Less Is More: How to Fit Everything You Need Into One Carry-on Bag

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 with stainless utensils on reusable plates. The snacks were delicious and overall it felt like a luxurious experience. There also wasn’t a baggage restriction!

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. All in all, lightening our 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 there are bulkier items, but here are a few tips that can help you pack lighter and not have to check a bag:

  • Use an expandable carry-on roller bag to allow for room for souvenirs you pick up along the way. Be sure it’s within airline guidelines to acctually carry on the plane.
  • Use a large carry-on bag versus a handbag (unless it’s quite sizable) to hold your wallet, keys, etc. and enough 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!
  • 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 (you can get these at the Dollar Store) to wrap your shoes to avoid transfering dirt to your clothing. This will also make it easy to tuck your shoes between clothing items.
  • Roll clothing versus folding. It’s easier to tuck items into the side of the suitcase, utilizing every inch of space. Or use Packing Cubes to categorize and organize your clothing – this will help you avoid rummaging through the suitcase and disorganizing your carefully packed items.
  • Use tissue paper to wrap clothing that wrinkles and hang items once your arrive. This may help you avoid a serious ironing session.
  • Eliminate things you really don’t need: a robe, bulky slippers (opt for flip-flops instead), a and hairdryer.
  • 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!

The TSA regulations of reducing allowable liquid sizes to 3.4 oz. or less have been a blessing in disguise for people who would pack large containers of lotions and shampoos, which for four to five days, which 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!

There are so many benefits to packing lighter, including less to keep track of and lug around. Try lightening your load and living without ALL the comforts of home. You’ll be surprised with what you can live without and it may even give you a new perspective on what you really need and what you don’t.

Happy trails!

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