Many moons ago I was the girl that packed as much as she possibly could into the biggest piece of luggage I could find and prayed it was within the weight limitations once I got to the airport. Oh the STRESS of it all! I finally saw the light and now I only travel with a carry-on. Sure, sometimes you have to get creative, but it is so worth it! You no longer have to worry about weight limits, if your bag will actually get to your destination, or if you can physically lug it wherever you need to go – it is so freaking freeing! So here are my 5 tips to pack in just a carry-on based on what I’ve tried and learned over the years.

1. Best Carry-on Luggage.

HANDS DOWN NO QUESTIONS ASKED is the Away Bigger Carry-On bag. And bonus it is a smart bag so you always have a little extra battery power for your phone, etc. This bag fits EVERYTHING. When you think it won’t close, just sit on it and zip – trust me. It has a zipper of champions! It easily fits in the overhead bins, has 4 wheels that glide like a dream, and a built-in lock to keep your stuff safe. It is definitely an investment piece, but if you travel a lot then it is well worth the price. I use this and then a large tote bag that fits over the Away bag’s handle so that it doesn’t slide all around. This is seriously all you need!

How to pack in only a carryon

Travel Hack: You are allowed to carry on with both pieces and a purse! *at least on UA

2. Packing Cubes or Nah?

I love the organization that packing cubes brings to your luggage, especially on longer trips where you can simply remove the packing cube and put it into a dresser drawer. These are the kind I use and they come in a bunch of fun colors. However, I personally have found that sometimes you can’t fit as many things and there’s weird extra space around the cubes that is difficult to utilize. I have found that a mix of some cubes and some free space is the perfect balance when packing in only a carry-on bag.

Travel Hack: Bring an empty cube to put your dirty laundry in!

3. Fold or Roll?

Definitely roll. You can fit so much more when you are packing in just a carry-on bag if you roll all of your clothes. I do not understand the physics of this lol, but it is very true. It’s also easier to fit rolled up clothes around the bars of the luggage handles that are on one side of the suitcase. The only downside of rolling is that your clothes can get more wrinkled, but I have found literally the best wrinkle release solution if the place you’re going does not have an iron. Pro tip: buy the bigger size, not the travel size and then just pour a little bit into a travel size spray bottle.

Roll your clothes when packing

Travel Hack: Put your undies in a small packing cube or bag, no need to roll those and it keeps them all organized.

4. Choose A Base Color

This is the simplest tip that you will see across the board on all travel blogs. Pick one base color for your travel wardrobe so that you can easily mix and match different outfits. Personally, I love black and white so on my most recent trip I mixed and matched black, white, and denim and had two scarves that added a little color. This is also helpful if the weather is going to change a lot so that you can easily layer your outfits.

Crease Release

Travel Hack: Just because you wore it once doesn’t mean you can’t wear it again, use some Febreze if needed! This size is perfect.  

5. What About Toiletries, Hair Dryers, Straighteners, etc.

Regarding toiletries, I always bring a travel size of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion. I never feel like the hotel’s is super high quality and I have very sensitive skin – but it’s good in a pinch if you run out of space. As for hair dryers – I never pack a hair dryer because the hotel always has one, but I also don’t mind showering at night and letting my hair air dry. It saves SO much room in your carry-on because even the “travel hair dryers” are decently big. I do always bring my curling iron OR straightener, never both. They’re easy to tuck into the side of my suitcase. Make sure you bring a heat protection case so that you don’t burn your clothes or luggage. Also be sure to bring a converter if you are traveling abroad or it will be pointless to pack this! This one has 8,000 5-star reviews.

Travel Hack: Dry shampoo is your best friend when traveling and of course they do have travel size!

This one is my favorite.

Let me know if you give any of these a try or if you have your own tips for how to pack in only a carry-on!

You might also like this post on wardrobe basics that would be perfect to pack in your carry-on bag!

Safe travels,

Xx, Ashley


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