Travel: Fit Your Stuff in One Carry on

Airline travel ain’t what it used to be! The first international flight I took was in 1978 when I flew to London with my grandparents.

We flew British Airways and we might as well have been in first class compared to today’s airline experience. The food was served on reusable dinnerware with actual stainless utensils. The snacks were delicious and it felt like a luxurious experience. I also don’t remember a baggage restriction either!

carry on travel bag

Today we know that airline travel is paired down and there’s no more free food unless you consider a tiny bag of pretzels a sufficient snack. Also, most airlines charge for checked bags, so lightening the load is essential!

There is a philosophy I adopted many years ago, thanks to my mom. She always told me: once you’ve finished packing, bring half as much stuff and take twice as much money.

How to Pack Lighter

Of course, in the winter months, packing lighter is almost impossible because you tend to have bulkier items, but here are few tips that can help you pack lighter and not have to check a bag:

  • Use an expandable roller bag, so you have room for any souvenirs you pick up along the way. Be sure it’s within airline guidelines to carry on the plane.
  • Use a large carry-on bag versus a handbag (unless it’s quite sizable) to hold your wallet, key, etc. and there’s room to fit a book or magazine, cosmetics, and electronics—an all in one bag (especially since you’re only allowed two bags per person on most flights).
  • Plan your outfits carefully, to maximize what you pack. For example, plan to wear boots with jeans one day and the boots with a dress the next, then wear your jeans tucked into the boots on the third day with a different top. In three days, you’ve worn one pair of boots, one pair of jeans, a dress and two tops, which take up very little space! Consider a capsule wardrobe.
  • Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes when you fly (as long as they’re, not 5-inch stilettos and will have you limping by the time you reach your destination!). Note: Use disposable shower caps to wrap your shoes to avoid getting whatever’s on the bottom of those shoes on your clothing or inside your suitcase.
  • Roll clothing items versus folding. It’s easier to tuck items into the side of the bag, utilizing every inch of space. Or use Packing Cubes to categorize and organize your clothing.
  • Use tissue paper to wrap clothing that wrinkles. Yes, this helps reduce the wrinkling of items that typically need to be ironed.
  • Eliminate things you really don’t need: a robe, bulky slippers (opt for flip-flops instead-they can easily be tucked in between clothing), a and hairdryer. If you’re considering sneakers, make sure you DO workout! Nothing worse than getting home and unpacking those bulky sneakers that you never used!
  • If you do opt to check your bag(s), put cosmetics and an extra pair of underwear in your carry-on bag just in case your luggage takes a detour!

One thing I can say is that the regulations of having to put all liquids in 3 oz. or fewer bottles have been a blessing in disguise for people who would pack 8 oz. or larger containers of lotions and shampoos, which for four to five days, is completely unnecessary.


And, if you’re not all that particular about what type of shampoo you use and you’re staying at a hotel, don’t bother packing your own!

We all love the comforts of home, but to minimize back pain from carrying too much stuff and paying for each suitcase checked (and having to wait for it at baggage claim and the possibility of it getting lost!), try lightening your load and living without ALL the creature comforts.

Change is good and traveling can give you a new perspective on what you really need and what you can do without.

Happy trails!

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