7 Travel Packing Tips to Master Your Carry-On Bag

Rate this story:

It only takes one bad overpacking experience to know that lugging heavy, cumbersome bags up steep stairs, onto public transit, and along bumpy cobblestone streets is not worth the effort. A few days in, you’ll dream of hurling your bags off the side of a train and vow never to overpack again.

Here are seven practical packing tips that will help you avoid the pitfalls of overpacked luggage and leverage the load-lightening benefits of summer wear.

1. Think Differently

It’s only natural that the farther away from home you’re traveling, the stronger the urge becomes to pack more stuff. The first step to becoming a packing master is to change the way you think about the process.

  • It’s okay not to prepare for every potential situation. If you forget an item, you’ll be able to find something comparable at your destination. If something gets dirty, you can wash it. If something breaks, you can fix it. Pack the least amount of stuff you’ll need to enjoy your trip. When in doubt, just leave it out.
  • It’s okay to wear your clothes more than once.  At home, your friends and co-workers might notice if you wore the same outfit twice in the same week. But, when you’re traveling, who cares? More often than not, you’ll be surrounded by strangers who won’t know whether your outfiit or a piece of clothing is a repeat.
  • Packing less won’t cramp your style. Fewer pieces doesn’t necessarily mean less fashionable. Even the most fashion-forward person can craft a stylish travel wardrobe out of a few pieces. It takes a little planning and great accessories, but it’s definitely doable.

2. Go Lighter

One thing that makes summer the perfect backdrop to packing well is the lightweight nature of warm-weather fashions. When space in your bag is limited, consider these techniques:

  • Take advantage of thinner, summer-weight fabrics. Semi-sheer pieces, lightweight jersey knits and rayon all pack down exceptionally well. Bring a few items made in these materials and you’ll save significant space. If warmth is a consideration, just plan to layer these lightweight pieces together. That gives you more flexibility than packing heavier-weight clothes.
  • Shorts, capris and mini-skirts have less material than their longer-length counterparts, guaranteeing a space savings. As long as you’ll feel safe, comfortable and culturally appropriate in the destinations you’re visiting, consider packing shorter-length items. Or, bring a pair of zip-off pants instead of pants plus shorts.

3. Go Multifunctional

A critical part of traveling light is to pack only pieces that can serve double or triple duty. Wardrobe staples like dark-colored jeans or a casual blazer can be dressed up for an evening out on the town or down for a day of sightseeing. Maxi skirts can be worn as a midi or knee-length dress, and with a little creativity, circle scarfs can be worn a dozen ways. And, if you go the capsule wardrobe route, picking only pieces that mix-and-match well together, you can carry even less.

This multifunctional rule also applies to your shoes. Choose sandals that are comfortable enough to walk in for hours but dressy enough to wear to dinner. And, consider European-style sneakers. Because of their slimmer profile and simpler adornment, these sneakers tend to work in a wider range of social settings than their more brightly-colored, sports-centric American counterparts.

Before you place an item in your suitcase, ask yourself how many times and ways you can wear it. If the answer is “one,” don’t pack it.

4. Go Technical

Technical clothing is typically made of lightweight, stain-resistant, wrinkle-free, fast-drying materials—the perfect addition to your summer suitcase. Whether pants, shirts or underwear, you can wear these pieces all day long, hand-wash them before bed and wear them again in the morning—day after day.

5. Rolling & Packing Cubes

There are hundreds of articles and videos devoted to packing smart, from rolling to vacuum packing, bundling and using packing cubes. Why choose just one? After rolling your clothes, you can stuff them into packing cubes for tighter compression and better organization.

6. Pack For The Short-Haul

Never pack more than you need for seven or eight days. If your trip is longer than that, you can wash your clothes and wear the items again. In most cities, laundromats are easy to find, paid laundry services are affordable, or you can hand-wash your clothes. Whichever the case, it’ll only take a couple hours of your time.

7. Wear Your Bulkiest Items On Travel Days

In a summer travel wardrobe, jeans, jackets and sneakers will most likely be your bulkiest and heaviest items. If you wear these items on your travel days, you’ll save the space and weight in your luggage.

Need help on what piece of luggage you’ll need? Check out this how to choose luggage guide for more information.

Challenge yourself to travel with as little as possible. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the freedom that comes with a small, light carry-on bag will be your reward.

No more articles