So you've decided to take the plunge and go carry-on only. Your first thought is probably "how the hell am I going to cram everything I need into a 45 linear inch bag?" Before panic mode ensues, take a deep breath and think of the $50 bucks you're probably saving (not to mention the time waiting around to check the bag and pick it up from baggage claim). Now think of what else you could buy with that $50...makeup, a new handbag, food, drinks...you get the idea. That should put your mind at ease a bit.
Trust me, with my recent trip for work I was very nervous about surviving with just a carry-on size bag. If you look up over-packing in the dictionary, my picture would be right there. I managed to make it work, though, and wanted to share my tips and tricks for all of the other serial over-packers out there.
Make a list
(and check it twice) of everything you
to bring, from clothes to toiletries to electronics and other miscellaneous things. This way, when the time comes to actually pack your bag, you can mark things off and not have to worry about accidentally forgetting something. For toiletries and makeup especially, I mentally walk myself through my morning and night routine and write down each and every product I use. Then, a day or two before the trip, as I use these products, I keep them out and to the side so that when the time comes to pack, everything is right there.
Pack exactly what you need first and foremost
, then see if you have room for extras. So, if you need four days worth of outfits, plan out just that many outfits and not a single extra shirt. If you still have some room left after everything is packed, you can throw in some "just in case" items. Speaking from experience, I know that it may be hard to not give yourself options, but if you take the time to do this a few days before your trip you should be perfectly happy with the clothing you've chosen.
Roll your clothes
rather than fold them. Not only does this conserve space, but it also keeps clothes from getting as wrinkly.
Use a tote bag as your second "personal item"
and bring a small purse that will fit inside that, plus other things. I like to keep my liquids in this bag to have them handy at security, plus electronics and anything else I want at my feet rather than in the overhead bins. We all know how much of a pain those are to get to, especially if you've got a window seat. You could also stuff an extra shirt or pair of pants in this bag if it won't fit in your main bag.
Save up any travel size products
you get your hands on through the year, so that you can have your favorite things in the appropriate sized containers. I like to store mine in a plastic tote under my sink so that I can easily sort through it went the time comes for a trip. Remember, the TSA requires liquids be 3.4 ounces or less and fit in a quart size zip-lock bag, so you have to get crafty to be able to bring everything you need. Target also sells empty TSA-compliant containers that you can use.
Take advantage of hotel amenities
provided in your room, such as lotion, shampoo, and body wash. This can help cut down on the amount of liquids you bring with you, meaning more space for other things. And by the same token,
buy liquids that you need more of when you get to your destination
. I think sunscreen would be a big one for this, because chances are a small little tube of that will not be nearly enough anyway.
Always keep a luggage tag on your carry-on bag
, because you never know if it may end up being checked at the gate or even checked through to your destination once you get inside and through security. I had this happen on my recent trip, because the plane was small and could only accommodate a certain number of roller bags versus 3 times as many passengers. So yeah, there's that. But hey, I got to check my bag for free and since it was the return trip I didn't really mind. Plus, it was nice not having to lug that thing around. I did, however, keep my tote bag with me and that had everything I needed when I was waiting for my connecting flight.
I have to mention, I really wanted the title of this to be "The High Maintenance Girl's Guide to Surviving with Just a Carry-on" but I decided on something a little less stereotypical. While I'm not afraid to embrace my high maintenance tendencies, I know everyone might not be so open and honest about it. No matter how long you take to get ready or how much crap you lug around with you, I hope my ideas will help make your next trip a little bit less stressful.
What are some of your tips for traveling efficiently with just a carry-on?