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8 Easy Ways to Pack a Light Carry On Bag for Air Travel

Your flight is booked, and it’s time for packing that carry on bag for air travel. If you don’t want to check your luggage, here are eight easy ways to pack light and fit everything into your carry on bag.

carryon luggage packing tipsBetween bag size and weight restrictions, checked baggage fees, and air travel regulations, it’s admittedly difficult to pack everything you need for a plane trip in a carry on bag. Hard, but not impossible! These tips will get you where you need to go – whether you’re doing volunteer work in India or relaxing on the beach. They include everything you need to take in your carry on luggage.

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” ~ St. Exupery. The less stuff you pack, the lighter you’ll travel – and the less stuff you have to worry about when you’re flying, getting to the hotel, and packing up again after you leave! And of course, if you can fit everything into a carry on bag, you avoid the extra charges for checked bags.

These packing tips will help you fit everything you need into a a light carry on bag…

8 Easy Ways to Pack a Light Carry On Bag for Air Travel

Current airline fees and some air travel restrictions make packing carry on luggage for a plane trip quite challenging. Remember that flight restrictions are constantly changing — to be sure you are up-do-date, check with your airline at least three days before your flight.

1. Pack neutral colored clothes – avoid bright colors

Pick a neutral base color for your clothes, and pack around that. Black or blue are the usual choices, but use what is already in your wardrobe. When you’re packing a carry on bag for air travel, you may have to sacrifice your favorite clothes to pack light.

2. Pack “layered” clothing (eg, sweaters, suit jackets, etc)

Mix and match items (sticking with base color) and use layers for moderate temperature changes. A cardigan and light jacket can be worn individually or combined for colder days. A pair of leggings under your pants adds warmth without the bulk of a heavy coat.

If you’re going on a trip to a warm climate, read What to Pack for a Resort Vacation or All-Inclusive Holiday.

3. Remember that you’re packing your carry on bag for efficiency – not style

You don’t need to wear a different outfit for every day. Some clothes, such as jeans, can be worn more than once before washing. Lightweight tops and underwear can be hand washed in the sink at night, dried the next day, and worn again. Visiting someone with a washer and dryer? Even better! Pack light, and wash your clothes regularly.

4. Pare down your beauty routine to the basics

What items can do double duty? A travel sized bottle of baby shampoo can wash your hair and be used to hand wash clothes. I take one moisturizer with SPF on my trips, and use it both day and night. When  you’re packing a carry on bag for air travel, learn what’s available at your destination. Most hotels provide shampoo/conditioner and blow dryers. Friends and family should have toothpaste you can use.

5. Dress heavy so you can pack light

Wear your heaviest/bulkiest items on the flight. This saves room in your suitcase for other things. Also, this can make air travel more comfortable because you can use your heavy and bulky items as pillows and blankets.

6. Be strategic – packing light means thinking “outside the box”

Think of packing your carry on bag like it’s a puzzle. If everything isn’t fitting, trying putting it in a different order. Roll your clothes instead of folding, and spread out the weight. It makes it easier to lift overhead to put in the bin when all the weight isn’t at one end.

7. Use your shoes for extra space in your carry on bag

Stuff your shoes with socks, underwear, anything that can be squeezed in there. Uses the space and helps hold the shape of the shoes. Another way to pack light is to pack a layer of clothes, then a layer of shoes. Even with rolled clothes, pack as neatly as possible – because neat packing is a space saver, which is exactly what you need when you’re packing a carry on bag for air travel. Also make sure your ziploc bag with liquids is easily accessible.

8. Don’t forget your personal bag (purse), in addition to your carry on bag

You are allowed one personal bag in addition to your suitcase so make good use of it. I use my computer bag and put my wallet, pens, etc. in it while my empty purse is packed in the suitcase. Anything you think you’ll need during the flight should go in here, where you’ll have easy access to it from under the seat in front of you.

If you don’t have a carry on bag – which are often made for packing lightly and efficiently — check out Samsonite’s carry on luggage. It’s good stuff.

For more packing tips, read Backpacking Checklist – 10 Packing Tips for a Hiking Trip.

If you have any thoughts or questions on packing a carry on bag for air travel, please comment below…

Written by Gladys Strickland, owner of GS Business Resources. She assists small and mobile business owners with copywriting and social media tasks. Visit her website for more information, and get more tips from her on Facebook.

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7 thoughts on “8 Easy Ways to Pack a Light Carry On Bag for Air Travel”

  1. Gladys Strickland

    Thanks David! That’s another good tip – make sure you pack enough of what you can’t easily replace or wash

  2. Normally when i go on a travel then i would carry few of my clothes and a lot of pairs of undies and socks. It is really convient because sometimes you dont get time to wash your clothes.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I have to agree with Carrie: packing for men is alot easier than packing for women! They don’t seem to need half the amount of stuff we do…in our case, it’s because my husband has no problem washing out his shirts and undies every couple of nights. But, he also doesn’t care if he wears the same thing for two weeks straight, whereas for me, part of the appeal of being on vacation is wearing clothes I don’t normally wear at home 🙂

  4. Gladys Strickland

    Carrie, thanks for your comment. You are right – different trips do have different requirements which may required checked luggage. I hope that people will consider trying to fit what they need in a carry on bag before automatically paying the checked baggage fees.

    Happy travels!

  5. Another thing to consider is where you’re going because what you pack depends on your destination and type of trip. A business trip is different than a trip to Hawaii which is different than visiting friends and family. Can you really pack everything you need in a carry on bag if you’re going to Hawaii for 2 weeks? Maybe a man can but a woman’t can’t.

  6. Gladys Strickland

    Laurie, your husband’s packing is very impressive! And I love your idea to leave behind old clothes to make room for things you buy on vacation. Great tip!

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    My husband is the king of packing carry on bags! When we went to Hawaii last month, he packed everything he needed for 2 and a half weeks in a large carry on bag. I couldn’t believe it…but, the downside was that he had no room for souvenirs and he had to wash his clothes almost constantly.

    One of my favorite tips for packing carry on bags is to take stuff that you don’t mind leaving behind, if you want to buy souvenirs. For instance, I often take old shoes with me and leave them in the hotel room if I find fun things to buy on vacation 🙂