a carry-on as well as a personal item, such as a laptop bag or purse. Travelers should also review their travel itinerary’s important events such as planned hikes, business meetings or formal affairs that require specific considerations.

Step 2: Clothing Choices

Most travelers believe they need an outfit for each day of travel. However, there are ways to create diverse looks without bringing half of your wardrobe. By choosing color-coordinated and neutral garments to interchange, you can recycle pieces to fashion different outfits. For jetsetters traveling for longer than seven days, the team at suggests doing a load of laundry at your travel destination for a week’s worth of freshly cleaned provisions. While keeping in mind the clothing worn on the plane, travelers should limit packed clothing to:

  • One pair of shoes (that can be worn with multiple outfits).
  • Two pairs of pants/bottoms.
  • Three shirts/tops (that can be dressed up or down).
  • Five days of underwear and socks (one bra).
  • Scarves, gloves and a bathing suit, as required.

If possible, select multipurpose items like reversible clothing or a sarong, which can quadruple as a bathing suit cover up, a dress, a scarf and a head covering for religious places (see “Common Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid Around the World”). If you are traveling to a location with a highly variable climate, consider purchasing dual-purpose clothing, such as shorts with zipper extensions which make them into pants. Wear (or carry) heavier items like jackets and boots on the plane to save packing space.

Step 3: Personal Items

The team at advises travelers to consider the purpose of the trip and to limit the number of nonessential items in their luggage. For instance, if you are planning on backpacking through Nepal, you can skip the heels and hair curler and instead pack sneakers and antiperspirant. Basic personal items may include:

  • Cosmetics (consider multipacks).
  • Deodorant and a toothbrush (travel size).
  • Phone or laptop chargers as well as a travel adaptor (fewer electronics, fewer chargers).
  • Prescription eyewear and medications (original containers).

What you do not pack is as important as what you do pack. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, with family or friends, you do not need to bring travel-size toiletries. Bringing valuables like jewelry may also be unwise when traveling to certain sketchy areas. Furthermore, some travelers bring “just in case” items that they never even use during the trip. Items to not bring (because you do not need them or because you can purchase them while abroad) include:

  • Magazines and books.
  • Multiple guidebooks.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and medication.
  • Razors and toiletries typically provided in hotels.

Step 4: Packing

First, keep your important documents like your boarding pass, reservations, identification and passport in a safe but accessible area. Likewise, keep toiletries located in a sealed bag close to the opening of your baggage, as this will make security checks easier and faster. Rather than folding garments, the team at recommends rolling your clothes, which uses less space while minimizing wrinkles. Another trick to avoiding creases from packing is to roll or fold clothing together to create cushion from stress pleating. Maximize your available packing space by utilizing the insides of shoes and by wrapping clothes around fragile items.