The Carry-On Guide: The Prep

Part 1 of The Carry-On Guide showing you all the pre-packing tips to packing carry-on only.We’re creeping ever closer to that time for traveling. And that means that it’s time to find ways to shave off unnecessary baggage fees. If you’re anything like me and my family, you travel on the cheapest airlines possible which means that there are a crap ton of baggage related fees. Or, you just don’t like dealing with baggage claim and the subsequent carrying of suitcases. Regardless of where you fall, packing carry-on is the best solution to a ton of your problems. So this post is part 1 of my guide to packing carry-on only where I’m going to give you my pre-packing tips.


Determine the Length of Your Trip

One of the most important things you can do when you’re starting to pack carry-on only is how long you’ll have to live out of you backpack. It’s also going to change what type of carry-on you take with you.

For a week, you can opt for a smaller carry-on whereas for a longer trip you’ll probably opt for the maximum size that your airline will allow.

Figure Out Restrictions

Every airline has their own set of restrictions on what size and weight your carry-on can be. You’ll want to know what that is.

For Delta, you get a single free carry on and a personal item. The largest the carry-on can be is 56 x 36 x 23 cm (22 x 14 x 9 in) including handles and wheels. However, on Frontier and Spirit you get only one free personal item that can’t be larger than 45 x 35 x 20 cm (18 x 14 x 8 in). Carry-on luggage with a maximum size of 56 x 46 x 25 cm (22 x 18 x10 in) have fees associated with them.

Do your research, it’ll suck to get there and realize that you have “surprise” fees or that you have to check a bag. Trust me, it’s possible to fit a 2 weeks-worth of clothes into those tiny Frontier and Spirit personal items, you just need to know beforehand.

Pick Out Your Luggage

Now for the fun part. Pick out what type of carry on you want to take with you. I’ll be making an entire post about this next week.

Make sure whatever you choose that it fits within the restrictions of the airline. You also have to decide between a myriad of style choices – backpack, duffel bag, or rolling suitcase – amongst other things. You have options, find the one that works best for you.

Check the Weather

I don’t want to tell you how bad the people in my family are at doing this. There have been many a trip where I’ve mentioned that there’s going to be rain and they haven’t packed for it at all. It’s a little frustrating and always a little sad.

Regardless, check the weather before you start packing. I’m a little obsessed with doing this so I’ll check the weather literally the entire week before the trip and make minor adjustments to my packing list. Of course you don’t have to do that but I do highly recommend checking the weather at least a few days before you leave so that you have everything you might need.

Create a Packing List

There are a million and one thing to remember to bring for a trip. Make your life really easy by making a list. I would break it down into two categories: pack before the trip or pack the day of the trip.

For my “Pre-Pack” List I include:

  • Passport valid for 6 months before the end of your trip
  • Copies of Vital Documents – passport, ID, credit/debit cards
  • Cash
  • Liquids Ziploc
    • Contact Solution
    • Face Wash and Lotion
    • Mini Toothpaste
    • Lotion
    • Medications
  • Bar Soap (I have extremely sensitive skin)
  • Mini Deodorant
  • Adapters – if you’re traveling outside of the country
  • Clothes
    • Underwear
    • Socks (if you need them)
    • Shirts
    • Bottoms
  • 2 Books

For my “Day of” list, I include:

  • Laptop
  • Laptop Charger
  • Phone Charger
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Headphones
  • Wipes
  • Retainers

These lists are going to be a little different for every person, depending on what you need for your trip. I don’t wear makeup so it’s not on my list but you should include it if you do. Or you might not need to carry specific lotion or deodorant because your skin isn’t as sensitive as mine. Tailor your list to your needs and your trips.

Pick Your Flying Outfits

When you’re packing carry-on only, you need every little bit of space you can get and you’re travel outfit should reflect that.

Your outfit should consist of the one that’s going to take the most amount of space in your carry-on. That means you should wear your heaviest or largest pair of shoes, your largest jacket, and the thickest pair of pants you’re going to take.

At least with the jacket you can take it off and wrap it around your waist as you’re strolling (or madly running) through the airport. While it’s saving you space in your luggage, it can also be used as a blanket when you’re on the plane. And it can double up as extra storage space. I put my retainers, headphones, phone, charger, and occasionally a book into the pockets. I highly recommend that everyone invest in a jacket with interior pockets and fleece lining like this one.

So those are all of my pre-packing tips. Although the pre-packing part is usually pretty boring, following these tips is bound to cut down on the time you’re going to spend actually packing.

What are some of your pre-packing tips? Do you have a favorite packing outfit?