Baggage fees are ridiculous, right? Why pay them when you can get everything that you need in a carry on? Yes, that is right you CAN get everything that you need for a full week into a carry on with a little patience, practice, and preparation. My carry on packing tips are tried and true!

For several years I have been trying to carry on only. After 2 debacles in a row with lost bags I did not want to chance it a third:

  • Worst experience that I have witnessed was when we were headed to Italy for a work trip that was black tie 3 nights and dress up most days. One of the couples in our group had their luggage lost completely. They had decided it would be easier to travel without a carry on for ease of plane transfers so they had nothing! They never received their luggage and ended up sending their clothes to be cleaned each night before bed so that they would have something to wear the next day. (I would have gone shopping but the husband was the cheapest guy on the planet and would not spend a dime until they received the check from the airline for the lost luggage. I felt so bad for his wife!)
  • My worst personal experience with lost bags was on an 8 day trip to Thailand with my husband’s company. Our flight from San Francisco was delayed several hours so when we landed in Seoul we had to book it to our gate to catch the flight to Phuket and our bags did not make it – that day or the next. Good thing I threw our swimsuits and flip-flops into my carry on bag along with toiletries (due to a bag that was overweight) when we got to the airport or we would have had zero to wear for 48 hours.

Carry On Travel

Now that I know better I always try to do carry on ONLY. I hate the fees associated with checked bags and the chance (a pretty good one) that they are going to lose my luggage. Here are my top 6 carry on packing tips.

carry on packing tipsAll of these carry on packing tips from my trip last fall that was 8 days long. I took a carry on suitcase (fits in the overhead) and a travel tote (the size of a backpack) that fit under the seat in front of me (with my purse inside).

Carry On Packing

I wore the following on the plane:

  • black leggings, teal flowy top, long grey sweater, grey boots, wrap/scarf, necklace, bracelets, earrings, and ring.

I packed the following in my personal travel tote:

  • cross body purse with my wallet, documents, passport, etc
  • iPad
  • headphones
  • camera (I am a travel blogger so I don’t leave home without it)
  • travel blanket
  • toiletry bag with all the essentials
  • small first aid kit (prescriptions, band-aids, over the counter meds, safety pins, tweezers, etc)
  • notebook and pen
  • book or magazine
  • snack for flight
  • swimsuit and cover up (just in case my bag is checked and lost)
  • pair of flip-flops

I packed the following in my suitcase:

  • tank dress to be dressed up or down
  • grey pants
  • slip on shoes
  • 4 tank tops
  • 2 pair of leggings
  • sweater
  • 3 tops
  • underwear
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 3 bras
  • 1 pair pajamas
  • gallon zip lock with sandwich, quart, & gallon zip lock bags

6 Carry On Packing Tips

  1. Make a packing list: Obvious right? No! People don’t and then over pack last-minute or forget things. Starting with a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you have all of the important items.
  2. Choose a color palate: Pick a base neutral, such as brown, black, or grey. Then, pick a couple of colors (2 or 3 KEEP IT SIMPLE) that complement one another and mix them in for a simple but put together look. carry on packing tips
  3. Bring LESS than you think you need: For the list above – I over packed! I had extra leggings & tank tops in case of a spill or rip but I never needed them. Too often people pack things they might wear. While everyone likes to have options, there are plenty of ways to mix-and-match so it doesn’t look like you’re wearing the same thing.
  4. Wash clothes: If you get a change to do a load of laundry – do it! Many hotels, Airbnbs, VRBOs, and even some hostels all have washers and dryers – use them! Best time is early morning while people are getting ready for the day/checking out.
  5. Use packing cubes: I LOVE packing cubes and gallon zip lock bags for clothes, shoes, and accessories. These are my favorites, eBags, but they can be a little pricey. I got these for my roommate last year as a travel gift, Shacke Pack, and they were great quality. I would buy them again. carry on packing tips
  6. Assume your bag WILL be gate checked: Don’t be surprised if your roller bag gets checked at the gate. If that happens – be prepared. Make sure passports, pricey items, and medicine, are easily accessible to move them into your personal bag. Have a luggage tag on your carry-on. Gate-checked bags are mishandled just as checked bags are, and you’ll want the airline to have your info just in case.

I can travel for up to 8 days without doing laundry in just a carry – and so can you!

What advice would you add? Leave your best carry on packing tips in the comments below.