How to Pack Absolutely Everything in One Small Carry-on

What to Wear for Travel and How to Pack Your Carry-On

Before you start packing, set aside what you plan to wear for your flight. It’s best to have a few layers and wear bulkier items to save space and weight in your bag. If you’re traveling from a warmer climate, attach heavier clothing on the outside of your carry-on or pack on the top so you can put it on once you arrive inside an air-conditioned terminal. You’ll want something long sleeve inflight since the AC on aircraft can sometimes get out of control.

As for packing the bag, rolling your clothing will save the most space in your bag and also keep them from getting too wrinkled. You can use empty space inside shoes to stuff your socks and also stuff smaller items in the corners of your bag once you pack the larger items. Place your shoes inside a drawstring bag to keep other items from getting dirty and you’ll also have an easy beach bag with you at your destination.

Rolling up an empty daypack and placing it in your carry-on bag is a great idea if you’d like to have a smaller bag to use at your destination. You can also pack this with inflight essentials to keep under your seat once you get on the plane or while waiting at the gate. Zip-lock bags help keep things organized and can also be used on the road to keep things dry in the rain. I also like to use the small bags from old amenity kits to organize my electronics. The most useful items for packing are the carabiners and bungees. These are incredibly useful to attach items to the outside of your bag that you want to access easily.

Video

Take what you need

Image courtesy Pixabay
ClothingTechnologyToiletries / Personal itemsTravel Documents & MoneyMiscellaneous Items
T-shirtsPhoneSmall reusable bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and sunscreenPassport / ID, itinerary, wallet, USD cashTravel pillow
Pair of pantsLaptop (if necessary) with protective sleeveToothpasteATM card with no feesSunglasses
Belt Chargers for devices and portable USB chargerPocket laundry washCredit card with no foreign transaction feesEye mask
Pair of underwear / socksAccessories (usb stick, cables, etc.)Toothbrush, shaver, comb, deodorant, medications, etc.TSA luggage locks
 hiking boots or running shoesUniversal power adapterBook or eReader
sandals or flip flopsEarbuds

before Packing all your needs on your carry on suitcase,you need to pull out everything inside it.

make sure there is nothing left from previous trips. and start from scratch.

roll up your clothes, i usually began placing my essentiel outfits in the suitcase knowing that any unnecessary items will be available in my destination.

Wear the your heavy clothes like jacket, jeans or coat ,if you need to take them with you.

you can put your travel pillow along on your neck while proceeding in the airport.

in order to have more room in your bag or if some items do not fit in your suitcase, like coats or jeans you will need to wear them especially if you are travelling in a cold weather.

You can also wear your travel pillow on your way to the flight.

Related: Best travel accessories for long flights, To Travel Smart and comfortable

you can bring a small plastic bag and shop some item to enjoy in your flight.

That way you can place some other item with your snack,

with snacks or purchase a to-go meal at the airport to bring onboard. you’ll likely never have any issue boarding a plane this way.

What to pack?

Measure/weigh Your Bag

As we mentioned in these tricks on taking extra luggage in flights researching your airline luggage allowance size and weight is always at the top of tips.

the size is the critical factor for carry luggage. and carry on luggage size / dimensions vary by airline, but usually the maximum dimensions is around 18x14x8 inches and up to 22 lbs.

sometime airlines will allow your bag on board even if it is slightly big, but it depends on the Each airline and the airport staff and how strict the airline about its luggage size and weight.

But In general take small backpacks, large purses, or small wheeled bags that will fit underneath the seat in front of you on an airplane.

Related: How strict are airlines with carry on size?

Step 1: Choose Your Bag

Which bag you choose will come down to your use case, travel style, and personal preference. We typically prefer to travel with a backpack as we find it takes carry-on travel to a new level. With a backpack, your hands are free. And you can navigate just about any terrain easier—from cobblestone streets to picturesque beaches—since you don’t have to deal with the limitations of roller luggage.

If you’re not sure what bag to get, we’ve reviewed hundreds of packs—and we’ve written a full guide on how to choose the best travel backpack—so we’ve got you covered.

The GORUCK GR2 is one of our go-to packs for one-b
The GORUCK GR2 is one of our go-to packs for one-bag travel.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll be packing all our gear into the GORUCK GR2—a 40L carry-on compliant backpack that’s both functional and durable. But the same concepts apply for other travel backpacks, duffle bags, and rolling luggage.

If you’ve already got your bag, that’s great!

PRO TIP: If you choose a bag with a boxy shape, it’ll be easier to maximize the space inside.

Carry On Packing List

Clothing

  • 1 coat of jacket*
  • 4 short-sleeve tops
  • 2 long-sleeve tops
  • 2 bottoms (pants, shorts, or skirts)
  • 1 pair of gym shorts*
  • 1 swimsuit*
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 2 bras*
  • 1 pair of shoes*
  • 1 scarf, sarong, or wool buff (neck gaiter)
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 pair of glasses or contacts*

Toiletries

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Soap or face wash
  • 3.4 oz refillable bottles*
  • 1 clear, quart-sized, zip-top bag

Electronics

  • Smartphone with international plan or unlocked for a local SIM
  • Smartphone charger
  • Headphones
  • Travel adapter*
  • Laptop or tablet with charger*
  • Kindle or other e-reader*

Paperwork

  • Passport
  • Visa*
  • ID
  • Boarding pass
  • Copy of itinerary
  • Copies of important documents
  • Extra passport pictures
  • Petty cash
  • Travel-friendly debit and credit cards

Other Gear

  • Luggage lock
  • Packing cubes
  • Travel towel
  • Water bottles
  • Earplugs and eye mask*
  • Pen 
  • Notebook

*If needed.

Here’s the complete list of what you should pack in your carry on in a handy graphic. Click the image to see the full-sized version.

Choose Your Personal Item Wisely

Most airlines allow for a carry-on and a personal item. If you’re really hurting for extra space, opt for a backpack that can accommodate carry-on overflow.

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4 Carry-on Packing Methods

Try one method or try combining two or more of these packing approaches.

Roll up method: Take a shirt or pair of pants or jacket and just roll it. Stand the item upright on one end and keep adding 'rolls' to the bag until you're staring down at what looks like a bunch of Cinnabon pastries (just not as sticky). Roll carefully and you'll be surprised at how unwrinkly the clothes come out.

Layering method: There are lots of good packing videos out there; we like this one from Salt Lake's Travel Outfitters store because it's a step-by-step how-to for a 14-day trip and loaded with good advice. See the video below.

Nesting-doll method: You know those wooden Russian dolls that nest inside each other? Think of that as you stuff socks and underwear in shoes (ditto for that extra purse) and in every other conceivable nook and cranny in your carry-on.

Human suitcase method:Scottevests are very popular or try the "baggage as fashion" approach. Yes, you can buy an ensemble that includes many pockets and zippers but the downside is, you might look a little strange. Alternative approach: Wear the coat or jacket you were bringing and stuff all the pockets.

Packing video: Check this out – bet you'll learn something new.

Toiletries

The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule

Toiletries have their own set of rules—decided by the TSA and international equivalents—rather than the airlines.

The 3-1-1 liquids rule states:

Each passenger may carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. 

Your liquids and gels must be in 3.4 ounce (or less) bottles. Those bottles must fit into a one-quart plastic bag. Each passenger may only carry one such bag.

Since you’re traveling carry-on-only, you’ll need to follow these rules. Like with the size of your bag, constraints are helpful.

Pare your toiletries down to just the essentials so that you can fit everything in your quart-size bag. Only pack the stuff you use ever day, not every single thing in your bathroom.

Another option is to swap out wet items for dry varieties. Switching to bar shampoo and conditioner and mineral makeup can free up a ton of space in your quart-sized Ziploc bag.

Buying at Your Destination

If space is at a premium, don’t even pack toiletries. Basic toiletries can be bought at your destination, often for less than you would pay at home.

If you buy your toiletries instead of packing them, you don’t have to worry about the 3.4 oz bottle rule. You can buy any size you want. Sample sizes of soap, shampoo, and face wash won’t last through longer trips anyway. If you don’t pack any liquids, you won’t have to take your toiletry bag out at security either.

Minimalist Toiletry List

For a less extreme but still minimal approach, pack the bare necessities: a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and soap or face wash. This list is just to feel human while flying. Buy the rest of your supplies when you land.

For anything that you must pack, you can find travel-sized products at Target or Walmart as well as directly from the company for smaller brands.

Toiletry Bottles

If you can’t find your favorite brand, want to save money, or want to be more eco-friendly, buy normal-sized toiletries and pour what you need into GoToobs. I use a three-ounce GoToob when I need to pack body wash for short trips.

To save space, use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. The liquid version is concentrated and can replace your soap, shampoo, shaving cream, and even detergent.

One liquid to rule them all.

How to Pack a Carry-on: Tips and Tricks

The biggest tip I have for packing a carry-on bag is to keep yourself organized using Ziplock bags.

Instead of having all of your items floating loosely inside, put similar items in a baggie and pull it out when needed. This will save you so much time and energy normally spent fumbling around.

Another tip is to double check your airline’s carry-on bag policy. Often times there’s a weight limit, and depending on the airline this can be strictly enforced.

Sometimes it’s handy to travel with a small cross-body bag or purse in addition to your carry-on. Having your passport, wallet, and other important items hanging around your neck is quite convenient and doesn’t usually count as an official carry-on bag.

Keep all of your valuables in your carry-on bag, and keep your bag in your possession at all times. There are constant announcements not to leave your bag unattended in the airport, and for good reason. Listen to them and you’ll have nothing to worry about!

Lastly, always keep copies of your important documents in your carry-on bag just in case. I tend to keep multiple copies of my passport, bank cards, and address of where I’m staying with me on the off chance my wallet gets lost or stolen.

Having copies makes getting new documents so much easier and will save you a lot of stress in the long run. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Travel Must: At the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.

Some useful items to bring along

Assuming that you’re traveling with a carry-on only, make sure that you pack most (if not all) of these as well.

Photocopy of important travel documents: I would also recommend making digital copies as well, but do bring hard copies with you.

Ziploc bags: They’re perfect to keep your items safe from any leak or separate the dirty from the clean clothes.

Portable battery: This electronic device ensures you to arrive at destination with a fully charged phone. If not during the flight, you’ll eventually need it during your trip.

Pack cover: Just like a travel insurance, it’s something you hope you won’t have to use but you’re glad when you do need it. And if it doesn’t rain, it can still keep your backpack away from the dust.

Quick-dry travel towel: they take less space and are extremely useful, especially if you’re always on the move and don’t have time to let it dry.

Earplugs and eye mask: It’s definitely a nice-to-have. Traveling can be exhausting and you need your sleep.

A bottle: Either pass it empty through security and fill it with tap water afterward or freeze the liquid before leaving. If you opt for the latter, however, keep in mind that it will need time to melt, so you’re not sure to be able to drink it during the flight.

A lock: It’s always a good idea to have one to keep your stuff secure, especially if you’re staying in a hostel. Trust in people, but not blindly…

A flashlight: A small one is enough. If it works with a dynamo it’s even better as you won’t have to worry about when the batteries will die.

Duct tape: Accidents can happen and when they do, you’re glad to have duct tape to patch your stuff.

Small roll of travel toilet paper: Unfortunately, all airports’ restrooms don’t have toilet paper. And when it’s a pressing matter, you come to cherish that roll.

Painkillers and bandages: They won’t solve everything but most boo-boos.

Step 3: Compartmentalize

Now that you have everything laid out and organized using your preferred method, it’s time to compartmentalize. Start by sizing up your groupings and deciding the best way to compartmentalize the items. Basically, figure out how you want to keep these groups separate in your pack.

It helps to organize your gear before you organize
It helps to organize your gear before you organize your organization.

You can pack all your stuff directly inside your bag—making use of any built-in organization if that’s your style. Or you can divide your gear into packing cubes and other organizer pouches. You can even use trusty old Ziploc bags and rubber bands to hold stuff together (they’re handy to have on the road, plus you might have some already lying around).

We’ve found packing cubes, pouches, and Dopp kits to be invaluable companions while we’re on the road—so that’s how we like to pack our gear. Let’s start with clothing.

PRO TIP: Pick up packing cubes in different colors to further organize your gear.

The first thing to do is to fold your clothes. Now, there are a bunch of fancy folding methods out there—which we might cover at a later date—but we tend to keep it simple. And by simple, we mean we roll them. We’ve found that rolling your clothes makes them more packable and helps combat wrinkles a bit.

Keep your tops together in one spot.
Keep your tops together in one spot.

So, let’s take all those bottoms we sorted earlier, roll them up, and place them in a larger packing cube. Large packing cubes are great to keep around for your bulky clothing items. If you’re new to the world of packing cubes or are looking to up your game, check out our Ultimate Packing Cubes Guide—it has everything you need to know about these helpful organizers.

Next, we’ll roll up all our tops and put them in a medium to small-sized packing cube. We’ll also pack that button-up shirt we separated into its very own packing cube to give it a little extra space and avoid wrinkles even more.

You won't always need cold weather gear, so it can
You won’t always need cold weather gear, so it can hang out separate from the rest.

All of our cold-weather gear (sorted by Category) will be stuffed into a packing cube together. It’s a good idea to leave your rain jacket out (loose inside your bag) so you have quicker access in case you get caught in a sudden storm.

Wrapping up the clothes, we usually keep our sandals in a separate shoe pouch. That way, if they get dirty, sandy, or otherwise gross, we can keep them out of contact with the rest of our gear. For bulkier shoes—as in, not sandals—we’ll wear those in transit. No need to pack them. We also like to travel with a baseball hat, which you can wear, toss at the top of your pack, or attach it to the outside with a carabiner.

PRO TIP: Bring a carabiner to hang wet stuff, shoes, a hat, whatever else, on the outside of your bag.

Okay, moving on to toiletries and tech. Compartmentalizing toiletries is easy—simply put them in a dedicated toiletry case or Dopp kit (whatever you want to call it).

If you get a reusable toiletry kit you can save so
If you get a reusable toiletry kit you can save some toile-trees.

For example, on the grooming side of things, we’ll bring nail clippers, a comb, trimmer, razor, and a toothbrush. As far as consumables are concerned, we’ll bring hair pomade, lotion, toothpaste, and deodorant. And everything fits neatly inside a Dopp kit. Of course, your mileage may vary based on the toiletries you bring.

Two things to keep in mind when figuring out your toiletries.

1) Try to find the smallest versions of everything you can. Full-sized toiletries and grooming tools can get bulky, so if you can shrink down your razor, toothbrush, even nail clippers, it’ll make packing much easier. You can also use small containers—like the humangear GoToob+—to shink your liquids and leave those big containers at home. This is especially important for carry-on travel as all your liquids must be TSA-compliant.

2) A Dopp kit with a clear window is great for packing your TSA-compliant liquids. And it’s even better if your toiletry bag is weather-resistant or waterproof so if any liquids leak, they won’t spill all over your bag. (No one likes to open their bag to find out a shampoo wrestling match happened somewhere over the Atlantic.)

PRO TIP: If your toiletry case isn’t clear or windowed, bring a separate quart-sized Ziploc bag to house your liquids—under 100ml or 3.4oz, of course!

Tech can be small, so a pouch keeps it from gettin
Tech can be small, so a pouch keeps it from getting lost.

Finally, if you’re traveling with tech (which we usually are), you’re going to want a way to keep all those cords and such organized. We usually recommend tech pouches. The size of the tech pouch, and how many you carry, will depend on your kit.

We’re going to pack the items we laid out and organized in Step 2, into two separate pouches. One pouch will hold the smaller cords, cables, chargers, and a battery bank. The other will be for larger items like that unwieldy laptop charger.

Protect? More like pro-tech. Get it?
Protect? More like pro-tech. Get it?

We also prefer to travel with any laptops and tablets inside protective cases. Laptops are expensive after all—and can be vital for you to make a living, depending on what you do for work. So having a case gives you a little extra peace-of-mind that your computer will be safe while hopping from plane to train to coffee shop.

At this point, you should have all your gear organized and compartmentalized into neat little groupings or packages. Be honest—it’s super satisfying to look at, isn’t it?

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