Ultimate Packing Tips for Carry On Luggage

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Christine Kaaloa

Packing tips for carryon luggage, packing tips for hand luggage, carry on tips
Packing tips for carryon luggage

Packing Tips for Carry On Luggage.


How often do you pack for a vacation and then realize you never used half of what you packed?  It happens to all of us.

Being a female solo traveler who is jet set for an adventure, I have to be a minimalist traveler. I pack carry-on luggage and it is my only luggage aside from my daypack of camera and tech gear.

If you watched my last video on Why I broke up with my Backpack over  Carry On Luggage, this is part two.

This post contains affiliate links. I have travel insurance on all my trips (get a quote). If you want to find an insurance plan based on your needs & budget, use this trip  insurance finder tool . Read my guide on trip insurance options for U.S. Travelers.

Ultimate Packing Tips for Carry-On Luggage

Getting through Airport Security

1. Get a versatile hand luggage

Versatile hand luggage makes a difference in the confidence and joy you will feel traveling minimally. It will feel like your best travel buddy.

I’ve traveled with my Eagle Creek Doubleback22 (read my review here) for over five years now and it terrified me to think of ever replacing it. Eventually, Eagle Creek discontinued my model (whhhhhhy…?) so I got a Hynes Eagle convertible carry-on for under $100! I love it. It transforms from rolling luggage, to a hand carry, and backpack and it fits in the tightest of places. It downsizes my packing a lot but is quite expandable, so I can overpack and throw it in baggage on my way home.

Note: Eagle Creek’s new wheeled backpacks are the Eagle Creek Expanse 21″ and Load Warrior 22. Highly recommended.

Check out my Ultimate guide to Convertible wheeled backpacks

Wheeled backpack carryon
Hynes Eagle 42L Rolling Backpack Wheeled Backpack Flight Approved

2. Know your liquid limit with travel-sized bottles

3.4 ounces (100 ml) bottles of liquid are safe clearance for the airport security checkpoint. I carry them in a quart-sized ziplock or plastic see-through toiletries bag.

You can pack liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag if it can fit in that quart-sized bag. If I have a favorite product, like Korean CC cream or facial moisturizer or Stila CC  Correcting Creamir?source=bk&t=grrrltraveler 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=87caace8f3d6b1482dfe1e6a3514ec48& cb=1484196656767 , I just squirt it into a  travel-sized bottle the size of a contact lens container. It usually lasts me anywhere from 1-3 months. Then I’ll put them in  plastic travel containersir?source=bk&t=grrrltraveler 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=fdd4255a6c8497143e1fa3e2e3801787& cb=1467981153725 that fit regulation.

3. Dry toiletries

As I am not checking luggage, I have to watch my liquid count. Look for dry replacements of liquid products. Dry shampoo, a soap bar, facial cleansing tissues and baby wipes are all travel hacks to substitute for a product.

Ethique shampoo bars are a vegetarian, zero waste, eco-friendly bars (and they’re great for dandruff!). Some camping folks I know swear by laundry soap sheets.

4. Buy toiletries when you arrive

If I take liquid items, I bring used up travel-sized versions. As I like shopping local skincare and beauty products, I know I will likely want to try them and this is the perfect excuse to do so! Shop a local product and discard your old one along the way.

Read In-flight Essentials for Long Flights

5. Check luggage weight

For some, it’s just best to use scales. While I’ve used the size of carry-on luggage to keep my luggage weight under control, these days airlines are much more concerned with measuring scales. If you’re trying to avoid checked luggage fees starting at $25 (first bag, usually around 50 lb allowance), you may try to downsize to carry-on luggage.

For those who try to go the route of carry on luggage (this is me), you’ll notice super budget carriers can draw you in with low fares, but cabin luggage restrictions are as low as 7kg (15 lbs). That’s the equivalent of a daypack.

Check here for an airline chart of baggage fees as there are varying rates.

6. Wear your heavy and bulky items

In order to keep my luggage light, I try to wear my heaviest and bulkiest clothes when I fly.

If I am packing for a winter trip, it is likely my luggage will be filled with bulky items like sweaters, pants, walking shoes and winter boots. To reduce bulk, I wear my parka coat rather than packing it. I also wear my comfy Nike Revolution jogging shoes or BearPaw water-resistant boots and pack my sandals or flip flops in my daypack for in-flight comfort.

Read : Packing list for Winter Vacations  |  Packing list for Summer Vacations

Ugg Australia Winter boot, best winter boots
Bear Paw Water Resistant Shoes

Check out my travel gear essentials

7. Know your banned items per country/airlines carrier

Travel isn’t as easy as it used to be. It’s actually getting trickier, so travelers have to be on top of regulations or risk forfeiting their prized belongings, either at security checkpoints or at the gate.

Electronic bans aren’t common but they can happen depending upon the destination.  With the entrance of the coronavirus, this may change too:

Laptops- Traveling from any middle eastern country into the U.S., laptops are banned from the cabin. Some airlines might have you check your laptop while others, like Turkish Airlines, will have you place it in a plastic ziplock to keep it from being used in-flight.

 Lithium batteries and batteries-  You cannot pack lithium or portable charging batteries in luggage. Instead, you must carry them in your hand luggage so they must go through TSA.  Chinese checkpoint security is strict about lithium batteries and portable batteries which charge devices. If you carry one through security, it must have a visible mAH printed on it,  so security can see what voltage it is and that it is an external battery.  If it is not visible, they will confiscate it. I just lost my favorite lipstick charger due to the fact the back was heavily worn from all my use.

Mobile phones- Chinese carriers-  like China Eastern Airlines– flying to China have a ban against mobile phone usage.


Tips for Minimalist Carry-on luggage

8. The 1/3 Downsize Rule

Whatever you think you need for your trip,  in reality you probably just need 1/3 of it.  So pick the essentials. Despite how long I’m traveling for, I make it a point to leave 1/3 of my bag empty or full of expendables that I will use up before leaving the destiantion. Thus, my bag is 1/3 clothes, 1/3 travel gear (electronics, travel gear, toiletries and meds) and 1/3 open for souvenirs, snacks, etc…

9. Dress in Layers

Layering allows you to change on the go and adjust your warmth accordingly.  Scarves, legwarmers , a spandex tank top, long sleeve shirt and light jacket are just a few of my favorite in-flight layering items. You can remove them when you get hot or put them on when you get cold. Best of all, you don’t need a changing room.

I go everywhere with my  green pashmina scarf. The size is around 78×28 inches so it’s pretty big and keeps me warm. I can transform it into a shawl, scarf, towel, blanket, etc..

I love “ballet” leg warmers  They’re light-weight, thigh-high, soft and cozy, and they keep my legs warm and its mobility free.

pashmina scarf, top travel beauty products
Large Soft Pashmina Scarf

10. Convertible clothing

I am a firm believer that you can carry less without sacrificing options to choose from.  I am a fan of clothing which multi-task. I look for items with a two-in-one usability.  I love wrinkle-free dresses which change into skirts and pants that change into knickers or shorts. Leggings match with a lot and can be used as pajamas as well.

NorthFace convertible pants ir?source=bk&t=grrrltraveler 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=d9f2d5011dc2eaca8684c6efc2163761& cb=1484196468176 are not  cheap, but all you need is one and it’ll last  you years and eternal trips. They’re especially good for rugged outdoor activites like hiking, caving, trekking. But the zip-off legs makes it ideal for hot days when you want to strip down to shorts and can’t find a public changing room. They’re good, durable and transforming.

northface convertible pants, best travel pants, best convertible travel pants, top travel gear, best travel gear for 2015
Best convertible travel pants

Read 5 Fashion Items that will Trim your Travel Wardrobe.  

11. Roll clothes tightly

Rolling up your clothes is actually a technique of packing used by the U.S. army.   It’s the best way to get your clothes downsized and compressed.   More on this~ check out spacesaver bags and packing cubes below.

12. Use odd pockets of space

There’s always odd pockets of space, either in your luggage, shoes, a water bottle, etc… I try to make use of it, by stuffing socks, underwear  into it. If there’s a hole with a space in it, something is going into it.

13. Take a package travel tote

I always take a packable travel tote or Travelon packable backpack for those “just in case” moments when I need a last minute in-flight bag or I go a bit overboard with souvenir shopping. On rare occasions when I’ve had to downsize on trips, I’ve used them to split my luggage into an overnight bag.  When you don’t need it, just pack it away!

Essential tools for Minimalist packing

I love being able to share travel gear and items that I’m using in the moment and then some!  Keep your eye on my upcoming post, where I’ll share reasons why I love these products and why I know you will too!

13. Space Saving bags

I love using Space Saver bags to keep my clothes compressed in my tiny carry-on.  It’s like a large ziploc where you can squeeze the air out so that it flattens.  Space Saver bags helps decompress bulky items like winter jackets and thick sweaters. It also protects your clothes from funky airplane smells or from leaking toiletries.

14. Packing  Cubes

When I discovered packing cubes, it was game over.  I love my Eagle Creek packing cubes.

Ebags also offers inexpensive version with additional sizes like this one. Both brands offer durable travel solutions. Packing cubes not only compress clothes into a neat space but they can also help you organize your clothes and separate dirty from clean. The tiny cube stores my undies, swimwear and socks. The medium one is for my shirts and blouses and the largest cube holds my pants. Packing cubes helps me organize my clothing articles a little better;

travel accessories, electronics for travel, travel gadgets
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes 3set


What are your packing tips for carry on luggage?  

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