Sadly, airline delays seem to be an expected part of travel these days. A friend of mine and her son set off on a 3-week trip that required them to pack for two different seasons. The bad news? Their plane was delayed by 12 hours and all the passengers had to wait in the airport with no access to their checked luggage. The good news? My friend and her son had packed for this big trip in carry-on bags, so they sailed off the plane knowing they had everything they needed with them!
Yes, it’s possible to pack only in carry-on bags, even for long trips.
My family and I always travel only with carry-on bags. I once packed our family of four in two carry-on bags for a 2-month stay in Italy.
With just a carry-on bag:
“But how can I possibly pack everything in a carry-on bag when I need wardrobe options and my 5-part skincare regimen?” you ask. Answer: you can’t.
Being organized and streamlined for travel involves making choices and trade offs. You’re trading maximum clothing flexibility and creature comforts for ease and freedom.
So just how big a bag can I carry on?
Unfortunately, there’s no standard, but according to TravelingLight.com, if your bag is 22" x 14" x 9" or smaller, you should be good to carry it on U.S. flights. To check a specific airline’s rules, use Travel Made Simple’s handy chart.
The best bag is a rolling hard-shell suitcase. They are super-durable, protective, lightweight (Some airlines, especially international, have carry-on weight limits.), and easy to slide into the overhead compartment. Plus, you can really stuff them full and still get them to zip closed. Four full-swivel wheels are a must!
In addition to your carry-on suitcase, you are allowed a personal bag. Make it count! Don’t take your usual small, everyday purse. Instead use a tote (preferably with zippers, pockets, and sections) or a backpack and slip your smaller purse into it.
3 rules for efficient packing
Rule #1: Don’t be a fashionista.
Unless you are a celebrity or a socialite being photographed by the paparazzi, you don’t need to travel with an extensive wardrobe. Trust me, no one will notice you wearing the same thing two, three, or even four times.
To satisfy your need for clothing options, select a mix and match wardrobe. Limit colors and patterns and make sure each piece can be worn with at least two other pieces. Items that create layers — jackets, cardigans, scarves — will make your outfit combinations look different.
Lay your clothes out on your bed and then take away items until you have pared down as much as possible. Do you really need two pairs of jeans when they are bulky and take up so much space? Can you get away with one jacket?
Choose tried-and-true favorites that are sure to look good and make you feel comfortable. Choose lightweight over bulky and choose wrinkle-free knits over woven fabrics.
If your travel plans include a dressy event, do as a savvy client of mine does and rent dress clothes from Rent the Runway or a local shop when you arrive.
Shoes take up a lot of space. Limit yourself to two (or at most three) pairs and wear the larger, heavier pair onto the plane.
Rule #2: Roll & stuff your clothes.
To maximize every square inch of your suitcase, fold your clothes in half or thirds lengthwise so they form long rectangles, then roll them up tightly and stack them into the bag like little logs. This prevents big wrinkles and allows you to fit clothes close together.
Start packing the suitcase by putting shoes at the bottom (the wheel end), stuffing socks into the toes. Next add jeans, pants, jackets, and other heavier clothing items. At the top of the suitcase, place lighter clothing such as tops and bras, stuffing undies into the cups of the bras so they don’t get squished out of shape.
If you need a bathing suit, pack it in a ziplock bag with the air squeezed out. This way, you’ll have a bag ready in case you need to re-pack a wet bathing suit.
Plan to wear your bulkiest clothes (i.e. jeans and a jacket) onto the plane to create a little more space in your suitcase.
Rule #3: Minimize toiletries.
Maybe in your everyday life you need special shampoo, hair styling tools, and a full face of makeup. This isn’t your everyday life. You want to get out there and enjoy your trip, not spend hours in front of the mirror.
Strip your skincare and makeup routine to the bare bones.
You won’t turn into the Crypt Keeper in just a couple of weeks, so leave the anti-aging products at home and just go with a basic moisturizer. Use facial wipes instead of cleanser plus makeup remover.
Keep makeup simple by packing combined products such as a tinted moisturizer with SPF and multi-tasking makeup like that by my fave Alleyoop (Their 4-in-1 brush is a wonder!).
Do you really need to bring your own shampoo, conditioner, and body wash? Most hotels supply decent products. If you must bring your own, try an all-over shampoo and body product or a bar shampoo to cut down on how many liquids you bring through security.
Finally, remember that unless you’re headed to a remote part of the globe, you’re likely to be close to shops that sell any necessities that you forget. Say hello to light and easy worry-free travel!
What's your worst travel story? I have some doozies including 2-day airline delays and baby projectile vomiting. Yikes! Share yours in the comments.