The Carry-On Guide: The Packing

This post is a week late and I’m so sorry. But I didn’t like the way I had written it so I scrapped it. Regardless, this is the third and final installment of The Carry-On Guide. Check out The Prep (part 1) and The Luggage (part 2) to get some more useful tips to packing carry-on only. In this post, I’m going to give you the best tips on how to fit all your stuff in your carry-on.

 

1// Get all You Stuff Together

That list you made back in part 1 with all the stuff you want to take with you, use that. Yes, that includes your laptop and your million and one chargers. And the outfit that you’re wearing on the plane. This is also the perfect time to check if that shirt you think you want to bring with you actually fits or if that skirt that you think might be really cute actually is.

While you’re doing this, you should make edits your list. Anything that gets added to the pile of stuff, should get added to the list. This is simply for the sake of checking stuff off when you’re putting them in your carry-on.

2// Figure Out Your Liquids

Remember the 3-1-1 rule for your liquids. You are limited to 3.4 oz. bottles that can fit in a single 1 quart bag per 1 person.

If you wear makeup, grab sample of sizes of your regular go-to products. If you can’t find any of those, there are a million and one 3.4 oz. bottles that you can pick up. I like ‘em cheap from Walmart, these have an assortment of lid types.

Or you can try and find pressed or powdered versions to your favorite makeup. If you do go this route, make sure to put a cotton pad on top of your makeup before closing the lid to keep it from shattering.

3// Pick your Packing Method

Now to the best part – actually packing your stuff. I highly recommend using a mix of these methods when packing carry-on, simply for the sake of maximizing space.

Roll-Up Method

This is probably the most frequently used method currently. I’m a personal fan of this especially with my jeans and cotton t-shirts. Some people argue that this method keeps clothes wrinkle-free but this is debatable.

Stuff your rolls side-by-side and use them as a buffer for your laptop – if you’re using a bag without a padded laptop compartment. Or you can stand them upright and probably get even more space to pack other stuff. I haven’t personally used option 2 but I kinda want to try it for my next trip.

If you’ve wondered whether this method is an actual space-saver, I can attest to the fact that they do. And, more importantly, it makes it easier to get my clothes out of my bag during my trip.

Folding Method

I frequently use this method with my larger sweaters and leggings – things that aren’t distinctive enough to really matter when I’m getting dressed in the morning or with things that are puffy.

This isn’t a great space-saving method but it gets the job done if you’re not packing a lot of stuff.

Layering Method

I have honestly never heard of this method before a couple weeks ago. Regardless, it seems like a method that works best with suitcase type carry-ons.

To use this method, place about half a pair of pants in the suitcase with the other half hanging outside of the and do the same thing with another pair of pants on the other side. You keep doing this with the rest of your clothes and then fold everything outside of the suitcase in on itself. Honestly, it’s a little confusing but this video and this one show it clearly.

Not going to lie, I don’t think this particular method is very efficient for short term trips. It might be better for trips where you’re going to be in one place for several weeks and plan on unpacking your stuff when you get there.

Nesting Doll Method

This one is especially great for socks and underwear. Shove a couple pairs of underwear in grocery store plastic bags and put them in your shoes, the corners of your bag, or the tiny unused zippered pockets. Or you can shove them in jacket pockets and even your personal bag if you’re allowed a carry-on and a personal item.

Packing Cube Method

This is one method that I haven’t used yet. But I’ll try it once I actually buy some packing cubes.

Packing cubes can seriously compress your clothes to fit into smaller spaces thus giving you more room for gifts on the return trip. And, according to my limited research, they are really great and keeping your clothes wrinkle-free. Brooke over at Her Packing List, wrote an awesome post all about packing cubes. I highly recommend checking it out.

The best way to pack with packing cubes is roll your clothes before putting them in the cube. Then either use the cubes as a base for other stuff or stack them to get them out of the way.

4// Get to Packing

Now that you’ve picked your preferred method, actually start packing. As you do this, check off the things in your list so you’re 100% sure that everything has found their way into your carry-on. It really sucks when you get to your destination and realize you haven’t packed any of your shirts (literally my mom two summers ago).

You should pack everything except the outfit your planning on wearing in the plane. You don’t want to have to repack because your chargers don’t fit in your bag. Or because that book you’ve been dying to read is just a smidge to large.

It might take a little time to get everything right but trust me you’ll be glad it’s done a few days in advance instead of having to do it the morning of. Once you’re done, you can take out those important day to day items but make sure to put them in the night before you flight.

5// Stuff Your Pockets and Your Hands

I have, on many occasions, been able to get a few more essential items through security because I’ve been holding them in my hands or in my jacket pocket.

Prime example: any time I’m going on an international trip and I’m carry 4 or more books. Books take up a lot of space in a small carry-on and most people advise leaving them at home. Not this girl. Hold a book in each hand and no one’s going to say anything to you.

The same principle can apply if you have a makeup bag that can fit in a jacket pocket. As long as it doesn’t have any liquids. Basically, anything small enough to be held comfortably in your hands will work.


That’s it. Those are my biggest tips to packing carry-on only. It is possible to pack for an entire trip in a single carry-on without leaving anything behind.

So tell me, what packing method do you use? Do you have any other packing tips?