How to pack a carry-on for a week-long trip
We all know how long the lineups can be at airport check-ins and security, so it’s best to streamline the process as much as possible. Especially when it comes to luggage.
“It’s a very minimalist way of looking at things, but the reality is the only things you really need when you travel are a smartphone, your passport and a credit card. Beyond that, you can pick things up as you need them,” says Micki Kosman, co-author of The Barefoot Nomad travel blog. “It’s not realistic for most people, of course, but it helps you to sort out [in your mind] what you really need.”
READ MORE: How taking a vacation can save your life
Successfully packing a carry-on suitcase for a seven-day trip requires a bit of planning and a few sneaky strategies, but our experts assure us it’s possible. And no, it won’t result in having to buy a whole new wardrobe while on vacation. Here are their top tips.
#1 Check the airline website
Different airlines have different dimensions for carry-on luggage, so it’s wise to check the website before you start packing or you could wind up having to check your bag, says Linda Chu, national spokesperson for the Professional Organizers in Canada.
However, the flip side to that is most people don’t realize many airlines allow you to take a carry-on plus one personal item.
“The personal item is usually much bigger than people realize,” Kosman says. “Instead of just taking a purse, use a backpack, put your purse in it, and you’ll have more room to store other things.”
#2 Make a list and edit it
Before you even pull your suitcase out of the closet, Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and author of Clean My Space, says to make a list of all the items you plan to take and slash it.
“This strategy serves a dual purpose: it’ll prevent you from bringing too much while also ensuring you don’t forget to pack vital things,” she says.
If you’re not a list-maker, just lay out all the things you plan to pack and sort through them one by one, Kosman says, making sure to critically examine if you’ll really need them all.
#3 Look for things that can do double duty
It’s normal to have one dedicated item for every need when you’re at home, but when you’re travelling you want your as many of your items as possible to serve dual purposes. This makes packing a lot easier and reduces the risk of accidentally leaving something behind.
“A sarong can double as a beach blanket or a cover-up,” Kosman says. Maker advises loading books onto a tablet or an e-reader to lighten the literature load.
#4 Use simple math
Believe it or not, numbers and calculations are key to helping you avoid over-packing. You can use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 rule, which breaks down your packing list to five pairs of socks and underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat.
Or just do some simple multiplication.
“If you’re going somewhere for seven days and you’re not doing laundry, it’s easy to get lots of different outfits out of a limited number of items,” Chu says. “Seven tops and two bottoms will give you the potential for 14 outfits. Plus, you can wear the same thing twice if you want, since you’re not likely to see the same people throughout your entire trip.”
#5 Pack with a theme in mind
The goal for getting the most bang for your packing buck is to make sure your clothes and accessories can be mixed and matched.
“Try packing a wardrobe that’s black, white and grey, with a pair of jeans mixed in,” Maker advises. “It’s easy because those colours can easily mix and match, and you’ll have a lot of outfit options.”
#6 Use shoes as storage
The thing with shoes, especially high heels, is that they tend to take up a lot of room. That’s why experts suggest using them as extra storage.
“Stuff socks into your shoes or roll up a belt and slip it in. This not only saves you room in your suitcase, but it also keeps the shape of your shoes and prevents them from getting squished,” Maker says.
#7 Roll with it
The debate rages on whether folding or rolling your clothes will save more space, so it’s really a matter of personal preference.
“Some people believe in rolling, while others prefer to roll, but the thing to remember is that you have to fold before you roll,” Chu says.
Maybe this will tip the scales for you: “Rolling reduces the amount of weight and pressure on a garment, thus reducing wrinkling,” Maker says. Which means there won’t be any need for ironing once you get to your destination.
#8 Use cubes
All the experts agree on one travel must-have: packing cubes.
“They condense the amount of clothing you pack in a big way,” Maker says. “You fold your items compactly and they magically squeeze into these cubes that can be easily rearranged. Plus, you can stick other items between them, like a flat iron or hairbrush.”
Kosman also advises using compression bags for dirty laundry, which tends to bunch up and take up a lot of room.
#9 Get tiny toiletries
In many cases, the clothes and shoes you travel with don’t even take up the most room — it’s those shampoos and moisturizers in their bulky containers that fill up your suitcase. Reusable and refillable travel-sized bottles are a solution, as are those mini beauty samples that are likely piling up in your medicine cabinet.
“Skincare and perfume samples are perfectly packaged for travel, and in many cases are better than transferring things in bottles,” Maker says. “Products in foil packs are a good size for a short trip. It’s usually just enough to get you through your stay.”
She also advises packing your toiletries in a large bag with a zipper and putting it at the bottom of your suitcase. This way if anything spills, it will be localized and less likely to get onto your clothes.
#10 Do a post-trip analysis
“It’s hard to whittle down your packing because you’re always thinking, ‘what if,'” Chu says. “But the fact is, you always come back with extra items you didn’t wear.”
She says to make a list of what you packed before you leave and compare that to a list of things you didn’t use when you get back. This way you’ll know for your next trip what’s most likely to be useful and handy, and what you can leave at home.
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