How To Pack Your Life Into a Carry-on

There are many advantages to bringing just one carry-on bag while traveling: no ridiculous baggage fees, no waiting at baggage claim, no risk of losing your luggage… Really, the perks are endless.

But packing everything you need for a long trip overseas can be a daunting task, especially if you’re headed somewhere with extreme weather, or will be away for an extended period of time.

Never fear! Packing your life into a carry-on is possible for even the most fashion obsessed if you follow the simple tips below.

The bag

For your travel bag, be sure that it is lightweight but sturdy – no rips or tears here – and fits your airline’s carry-on bag dimensions. While you may want to max out the size requirements, remember that the lighter your bag, the easier it is to carry, and the less likely you are to be recognized as a tourist.

Keep it simple

When deciding what to take with you, be sure to keep it as simple as possible. Pack clothing items that can be worn a few times in a few different ways. For example, a pair of shorts that are perfect for a long day of trekking around a new city but can be dressed up with a nice top and a blazer for evening wear. Consider your destination, and be sure that all of your items are culturally and environmentally appropriate. Hot weather calls for light, breezy fabrics, while cold weather calls for warmer and sturdier options. Remember, you can usually do laundry anywhere in the world, so don’t overdo it.

Keep your accessories simple as well. Make sure all of your outfits coordinate with a pair of black shoes (or brown… you get the idea) and that your belts and jewelry match. This way, you dramatically cut down on all the little extras that can take up a surprising amount of space.

Finally, if you’re going somewhere that has plenty of modern conveniences, such as South East Asia or Europe, consider purchasing toiletries at your destination, rather than packing them.

Roll your clothes

If you already practice this brilliant space-saving technique, feel free to skip this section. If you do not, trust us, you’ve been doing it wrong your entire life. Rolling your clothes, rather than fold and stack them, will save you an absurd amount of space and truly revolutionize your packing potential.

Organize, organize, organize

Packing cubes are a brilliant way to organize your clothing, toiletries, and really anything that can fit in your bag. They allow you to reach for exactly what you need without disrupting all of your other items, which is perfect for travelers who will constantly be on the move. If packing cubes aren’t your style, consider bags and pouches that allow you to organize your toiletries, jewelry, or other accessories.


This is particularly important if you will be traveling somewhere that requires poofy jackets or bulky winter clothes. In this case, air compression bags are you friends, and will allow you a bigger bang for your buck than you ever thought possible.

Similarly, downsize on toiletries and liquids as well. The TSA still requires that all liquids fit into quart sized ziploc back, so travel sized items of your favorite products are your friends. As we mentioned earlier, you may be able to purchase some toiletries at your destination, but be aware that some products may not be available – or will be very expensive.


We cannot stress enough how important it is to be aware of your own needs in the context of your destination. If you will be traveling internationally, invest in a universal adaptor (so you don’t have to bring five different ones, only to realize you forgot the one you actually need), and keep your electronic needs as minimal as you can. Be sure your shoes and outerwear are appropriate for your plans and your surroundings, and be honest with yourself about what you will truly need.