How to pack a carry-on for maximum effect

There’s rarely a need to check a bag. Having traveled to more than 20 countries and the USA and Europe with just a carry-on for weeks of travel, I know it’s possible to pack smart. Plus with growing baggage fees and luggage that gets lost with no answers, it’s just smarter to keep your stuff with you. Here are the packing tips you need to know…

How to pack right: Choose the right bag

You need a bag that’s light, mobile and with a thin shell that maximizes interior space. Check the inside, and if budget allows, get a bag where the telescoping handle bars are on the outside.  Right now two of my favourites are bags from Away Travel and G-RO. eagle creek packing bags compression reuseable packing tips how to save space

Packing tips: Wardrobe planning

Taking time to plan out my outfits saves time trying to style clothes at destination, and it means everything matches. I keep clothes in the same colour family (usually black, grey, white and then a pop of one colour) and make sure every piece I bring can be worn multiple ways.

I have a long jersey skirt that doubles as a strapless dress, tank tops that can work as sleepwear, and shirts that can be worn forwards or back for a different neckline.  A colourful scarf can double as a sarong, which can also do duty as a light blanket on the plane. The idea is to wear everything at least twice and not have anything left in the bag that I’ve not needed. It’s taken years of practice.eagle creek packing bags compression reuseable packing tips how to save space

I lay out all my clothes a few days before I depart, then take a critical look and force myself to remove the one top and one bottom from the pile that I’m least likely to wear.

Use the sink for laundry

On longer trips, I only bring enough underwear for a week, and do a load of wash in the bathroom sink when I start to run low. Do the same with socks. This really only works if you’re in a place for a couple days so things have a chance to dry.

Be smart with footwear

Admittedly, footwear is a huge struggle when it comes to packing. Depending where you’re going, you might actually need boots, heels and sandals. Wear your heaviest, bulkiest footwear on the plane. Consider investing in foldable footwear; a personal fave of mine is Tieks. These comfortable flats are made of leather with a solid rubber sole that’s built to fold in half. I have a pair of these in gold leather and find they are a perfect good looking and comfy option for a night on the town.

Downsize your clothes with plastic packing bags

Pack all clothes inside Ziplock-style packing bags. These bags allow you to tuck everything inside, then roll and press all the air out. It’s possible to pack an entire suitcase’s worth of clothes into one of these bags and only have it take up half the inside of the suitcase.eagle creek packing bags compression reuseable packing tips how to save space

I swear by these ones from Eagle Creek (Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac Set (Md/Large) 2pc, Multi/Strobe/Flame/Blue ). I’ve had my set for about six years, and for dozens of trips and they’re still going strong.

Best packing tips: Minimize your accessories

Pare back toiletries like shampoo, soap, lotion, etc. Bring only essentials and if you can use hotel versions or mooch from family and friends you may be staying with, plan to do that.  If you travel a lot, invest in a travel hair dryer, or better yet, adapt to using a hotel hair dryer.

Keep valuables, medication, glasses, jewelry etc with you in a purse-style bag

I’ve twice been told I need to gate check my bag or stow it underneath as the overhead compartments were full. I’ve refused because my valuables are inside. One day I won’t get my way, so I’ve adapted to keep valuable items with me in my tote bag or purse. It’s safer than taking the chance, and easier than unpacking your valuables and transferring them at the gate.

Need to keep your gadgets safe? A small travel size smart lock might come in handy. Read more about the Locksmart lock here.

eagle creek packing bags compression reuseable packing tips how to save spaceGo digital to pack lighter

Finally, don’t load your bag down with printed copies of tickets, maps and lists. Write or take a photo of everything you might need, including copies of your passports and ID and save them to the cloud. That way, you aren’t carrying heavy packs of paper, and if your phone is lost or stolen, you can still access the info you need.

Don’t pack magazines & books

That also goes for books and magazines. Invest in a subscription to a magazine service like Texture which lets you access dozens of popular magazines for one small monthly fee (about the cost of buying two paper magazines). Same goes for books. You can carry several on a tablet or your phone and save space and weight.

What’s your go-to packing hack? Share your tips in comments below.