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These Are The Best Tips For Packing A Carry On Bag

packing a suitcase

According to Living On The Cheap, more and more airlines are “unbundling” their services so they can offer lower base fares. While this can be a good thing in some cases, it also means that hidden fees and fees for checked baggage are now more common than ever!

Because of this, many people are now opting to pack a carry on bag for both domestic and international flights. If you’re considering making the switch, today’s post is packed with tips that will help you out!

We’ll start by discussing the benefits of this practice, then I’ll share three different methods for how to pack a carry on bag. Finally, I’ll round out today’s post by sharing thirteen quick tips for packing your carry on like a true professional! :-)

packing a suitcase

4 Benefits To Packing A Carry On Bag

1. Save Money

Most airlines still allow carry on bags without charging extra fees. Fees for checked bags can cost you between $25-100, so packing light in a carry on can be an easy way to save yourself money!

2. Save Time

Waiting for your bag at the baggage carousel can take forever! If you pack a carry on, you can breeze right past the carousel crowds and be on your way.

packing a suitcase

3. Less Stress

Anyone who has had an airline lose or misplace their bags can tell you what a stressful ordeal it is! But packing a carry on allows you to keep your stuff with you on the plane, eliminating the chances that it will get lost along the way.

4. Convenience

In addition to providing some much needed peace of mind, keeping your stuff with you is also convenient! If you want to touch up your makeup or grab a sweater during your flight, you’ll have easy access to all your stuff.

How To Pack A Carry On – 3 Useful Methods

packing a suitcase

Method #1 – Fold & Layer

This is probably the simplest method, and also particularly useful if you’re bringing a lot of clothes that are prone to wrinkling. All you do is fold your clothes so that they lie flat in your carry on, then layer them on top of each other.

The key is to try to match the shape and size of the inside of your carry on when you fold your clothes. That way, the clothes will lie flat in your suitcase with fewer folds, and that means less ironing when you arrive at your destination. :-)

packing a suitcase

Method #2 – Roll

This packing method is a favorite of backpackers, making it a good option for those who need to fit a lot of stuff in their carry on. All you do is roll each clothing item tightly, then stack the rolls neatly in your carry on.

Another benefit of the rolling method is that it allows you to see more of what you brought. This makes it much easier to choose an outfit for the day when you don’t have to rifle through your entire suitcase.

packing a suitcase

Method #3 – Packing Cubes

If you want to save space without sacrificing organization, using packing cubes is the way to go! Group your clothes together in whatever way makes sense to you, then fold and pack the clothes into a zippered packing cube.

While you’re on your trip, everything will stay neatly contained in the cubes and be easy to find. If you know you packed your swimsuit in your medium-sized packing cube, you only have to open that one as opposed to digging through your entire suitcase.

13 More Tips For Packing A Carry On Like A Pro

packing a suitcase

1. Know The Rules

Before you even start packing a carry on bag, look up your airline’s rules and regulations for carry on baggage. The most important thing is to make sure the bag you want to bring doesn’t exceed their size requirements for a carry on bag, which can vary widely from airline to airline.

You also want to make sure that you don’t pack anything that airline doesn’t allow in carry on baggage. Rules for carry on bags can typically be found on the airline’s website.

packing a suitcase

2. Use Every Inch

Once you do start packing, make the most of every inch of space! Stuff belts, underwear, or other small items into your shoes, or into the nooks and crannies at the very bottom of your bag.

packing a suitcase

3. Pack A Blanket Scarf

A good blanket scarf is a must-have on any flight! You can wear it as a scarf as a cute accessory, or wrap it around yourself like a blanket if you get chilly. You could also use it as a pillow or a sleeping mask if you want!

packing a suitcase

4. Mix & Match

When choosing clothes to bring on your trip, pick clothes that you can mix and match into different outfits. Planning to wear a shirt or pair of pants more than once can save you a lot of space in your suitcase!

packing a suitcase

5. Don’t Overpack

When you’re packing in a carry on bag, you need to be especially careful not to overpack. Lay out everything you want to bring or think you might need on your bed, then pack just half of the items at first.

If you still have room in your bag after packing half the items, you can choose a few more of them to fill the space.

packing a suitcase

6. Pack Liquids Last

Make sure to pack your TSA-approved quart-size bag of travel-size liquids and gels last, and place it near the top of the bag. This will make it much easier to pull the bag out when you’re going through security at the airport.

packing a suitcase

7. Use Small Containers

Need just a dab of your favorite eye cream during your weekend getaway? Use a contact lens case to store small amounts of your skincare and cosmetics products!

packing a suitcase

8. Shoes In Shower Caps

Wrap a disposable shower cap over the soles of your shoes before packing them. It’s the easiest way to prevent any dirt or grime from rubbing off onto your clothes.

packing a suitcase

9. Press & Seal Jewelry

Keep your long necklaces from tangling up by sealing them up in a piece of press and seal plastic wrap. You can seal and reseal the plastic wrap a few times before it loses its stickiness, which is good enough for a quick trip.

packing a suitcase

10. Wear Your Bulkiest Shoes

If you can’t bear to leave your riding boots behind on your trip, wear them on plane instead of packing them. It will save you a lot of valuable space in your carry on bag.

packing a suitcase

11. Avoid Tangled Cords

Use some sort of cord wraps to keep your charging cord and cables organized in your bag. These cord tacos are simple to use, affordable, and keep all my cords neat and tidy!

packing a suitcase

12. Balance Your Backpack

Some people prefer backpack-style bags for their carry on luggage. When you’re packing a backpack, make sure to place the heaviest and bulkiest items near the back of the bag.

This will keep the weight closer to your back, making it more comfortable for you to wear.

packing a suitcase

13. Review & Revise

When you return from your trip, don’t forget to review your packing job! Did you forget anything important, or pack stuff that you never used or needed?

Write those notes down somewhere you won’t forget about, like in your Notes app on your phone. You can reference them next time you travel to help you pack smarter!

What’s your best tip for air travel?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • I have two suggestions. First, I travel with a rolling carry-on sized suitcase, and then my “personal item” is a medium-sized backpack. My purse and anything I might need on the flight fit in the backpack. Then, sometimes on a small plane, we are required to gate-check the suitcases. So if I have something in the suitcase I don’t want to check, I quickly take it out and put it in the backpack. Make sure you have packed that item on top in the suitcase for easy access. On a recent trip, I was taking a handmade quilt to my grandson. Sure enough, I had to gate-check my suitcase, so the quilt came out from the top layer of the suitcase and went right into the backpack. The second suggestion is to look into TSA Pre-check. If you travel a lot, this is well worth the fee for shorter security lines, AND you don’t have to remove your liquids while going through security!

  • I’ve started trying to “pack by shoes” – picking 2-3 pairs (I have small feet so my shoes don’t take up much space) of practical shoes that will be appropriate for the activities I’ll most likely be doing and choose clothes that go with them, rather than end up needing 5 pairs of shoes to go with all of my outfits. Most of my clothes go with either brown/tan or gray (or both) as a neutral shade (I don’t wear black), so I pick one color group and go with that – e.g., if I’m taking my brown mary janes, clogs and/or boots, I won’t need my gray slacks. If I take extra shoes, they will be my running shoes (although workout clothes take extra space) or heels for dress occasions.

    Otherwise, I’ve found it difficult to travel with just one small bag, for several reasons: 1)Clothes lose their shape with wearing and may get stained, and I may or may not have access to laundry facilities, 2)the weather may necessitate multiple layers and/or bulkier items, 3)I like to be prepared for the unexpected, and 4) by the end of the trip I will likely be in need of “fat” clothes. I envy those who can throw a few pieces in a suitcase and be good to go, but for me packing takes quite a bit of advance planning. I am getting better I think but I’ve often felt judged by those who don’t see why I should need so many clothes for just a week or a few days.

  • I always pack a lightweight tote that will hold my purse and other items picked up on travels. The tote replaces your purse as your smaller carryon.
    After packing I always remove several items. You really don’t need that much. I also carry laundry detergent pods or, better yet, Purex detergent impregnated sheets that have a strip of dryer softener infused as well. Toss the whole sheet in the laundry from wash through dry. You can also cut them up and use pieces for hand wash.

  • Using small travel sized bags that you can put items in and roll out the excessive air saved a great deal of space and traveling internationally it helps if your bringing something back. You will have additional room. I never check a bag and fly with a carry on and a backpack for other items for work. Most hotels offer either sending laundry out or going to the on site laundry room, at least in China. A quick load or two and ready to go home with clean clothes. After spending 19 hours on a plane it’s nice to just put things away.

  • If you pack clothing in only 1-2-3 colors, so that everything can mix and match – you save space and make it easier to know what to wear each day.

  • make a list of whats in your bag...tuck it in the bag. When returning from your trip just check your list so nothing will be left behind.Ive done this for years.

  • We blokes have a bigger problem – we’re usually biiger than you ladies, our clothes materials are usually more substntial than camisoles and our shoes aren’t flats. Consequently, in the same sized case we can’t pack as many items.
    Here’s a few tips I’ve learned…
    * treat shoes as if they were bags and stuff them with small items such as socks, belts, handkerchiefs, briefs and shaving kit. It’s a great way to keep ties wrinkle free too – if one wears them.
    * I agree with layering, however, with dress and casual shirts the necks are bulky so place them front-to-frontwith the necks opposite.
    * trousers are easy to crease when folded, sometimes twice to fit into a carry-on case. Place the waist in first with the legs extending beyond the edge of the suitcase. Now add the first layer of clothes and fold the trousers over. Add a second layer and fold the last of the troser leg on top. The ‘Z’ shape and layering means that horizontal creasing is avoided.. And if two pairs of trousers are needed start by pacing the second pair so that the trouser legs hang over the edge opposite to the first pair. Repeat the ‘Z’ fold.
    * lastly it’s not suitcase packing but a fisherman’s multi-pocketed and sleeveless gillet provides an enormous amount of capacity cameras, phones, books, keys, kids toys, wipes, snacks and all the things you want to have to hand. What’s more they don’t qualify as a bag and only need to be worn until you’re on the plane.

  • Great post, Jillee. I’ve always packed laying my clothes flat for exactly the reasons you mention. I usually lay my shoes with the soles against the sides of the suitcase so the heels are in the corner. I stuff my pantyhose/underwear/gloves into them so the shoes don’t get crushed & also to make use of the extra space. Boots can be stuffed with many small items.

  • One great item you can purchase at Wal Mart is a wet/dry bag. It is a little smaller than a legal pad and thick enough for tons of stuff and it’s very pretty in a shabby chic floral pattern (the one I got.) The outside has a zippered area that has a clear pocket in front, in back of that is the main compartment which is made of a water resistant cloth and also has the big zipper on it. It’s great to keep your wet and dry things separate. I keep my shower stuff in there among other things. If you have a wet washcloth, razor, swim suit, whatever it is can stay on the wet side and put your other things like shaving cream, lotion, and other toiletries on the dry side. It is a must in my travel bag. Frankly I have doubles of everything in small sizes and just keep them in the bag and don’t have to pack so much every time, I know that all my toiletries, make-up, shower items, hair turban, travel cords etc are always there. Also a big one for staying at people’s homes is I went to the dollar store and bought a triangular over the door clothes hanger and keep it in my outside travel bag pocket! This way with my small bottle of wrinkle release, I am all set to borrow a few hangers and use the back of the door to hang my items which is far better than grabbing them out of the bag all the time or a drawer! You can even buy collapsible hangers which is probably my next step to staying travel independent! They are small so you can bring like 5 which is what my over the door hanger holds!

  • Ok, tbh, I’m thrilled with the packing ideas, but what I REALLY want to know is …where did you find those adorable flats??? ;) I’m dying to find a cute and comfortable pair of animal print flats!

  • Great ideas. I love the one about using little plastic paint containers. I wish you had posted this a few days earlier. My mom is traveling now and would love this idea. We rarely fly anymore unless we can find a good deal. Where I live they very rarely have great round trip specials for flying to Utah to see family. I always keep my cosmetics in the car with me. We usually leave at the crack of dawn, so I’m barefaced. And we usually travel in the heat of the Summer and I’ve had stuff melt before in our trunk. I’m lucky to be able to get stuff in one suitcase. We are usually on the road for a week.

    • Hey, like in my post I highly recommend a wet/dry double zippered bag from Wal Mart. Just look in the travel beauty department. You will wonder how you ever did without one!

    • My mom and sister are the Queens of getting all their stuff in one suitcase . Unfortunately due to wacked out hormones I usually end up using 2 small suitcases for car trips. Your homemade version of the wrinkle releaser spray is lifesaver. I just fill my travel size containers from my big bottle It sure beats having to borrow an iron. I love the contact lens case idea, but it would cause big time confusion for me , because I wear contacts. You can also buy zip up size versions of the version shown. You can cram a lot of the travel size liquid containers. Be careful if your only bringing one pair of shoes. Years ago when we flew to see my brother I wore a cute pair of clogs with a heel because I needed to wear the same pair with my dressy stuff . We did a lot of sight seeing and my feet were really hurting. I had to get a Doctor note when I returned .My feet were swollen that it was painful to wear my work shoes.

  • Wearing my mom’s raincoat w/8 pockets, was a life saver when only personal size carry on was allowed,LOL! In one pocket is included a fabric purse, which I filled with purse items and “shedding” cold weather clothes upon arrival at terminal!

  • Despite the ridicule I get from our millennal sons, I still take the daily paper.
    Besides the easy access to puzzles, news, opinions, and such, (not to mention the vast amounts of scratch paper margins for article-inspired Math calcs, translations, or other musings) the protective sleeves they’re thrown in become perfectly-sized shoe bags for packing. No need to sully a more substantial garbage, grocery, or Zip-loc bag!

  • Now so many airlines charge for a carryon to fit in the overhead bins. I found a personal item size carrier on wheels that holds enough for a short trip. Be aware the window and middle seats have larger underseat spaces for your personal items. Like you I wear my heaviest clothes and sometimes layer on an extra set of clothes. A large shawl with pockets is always my travel companion.

  • I have found the best way to pack is to use the metal coat hangers you get from the cleaners and the plastic bags that cover the cleaned clothes. I will hang two (dressy) shirts in each plastic bag. Lay it in the carry-on suitcase so that the hanger portion is on the edge of the case. folder it in and then fold the shirts in half so that it fits neatly with just the one fold. I like to take all my shirts (or tops). Clip the hangers with a rubber band and fold them all together. So when you take them all out at once and hang them in your hotel closet. Wrinkle free. I do the same for pants. Suit coat would be folded same as shirts. Everything on hangers. Takes one minute to empty your suitcase. Same amount of time to pack. Wa-la!

    And, as you described, use the spaces between the suitcases’ tubing to fit my boxer shorts (rolled) socks (flat) belt (flat).

    Laptop, toiletries, electronics (extra pair of socks and undies) go in my backpack.

  • What about that space in your shoes? In baggie I place socks, underwear, bras, jewellery, etc.. Roll/fold into a small size. expel unwanted air, seal and zip close and stuff into the shoes

  • As most shoes are stiff at the heel, I use that wasted space for small jewelry inside handkerchiefs. Same thing with purses. Usually there is a bit of space that goes unused for papers, batteries, etc. Also, putting heaver items at the wheel end of the carry on will help to keep it standing up when “parked”.

  • And… wear one big shawl on the plane. Serves as a pillow, a blanket, an extra coat, a sleeping mask…
    I also noticed that I tend to ‘overpack’… but that also depends on the climate. If you make a stain on the very first day, it’s good to have some reserve.
    I nearly always take some clothes/shoes that are just not perfect anymore for me (style, size, a bit worn). I leave those on destination (where nearly always some people are rather poor and are glad to have them – once in Zimbabwe my lady-hosts made a real home fashion show with them ;-))), this gives me some space for new things and souvenirs and that bottle of local booze…
    Also I make a permanent list on PC of things to Take/Do (also summer/ winter version, even camping style version etc.) It is rather long & extensive but I can tick off what I need for that trip.
    It takes away a lot of stress about those small things I tend to forget (tweezers, a pocket knive, small purse, extra wallet for foreign change, chargers and plugs, watering the flowers…).
    And since one time the air company sent my luggage to Indonesia instead of Sri Lanka (for over a week!), I always keep some underwear in my hand luggage. You cannot hop freshly off a plane in tropical heat and buy some immediately on arrival…

  • My husband and I went on a 24 day trip to Italy in May and we each had only a carry on bag. IMO the way to go is bundle packing! Love it and no wrinkles.

  • I used to pack like this 20+ years ago before carry-on bags became popular. And like one of the other posters, I used to pack things like underwear in plastic bags and in some cases even shirts and blouses.

  • I use packing cubes and can pack for a month carry-on. I also have the rule of three pairs of shoes using the shower caps from the hotels for the bottom of my shoes. Reversible skirts are a great tip 2 reversible skirts & two tops makes 8 outfits.

  • 16) She might coincidentally show upp at places he “checks-in” to
    on Fourr Square. So if you advertise on Facebook can get
    instanjt feedback from heir advertising. Thhe real sign of social
    proof too get a Twitter and fb account is how many followers people have not how many others they are following,
    that’s why clients just want too buy Twitter followers and Fb likes without following

  • I always travel with a silk ski top…very thin..long sleeved…crew neck collar..in nude color. That way, I can put it on under any blouse or tee shirt…throw a light jacket and scarf on and feel warm. I’ve even slept in it, pulled it on on long air conditioned bus tours etc. It’s ALWAYS in my carry-on.

  • I just got back from studying abroad for four months with a suitcase, a duffle, and a backpack. One thing to add to this method is ziplock bags!! I packed socks and underwear in them and then roll out all the air– it’ll shock you how much room it saves. I also did this for a few sweaters and a down jacket. Save the bags for the way back though, no matter how long of a time it is, because you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to fit more in less. :)

  • Create a site map – A site map is a page which
    provides listings and links to the other major pages on your site.
    One usually has a greater chance of getting higher rankings in the search engines if the use relevant content.
    Anyone who has visited the internet will be fascinated with what
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  • Learning how to have a good life as a single person is recommended.
    Most people shop at the same store week after week.
    On a night out with a group of friends none of us look over at a woman sitting on
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  • If I have extra room in my suitcase I fill it with bubble wrap. It doesn’t weigh anything and keeps clothes from sliding around. That also gives me extra space for things I might buy on my trip.

    • This also allows you to have on hand the bubble wrap, to wrap more carefully some fragile gifts to bring home! I did just that while traveling from Uganda via Amsterdam and home to the USA. The bubble wrap saved the day, even for things I had to “throw into” the duffle bags we originally took donated clothing in.

  • When I travel some place I know I will be buying a lot of souvenirs, I pack clothes I’m ready to part with and leave them behind for housekeeping. I also take travel size toiletries so by the end of the trip I have none left. I leave everything I feel I can part with at my last stops or as the trip progresses to make room for all the goodies I am collecting. I also take plastic zip lock bags for things I collect, like sand from beaches around the world. Also, I use a zip lock bag for each day to put tickets, brochures, menus and any other items I pick up each day so I don’t have to sort them when it comes time to do my scrap booking. I journal throughout each day so I don’t forget the special moments I want to remember. When we 3 couples traveled to Egypt, Israel and Jordon, there were 5 of us taking pictures and we had over 25,000 pictures and there were plenty of each of us that were good ones too. Pictures of each couples and of the 3 best girl friends.

    • A friend left clothes in his hotel room in Japan so he could take more souvenirs. They were confused as to why he would leave his clothes behind for someone else. I thought it was a good idea.

  • If you suffer any sort of physical problem and you do not have relevant travel insurance that provides you with health coverage,
    you may end up having to cover the medical bill. Many travellers (like myself) do not realise that
    some vaccinations can take several months to be properly administered.
    Sadly, neither agency clearly explains how long the data can be
    kept, how it can be used, or how it can treated.

    • One thing to remember that is not highlighted but if you go abroad without the right vaccinations, you may be insured but they won’t pay if you become ill because “you haven’t taken reasonable care to protect yourself.” Beware!

      • Oh no! as if we’re not being brainwashed enough with the dreaded vaccine issue on mainstream media. This page was about packing a carry-on bag!

  • I’m definitely going to try this on my next trip. I can see I have been packing wrong all these years.

    I am new to your blog, but have found many useful tips in just this one visit. I know I will be checking this out more often. Thank you!

  • Found this just in time! I’m packing tonight for a weekend trip – gonna use this method of packing so I can take only one carry-on plus my purse!!!

    Thank you!

  • My favorite piece of airline advice is ….GATE CHECKING! I love this. Even if I really want to check a bag, since it doesn’t have anything critical in it I go ahead and treat it like a carry on. Naturally this has to be the size of a potential carry on. But, anything big, like a stroller, or car seat or hard side rolling bag that’s a pain to actually carry on the plane, but that you don’t want to pay to check – yep, just prance right up to the counter when you get to the gate, let them know, hey I’d like to gate check this. And, hey presto, you are not the person who gate checked a bag, you are the hero that freed up overhead bin space. And, on some airlines now you get priority boarding since you don’t have an overhead carry on. So huge win!

  • Step into a chain bridal shop and you’ll find yourself amazed at the number of options you can find in one single store. More style conscious and modern flourishes on this exciting design include generous yet proportional sparkling jeweled brooches that appear on one hip, at the waistline, and at the shoulder. Black is a color that’s slimming in different design.

  • There are various methods one can go with to be able to get cheap accommodation.
    Reservations are not necessary unless otherwise noted.

    Apart from watching the plays, you can take a guided tour to the theatre where you will unfold many stories
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  • The end of the year is fast approaching, got something to give to the people around your company without hurting your budget.
    Remind them to pop in at Christmas to get their presents.
    You can also do much more with a free business classified then just a quick post.

  • I used to pack with a method something like this but the problem I had was that all the heaviest stuff (shoes, toiletries, etc.) ended up on the zipper side of the bag instead of the wheel/roller side. For me, that made the bag harder to keep upright and straight when walking. The bag also would not stand up without falling over when I tried to rest it on the wheels and pegs. I still roll my clothes and fit them between the bars on the top half of my suitcase (by the extending handle) and reserve the bottom (closer to the wheels) for shoes and toiletries.

  • I’m very thankful for this post and all the subsequent posts. Being newly retired, I will be doing a lot more travelling. I always struggle with the handle inside the bag and what to pack down there. Can’t wait for my next trip where I will be taking only a carry on for overhead and a backpack with my essential items I want on the plane which will go under the seat.

    Happy travels!!!

  • One other note I will make: Don’t pack fragile things to the top of your soft suitcase if you do indeed check your baggage. If you’ve ever watched the bags being handled, they are flipped on to their front/top side. That goes down first and can take a very heavy hit. Bags are not handled carefully – Oh you say!? ;-) If it’s fragile be sure to pack it between soft clothes – or hand carry it on with you which is the beter option!

  • This is very helpful as I am about to be packing for 2 trips a month apart. I have never been able to just do one carry on. OH how I envy those who can, I have to carry my BiPap machine and try to combine that with the electronics,cords etc and my make up and meds.
    Going for 2 wks each time I am trying to down size and only take 2-3 pair of pants, then the shoes 2 pair
    and my other clothing.
    Always end up checking the clothing but it would be nice to not have so much, When I see women come on with nothing but a purse and tablet etc and not have to lift up luggage to the overhead I really
    admire then. And as I get older getting it in the overhead is getting more difficult.

    Jill, thank you for all the great info you give I have switched to Borax, Soda and vinegar for my main cleaning ing.

    • I also have a BiPap machine. As long as airlines let you carry this on along with your carry-on without extra charge, I don’t bring my machine in its own bag. I put it in a slightly larger bag, which allows me to squeeze a few extra things in with it.

      • I have learned to not pack anything else in with my CPAP machine. On an international flight, I was pulled to the side by TSA because I had packed some wrist braces in with the machine. I was met with frowns. Agents went through my carrying case.

  • I’ve learned to pack the heavier items at the end with the wheels. That way, when you have it upright and rolling, the heavy stuff doesn’t squish anything between it and the bottom. :o)

  • This is exactly how I pack my suitcases except for one thing. If there are blouses or trousers that you do not want to fold at all, lay them completely flat on the bottom so the legs/arms are hanging outside of the suitcase. Pack the rest of the clothes as shown then fold the overhanging clothing ‘limbs’ over the rest of your clothes. You’re essentially rolling them over like a big circle instead of making a crease in them!

  • I still like to roll when I pack – and it’s worked for packing two adults and a baby into a single rolling carry-on for up to 5 days so far! I think rolling makes it easier to fit things into little spaces, like I can stick all my underwear in one of my pairs of shoes if I roll it all up, but if wrinkling is an issue this method of layering definitely would be the way to go!

    And thumbs up for the “pack between the ridges” tip! I figured that out a few years back when I started having to fly more to visit family and it really helps a shocking amount. I usually put my socks and camis in there. It’s also really helpful, especially if you’re using the layering technique, because it creates a flatter base for you to pack onto.

    Another tip I’ve seen (but have yet to try) is to pack full outfits with underwear, socks, and shirt all into a ziploc bag (assuming you wear your pants/skirts more than once), then roll that up and seal it to get all the air out. It’ll take up less space that way, and when you get to your destination you can just take a bag out for each day! At the end of the day, seal up the dirty clothes right back into the same bag, and not only is it all ready for the trip back home, but it keeps any stinkyness contained. I’m going to try this on our next camping trip.

  • When traveling I hate to check a bag and the quart size baggie rule for liquids and creams was always a hassle. I tried an experiment on my last two trips (2 weeks in NYC and 1 week in Houston, both in the last few months) that worked!

    I don’t take any bottles of toiletries, instead I get the little pill baggies and squirt a single use portion of shampoo/conditioner/moisturizer/gel/heat cream/body wash/ etc. in each bag. I then label the bag with the type of product and put them all into a quart baggie. This usually only takes up less than 1/4 of the baggie, so it saves a lot of room.

    When I use the product on my trip I rinse out the bag (since the opening is the full width of the little bag it is easy to do – I hate trying to rinse out the 3 ox bottles with their little necks) let it air dry or wipe out and take it home to use again on my next trip. I take exactly what I need, so no wasted product, it saves space while traveling and when at home and I never have to worry about it expanding and exploding in my suitcase in the air.

    I got the little baggies (about 1.5 inches square) at Wal-mart for $2 for 150, but I have also seen them at my local dollar tree. They are usually with the other pill organizers. My friend and I split a bag of bags and saved a lot of money over buying the travel containers.

  • Great packing method, thanks for sharing. I will try packing between the “ridges!”
    Some additions that may be helpful: 1. I like to use tissue paper when folding garments to avoid wrinkles, 2. I choose a basic color palate so everything is Mix & Match, 3. I include a reusable, large zipper plastic bag to keep laundry separate from clean clothes.

  • Packing cubes… specifically eBag’s Medium Packing Cubes. The length of the cubes fit the width of most carry-on’s perfectly. Stacking 5 or 6 make a great “file-system” inside your luggage. Color-code / label the cubes for better identification. Second tip, overstuff each cube and use the zipper to compress the contents. Then overstuff your carryon with these cubes to utilize all the available space.

    Worked great for a month long trip to Asia. As we moved from hotel to hotel, sometimes on a daily basis, I was able to find polos, t-shirts, pants/jeans, shorts, and best of all stay organized and packed throughout the trip.

  • Do always try to wear 100% cotton clothes when flying. Why? Just in case there’s an accident of some sort and a fire ensues, cotton won’t melt and burn IN to your skin like nylon and other materials. Yes, it still burns, but not into your skin.

    • If I am on an airplane, and my clothes are on fire, I don’t think it will really matter what they are made of at this point. :/ ( I just HAD to say that … sorry LOL)

    • Hi, Anita: You are one smart cookie! Anyone who knows about textiles and flamability should know that wearing anything other than cotton when in a fire, could become horribly burnt and disfigured. We learned this when donating clothing to destitute children in Uganda last year. Cotton has a slow burn, but anything with polyester or synthetic fibers will “whoosh” into a super-hot flame because they are made from petroleum. They end up burning INTO your skin and can disfigure you for life. With the children we help in Uganda and other third world countries, those synthetic fibers could be very dangerous! Those children semi-often live in areas where cooking is done over an open fire with sparks flying. So maybe you might not be in a fire when traveling, but it’s always good to know about flamability risks. Also good to know if you donate clothing to poorer countries!

      • It may not matter when you are not on the plane, however, if your skin is melting and you’re being disfigured, it will matter greatly. Thank you for the advice.

  • 1. Lay everything you plan to take on the bed. Put half of it back and pack the rest.

    2. Don’t carry on your shoulder what you can roll beside or behind you. Put those makeup or jewelry essentials in a small pouch in a side compartment of the roll-on. You can also put your reading material in there, too. Keep it simple.

  • Great tips, especially taking advantage of that space between those bars! Another good trick is to pack your “wrinkle-ables” (starched shirts, linen pants, delicate silks, etc.) in dry cleaning bags to prevent wrinkling. Easiest way is to put the cleaner bag over the item on a hanger, then remove the hanger. Trust me, this works!

  • I, too, am having trouble when I click on Read More. I get a message from my spyware after a quick peek of your article. It then goes to another website. I close it and try again, and usually the second time your website comes right up. Go figure.

  • I haven’t checked a bag in years and take everything in a rolling backpack that fits under the seat in front of me, unless I need a computer. That requires a regular carry-on. Rolling the backpack is great on the concourse or sidewalks, while carrying it simplifies maneuvering on cobblestones, stairs, and the like. I like to take only my oldest undies and simply toss them rather than bring them home. Also, instead of carrying a purse, I have a great, neutral color, all-season travel blazer with several inside zipper pockets as well as three outside ones.

  • I like to put my bras and undies a a large ziplock bag and my socks in another. That way I always know where to grab when I reach in my suitcase. I also take a variety of sizes of empty ziplock bags. They really come in handy for uses you don’t think of until you need them. Take plenty of quarters with you. Often change machines don’t work and the front desk is out of quarters. It can save a lot of time trying to find some.

  • Thank you for the great tips. I need to purchase a suitcase as a graduation present. Your new one is the perfect size. Could you share the make and model? :)

  • What great tips, thank you so much! Planning my trip to California in a few weeks and I’m sure these will come in handy :)

  • Your tips are fine… to a point. When I travel , it is usually overseas and there is always a weight restriction, so being able to place more in my bag is out of the question. As a matter of fact, I think most domestic carriers have some sort of weight restriction for carry-on bags So readers be aware of weight as well as bulk when you’re packing.

    • The weight limit for a carry-on for my two-week trip to Spain is 8 kilos, or a little over 17 lbs. You will have room left over. The daypack I am taking instead of a tote has a limit just under 5 lbs. Yikes.

  • Your regulations must be different to ours in UK-we’re allowed only one carry on bag, purses etc. have to be packed into that one bag and it can’t weigh over 5 kg also there are size restrictions which looking at your photos I would guess would be at least half the size of your bag-I know i can just about get a coat and a couple of books into the size we’re allowed!

    • Jen, technicaly we can carry one carryon (roller bag or backpack that will fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment) and a bag/briefcase. However, what is actually done is different. I often see people carrying in 2 big carry on bags as well as a purse/satchel/backpack. Often times there is no room on board so the bags will be checked and made available at the end of the jet bridge when getting off the plane. People have figured out how to save the money now being charged for checked baggage.

    • Some of the suggestions I’ve seen here would cause NO END of problems with getting through security in Canada! We also have weight restrictions for carry-on, and I have seen security pull carry-on bags aside and weigh them as well as check their dimensions. If they are too heavy, you have to take stuff out and discard it or mail it home. We can carry a second personal item such as a purse, but you can be required to take EVERYTHING out of it on demand, and there are size restrictions on them. Personally, I wish the airlines would start being a lot MORE strict about some of this stuff. I am really tired of packing my stuff into the allowable sizes, and then not having anywhere to put it in the overhead bins because someone comes on with a carry-on and a briefcase the size of New York and a duty-free bag.

      Also, here, anything electronic has to be pulled out of your carry-on, and set into bins on the roller belts, for swabbing and inspection. So if you have packed really well and gotten a lot of stuff in there, you may end p having to pull it all out and then put it back in at the other end of the security line. You have to take any coats, shawls, etc off and put them into the bins. Travelling in winter can become a real issue trying to get everything off and then back on at the other end of the roller belts. And some of our airlines are VERY sticky about how much stuff you are trying to stuff under the seat in front of you. If your coat takes up too much room, they will take it and put it in a locker somewhere. If you had things in the pockets for the flight, you may not have access to them.

      PLEASE check local regulations before trying to travel with just a carry-on, especially if travelling internationally (and travelling from the US to Canada is still considered international).

  • No problems with your website at all. Happy Mother’s Day! And I have always packed by this method, think I get more in that way. No way would I carry everything in a back pack, not good for the back. But if you are young I suppose one could do it.

  • Great ideas, Jillee! My travel tip is to stuff rolled up socks inside the shoes. It helps the shoes retain their shape, and I always know where the socks are when I unpack.

  • Where’s the hair dryer and toiletries? Cosmetics? I choose not to carry lots of extra bags, just my handbag in a tote that also carries my tablet and chargers. I might also add that when packing a carry-on bag to put items inside the luggage in see-through zip-loc bags. That way if TSA agents want to paw through your things, they won’t be touching your personal items.

  • Love Becki’s suggestion of nightclothes on top!
    Packing just a carry-on and not checking a bag is the way to go. I remember the first time I opened a checked bag after TSA had pawed through: I felt I had been victimized.
    Because of my OCD tendencies, I narrowed my list to 3 things.
    1. I carry an extra pair of old socks to slip in before I go through security –and toss them when I am done (I even place them over my “good” socks). There is something about walking on that floor that skeeves me out. Don’t forget a pair for the return trip.
    2. All clothes must pull double duty. Mix & match for flexibility.
    3. A plastic bag to separate dirty clothes (they go right into the washer when I get home).

  • I pack in a similar way except when I layer, I do not do the “folds” until everything has been layered. I lay the garment in just as you do. Then I alternate the direction of the part of the garment to be folded and leave it unfolded. I do this for every piece. At the end I fold over each of the four directions. This allows the garment even less wrinkles because there isn’t a “hard” fold on each piece. The folded area is cushioned by the other clothes. It is difficult to explain, but the key is the clothes don’t wrinkle at all. Anyway, love your ideas!

  • Laying the plastic that dry cleaning comes back covered in between outfits or articles of clothing like pant’s, skirts and blouses, depending on how you choose to pack, will help prevent wrinkles as well as mark the groups. Depending on the trip having each outfit grouped and separated is handy. Jillee, didn’t you need to remove your bag of toiletries to be checked separately when you went through security? That would be my reason for making it more accessible in my tote or maybe in a front pocket in the suitcase if it has one big enough. Otherwise I would be with you putting it in the suitcase. I have never been able to decide weather rolling or folding flat worked best. This the simplest, clearest and best all around article (for lack of a better term) I have ever seen on this subject. Thank you for doing the research, testing, photographing and condensing for us, as always. Your blog becomes addicting!

  • I buy those tiny empty plastic paint-pots from Hobby Lobby to put my face creams, hand lotion, serum and foundation etc., in….they are very cheap and come in different sizes from about 5mL up to 30mL….you would be amazed at how many of these you can pack into a single quart-size ziplock Baggie! I usually can cope with hotel shampoo, but absolutely have to take my own conditioner…taking 3 or 4 individual ‘portions’ of stuff like this, rather than 1 big 3oz bottle actually saves a lot of space in that Baggie :)

  • Our business requires us to travel a lot. That being said, ALWAYS carry essentials in your carry on never check them. or you will be on a cruise with no clothes or traveling in Ecuador with no walking shoes, enough said.
    I wanted to mention how to fold a man’s suit coat, it is big and bulky. I will try and describe how to do it.fold it in half, where the insides are together and the shoulders perfectly line up. It is now one solid garment. Flatten the collar, and sleeves and you will not have to press it when you arrive. This works for women’s dress suits as well if you do it properly. The idea is the padding it makes when folded on itself. The outside fold this way which is the lining will have the wrinkles not the part everyone sees.

  • You don’t have to be flying to make good use of this packing information. I always struggle to fit everything in and I am not a big fashionista.
    I suggest taking the shower caps when you are in hotel rooms and using them to put your shoes in to keep your clothing clean.

  • I have resorted to much of this method. Was torn about the rolling method. I have also taken the vacumm bags and put things in it that I didn’t care about getting wrinkled and it really frees up a lot of space. My 2nd carry on is usually a back-pack that holds a lot. I also put some things in my shoes.

  • I am actually traveling this weekend visiting family in Chicago. I only used 1 regular sized backpack. I “roll” my clothes and got 5 tops and 5 pairs of pants, under garments and 2 pairs of shoes as well as toiletries in with no problems. A laptop and ipad plus wires/plug-ins also. My husband traveled for many years for work using the roll method, it works great. My hands are free and am able to get around easier than with a roller bag.

  • This is all well and good, and I could get along with just a “carry on” size bag. Except for my cosmetics. I don’t use makeup all that often, but my baby hair requires three processes and about seven products to make it submissive. The small hotel shampoos and hair sprays, sure, but I have to travel with a curling iron (or two) and hair dryer, and waxes and….. I fail the “one zip top bag” test every trip. Fortunately flights from Europe to the US the first checked bag is free. We travel to Virginia for a week in June. I’ll give it a try. Again.

    • Lynda has some good container ideas. While I don’t use them much myself so haven’t tried any, I have seen more and more hairdryers curling irons and things like them designed especially for travel. They are much more compact and pack-able yet very usable according to many accounts. I have noticed items in various places and my sense is they have become more readily available and more options are being offered as the market becomes more competitive (not to mention tech advances). I would think a search of various web sites and or stores that carry or specialize in travel accessories or beauty supplies might give you some options to consider. I don’t think you are alone in the need to have “your” tools with you! :) Have a great trip.

  • If arriving late in the evening I always make sure I have my nightclothes on top! When I’m tired I don’t like digging around for my pj’s! Great tips for any travel – plane or car!

  • For the last several days my computer has initially blocked your post. So somewhere in here is something it doesn’t like. Wonder if anyone else has had the same happen.

    • Hi Tracy,
      Mine did the same thing! For about 2-3 days, it said this was a bad site (not in those words). Then I would try again because I have a lot of virus/spam etc protection. It would usually go through the second or third time. This would happen when I was going from the main page to this one.

      I don’t know if Jillee has had others tell her this or not. Maybe it’s from one of the advertisers? Anyway, it was nice that it didn’t happen today!

      Jillee- thanks for all your advice! I would love to see more $$$ saving tips if you have more!

    • While I haven’t had the problem I did notice that several people mentioned having the same or similar issue when accessing through Pinterest the other day. I’m sorry don’t remember what post or “pin” I was reading at the time but it sounded as though the work around some had come up with was accessing posts they found on Pinterest directly instead of through the link. Hope you have been trying through “pins” and that helps, it would be a shame not to be able to explore all of Jillee’s great ideas and posts as well as those from her followers. Good luck and it’s worth not giving up!

    • My Norton Anti-virus has been blocking this site everytime I try to pull it up saying it has a virus attached, intrusion attempt or something like that. I tried to find the message again on my Norton but couldn’t. Jillee, is there anything that can be done on your end? I love all the information you have to offer and would love to continue reading, and learning!, but might have to discontinue.

      • As my computer repair guy told me, get rid of Norton. He said Norton is the worst product on the market. He has actually had to do virus extractions caused by it! He recommended ESET which is antivirus & internet security in one software program.

    • This hasn’t been an issue for me lately, but often times when this happens to a normally reputable site, it has something to do with one of the advertisers. Many virus programs will block a site if it contains a suspect link, and since Jillee uses advertising for revenue, I would bet one of those advertisers is being dinged as a bad link.

  • Leaving very soon for 2 months vacation, so this is very appropriate for me right now! I’m only taking a small rolling carry on and a tote, same as you did. I also thought rolling was the way to do it. Thanks for the great tips and info!

  • Where were you last year when I needed this info lol. I have only flown 3 times now. Once last year [round trip I count as two flights] and the other time was 1982.

    So not like I will need it again soon lol.

    Good stuff though, thanks :)

    Sherylin :)

  • I love your description and pictures! I used to travel a lot, but my husband does more than I do now. I’ll have to see how much we can get in his carry-on using this method. Thanks for the tips.

  • Ha, that’s exactly how I packed my huge suitcase to go to study in the US so I could bring clothes for both summer and winter weather!
    Except I used the space between the metal bars for electronics etc. Also, the layering in the big suitcase tended to slope downwards and leave space towards the sides, so I filled those gaps with underwear and socks etc.
    I love the visual you made of the method!

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