PACKING TIPS FOR THE CARRY-ON TRAVELER

Can you travel around the world with just a carry on? Anne McAlpin did

By Anne McAlpin

AAA World Article

It’s all about packing light these days, so on my 21-day trip around the world, I challenged myself to travel with just a carry on. I’m happy to report that I did it, thanks in part to using a new lightweight, carry-on bag and a lot of pre-planning that helped lighten my load.

Here are some of my favorite carry-on tips that will make for easier packing and travel:

BEFORE YOU GO

  • Check your airline’s carry on size and weight restrictions in advance. For most domestic airlines, the maximum dimensions for a carry-on bag are 22" x 14" x 9" including handles and wheels. International airlines may require even smaller bags.
  • Some airlines charge a fee for a carry-on bag, depending on the type of fare you purchase. Know before you book.
  • Liquids Rule: You are allowed to bring one quart-sized, clear, plastic bag of liquids through the security checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces or less per item.
  • Tip: The secret to packing liquids so they won’t leak is filling plastic bottles only ¾ of the way full, squeezing out the air & and then screwing on the lid tightly. 
  • Always keep medications and valuables in your personal bag in case your carry-on bag has to be checked at the last minute.
  • Put ID tags on all your bags, and include your mobile phone number and email address.
  • Downsize your electronics. Fewer electronics means fewer adapters and plugs. 

LESS STUFF, LESS STRESS
Start with a checklist and use these tips to take less.

  • Pack for a week and do laundry. Travel with clothes that are easy to wash out in the sink and can drip dry overnight.
  • Plan your travel wardrobe around two basic colors, so the same shoes and accessories can be worn with everything.
  • Take a maximum of three pairs of shoes:  wear one, pack two (also toss in flip-flops; they don’t take up much room). 
  • My clothing ratio is 3:1. I pack three tops for every bottom. 
  • Layer your clothes for warmth instead of packing bulky coats and sweaters. 
  • Pack multipurpose items to save space: A large cotton scarf can be used as a swimsuit cover-up or to cover bare shoulders when entering places of worship. A microfiber travel towel works great as a quick-drying beach towel or as a blanket on the plane.
  • Nine tops and three bottoms works for almost every trip.

PACK IT UP
Space is limited in a carry-on bag, so organization is key. 

  • Pack your heaviest items (like shoes) near the wheels. This helps distribute the weight and makes your bag easier to handle.
  • Place personal items like underwear inside plastic bags. If security needs to check your bag, you’ll both be happier.
  • To roll or fold? Roll knit items like t-shirts, shorts and sundresses, fold anything cotton. Use plastic cleaner bags between cotton layers to help minimize wrinkles. 
  • Organize your bag with packing cubes. Use a variety of cubes in different colors and sizes to make packing and unpacking a breeze. 
  • If you are taking bulky items like sweaters or puffy jackets, either wear them on the plane or pack them inside compression bags. These reusable bags save up to 30% percent more space in your bag and are great for packing dirty laundry (they seal in odor).

Perhaps the best tip for taking the stress out of carry on travel? Take a packable duffel bag (especially if you like to shop). Keep it packed and use it on the way home to pack souvenirs, laundry, and other odds and ends.

Anne McAlpin is the author of Pack It Up: The Essential Guide to Smart Travel, available at amazon.com or packitup.com.