Planning how to pack a carry on bag doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Fitting everything into your carry on bag is the first step to a stress free flying experience. This packing choice is often a source of the most anxiety, as carry on bag regulations varies so much per airline. Of course, with the right research and preparation, you do not have to worry about using a carry on. If you do this, you can even only take a carry on with you on your next flight. Avoid extra checked bag fees and waiting for your bag, and simply travel with a carry on. 

Packing a carry on bag also requires some serious skill when it comes to space conservation. The smaller dimensions means that you occasionally need to think “outside the box” when it comes to packing everything you need. Sometimes just a couple changes in your packing technique helps get everything to fit smoothly. We have some helpful tips to guide you in this process so it is not a stressful one. Hopefully these pro steps ensure that you know how to pack your carry on the most effectively. 

This Is How to Pack a Carry On Bag Effectively

Plan Ahead

How many days is your trip? What is the weather like? Do you really need that third pair of heels? These are all questions to ask yourself as you compile your carry on bag list. Once you have an idea of what your trip will be like, you can plan your list accordingly. Thinking ahead ensures that you don’t bring anything that you do not need.

Be Resourceful

how to pack a carry on - Be Resourceful

You know that joke about people bringing 73 outfits on a three day vacation? Well it’s real. Of course you don’t have to be that person, and you especially can’t if you want to use a carry on. By making a few small changes to your packing regimen, you can save precious space. Keep your outfits neutral colors, so you can mix and match accordingly. You can even skip packing the pajamas and just purchase an extra large t-shirt once you reach your destination. Plan to wear your bulkiest clothing and shoes onto the plane to avoid taking up unnecessary room.

Pack Smarter, Not Harder

Packing a carry on can often feel like a game of Tetris. If you let one piece go into the wrong place, it all falls apart. But the general concept of the game is certainly relevant. Before you start packing, lay out everything you plan to include in the bag. Make sure that the clothing is rolled up to its smallest size. This helps keep your clothes wrinkle free, and saves space. Then pack your largest items first, nearest to the corners of the bag, or in the middle. By doing this, you make sure there is room for the biggest pieces. After this, fit the smaller items around them. If you have extra things that don’t fit, you can just store them in your personal item, or maybe not bring them at all.

Don’t Forget The Liquids

Before you go packing your full size hairspray and shampoo into your carry on, think again. Carry on bags have many more restrictions on their contents than do checked bags. Liquids need to fit into a travel size 3.4 ounce container in order to qualify for carry on storage. Fortunately, you can easily visit a Walmart or a Target to snag some travel size versions of your favorite hygiene products. It is also a good idea to store all of your liquids in a plastic zippered bag. You need to separate these from your bag when going through the TSA check point, so this makes life much easier.

When in Doubt, Double Check

how to pack a carry on - Double Check

While planning how to pack your carry on bag, be sure to investigate your airline’s specific restrictions. If you are not sure about what size or weight your carry on can be, it is always a good idea to double check. Being extra prepared with this helps to ensure that you will not have to pay extra fees. This also aids in preventing having to gate check your intended carry on bag. Most airlines enforce the 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches size rule for carry on bags.

Airports have a section where you can check the size of your bag, but it is better to do this before you even get to the airport. Sometimes airlines even weigh carry on bags. Of course with this possibility, it is even more important to research the airline’s policies ahead of time. The good news is, when you purchase a bag intentionally purposed to be a carry on, it is likely the right size you need.

What About Personal Items?

Sometimes people do not realize that they can also bring a personal item with them onto the plane. Of course, personal items are free of charge, and count as a purse or a small backpack. As long as you can fit it easily under the seat in front of you, it should not be a problem. Personal items are a helpful way to bring a few extra things along with you on your travels. Consider keeping the essentials inside your personal item, just as a helpful tip. If the minimal lifestyle appeals to you, I challenge you to pack everything you need into just a personal item. Personally, I have fit everything I need for a four day trip into my personal item (a small backpack) and got away with not paying for a carry on bag. That budget airline life.

Now You Know How to Pack a Carry On Bag

Packing a carry on bag doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you remember these few tips we listed, packing your carry on will be a breeze. As you become an air travel pro, using only a carry on makes life much easier. No longer do you have to wait around at the luggage carousel for up to an hour after your flight. Now you can just roll your bag off the plane and go. Roll your carry on confidently onto the plane on your next flight without worrying if it will fit, or if you forgot something.

Related Article: Best Lightweight Carry On Luggage (Plus How To Make The Best Choice)