I used to be a notorious over-packer, but now that many airlines are changing a premium for additional bags, I’ve had to make some changes.
After all, I don’t work so hard planning budget-friendly vacations, just to spend hundreds on baggage fees!
The best solution I’ve found is to get REALLY good at packing, especially with our carry-on luggage.
What does ‘carry-on’ mean?
It means that small suitcase or backpack that you can carry with you on-board, and can pack in the overhead compartment.
Apart from your carry-on bag, you can also have a little purse, or backpack, something small with all your personal items in that you need with you all the time; that can go under the seat in front of you.
If you fly on a smaller plane with smaller overhead compartments, you might not be able to bring as much.
Be sure to check the airline’s size and weight restrictions before you start packing!
And don’t even try and bring something onto the plane that is clearly over the limits, it won’t be permitted.
Traveling with only carry-on means you not only avoid paying checked bag fees, but you also won’t have to carry so much or waste time at the baggage carousel (nor can the airline lose your bags!).
So how should you pack carry-on luggage?
Here’s a few simple guidelines I try to follow:
The Right Bag
Most importantly, you need the right bag. That means checking in with your airline’s restrictions, and then choosing a bag that complies. Bags with spinner wheels are my personal favorite, and especially helpful for kids carrying their own luggage.
Before you shop, check Amazon and read the reviews for the top rated Wheel Bags to learn the pros and cons of each brand and size.
(and you can find the smaller kid-sized bags here)
You need to cut down on weight and space, so that means packing clothes that serve more than one purpose.
For example this waterproof, breathable, lightweight jacket is useful in almost any weather, and folds small enough to fit into a pocket.
Another tip is to choose clothing in neutral colors, like jeans and shirts, and then you can accessorize with colored scarves or jewelry which take up less space.
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are ideal for traveling because you don’t have to pull everything out just to look for smaller items that have slipped to the bottom.
They’re also great for sorting kids’ clothing, socks, underwear and bathing suits, so they can easily grab what they need, without making a huge mess!
Fill your Shoes
Whatever shoes, boots and hats you pack, use the inner space. Fill every nook and cranny.
This will help them to maintain their shape, and you’ll be surprised how many odds and ends will fit into a shoe!
Roll up your clothes
Rather than folding your clothes, try and roll them up to optimize on space.
This video gives you easy step by step directions:
Plan to do Laundry
If you will be away for more than a few days, do your homework to find the nearest laundromat (or choose accommodation that has a washer).
Alternatively you can bring a small bottle of laundry soap, and use a bathtub or sink.
Packing a stain removing pen is also an easy way to avoid extra laundry.
What if it’s freezing? What if it rains? What if I forgot this or that? When it comes to a carry-on bag, you need to focus on what you will actually need.
Check the weather reports for the seasonal highs and lows, and pack for only those conditions. If the forecast doesn’t call for rain, don’t pack an umbrella!
(and if does rain, see the next tip)
Buy Stuff There
You can find the basic necessities like shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste and umbrellas almost anywhere.
So unless you’re traveling to an extremely remote location, think about whether it’s worth the space (or weight) to bring them from home.
This can also help avoid any issues with the quantity of liquid or gels that you’re travelling with, as most airlines have restrictions.
Items You Should Always Pack
Here’s a few things I make sure to pack in my backpack or handbag so it’s always easily accessible:
Planes and airports can be a breeding ground for illness-causing bacteria. Travelling with anti-bacterial wipes or gels is highly recommended!
My kids like to carry these cute reusable containers with sanitizer gel, so they can quickly clean up before a snack.
Travelan (or something similar)
This is an over-the-counter diarrhea preventative which has been formulated to help maintain your digestive health while traveling.
It also helps to relieve stomach upset, if you’ve already been hit with unfriendly bacteria.
Lotion & Lip Balm
Planes lack humidity, leaving your skin and lips dehydrated more than usual. I always keep moisturizing lip and body lotion on hand in small, easy to pack quantities.
Even if we’re travelling to a warm destination I can always count on being cold somewhere along the way!
It’s nice to have a lightweight jacket stashed away in each of our bags for moments when the air conditioning is a little overzealous.
Snacks & Water
Quick, healthy snacks are so important (and absolutely crucial if you’re travelling with kids). Squeeze in a few protein bars, almonds, and dried fruit to keep you going if you get delayed.
You can also stash an empty collapsible water bottle in your bag to fill up after you pass security. Not only does it save money, but it takes up little space.
These were originally created for airplane pilots to improve their comfort on long flights, so why not take advantage of that too?
Exhaustion or headaches that can occur after a flight can be reduced or even completely prevented with a great pair of these.
They even have fun kid friendly options that are lightweight and easy to pack.
Hopefully these tips will help you skip the baggage fees on your next vacation! Bon voyage!