If you have ever flown with me, you most certainly know this fact: I do not check bags when I travel. Why? I’m impatient, and I do not trust airlines with my things.
If you ask me, checking a bag adds an unnecessary step and stress to your travel because you didn’t make the proper preparations. And to me, that just doesn’t make sense.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been thankful for using only a carry-on. Sure, it’s extra work while you’re walking (or running) around the airport, but that amount of effort pales in comparison to having to arrive at the airport 30 minutes earlier, just in case the line of people waiting to check a bag is wrapped around the check-in kiosks. And I’d rather avoid the feeling I would have if I missed my connection because I was unknowingly in an airport that made me go back through security after deplaning and I was forced to recheck my bag. And I don’t know about y’all, but just the thought of having to wait in baggage claim for even one minute after traveling all day gives me anxiety. .
Don’t even get me started on my skepticism that the airline can handle my belongings and get them to me in time. You think I trust airlines that treat their customers like cattle to watch over my Chanel sunglasses and beloved Sophia Webster wedges? Well, to be honest, I used to. But then I learned a harsh lesson after jewelry turned up missing out of my checked suitcase. (If you see me one day, ask how that horrible situation turned into my come up!) And once, after a week-long trip, I flew straight into Atlanta for a modeling gig and arrived three days before my bag. Everything I needed for my shoot was checked. The irony? I was shooting for Delta…and it was Delta that had lost my bag.
Don’t believe packing for up to two weeks can be done in just a carry-on? Challenge me! I once spent over a week in Europe living out of only my carry-on (and had room to bring a few things back)!
If you follow these 6 simple tips, not only will you become a seasoned packer, you’ll save yourself added stress, wasted time, and dozens of possible tragedies.
Tip 1: Invest in a good suitcase
This tip is number one for a reason. You can’t pack for a week in a carry-on if you don’t have the right equipment. There are only three qualities to a good carry-on suitcase. One, its dimensions comply with TSA and each individual airline’s regulations (22x14x9 is standard). If not, your bag is useless because they’re just going to make you check it anyway. If your dimensions are off and the gate agent is cranky (or annoyed or whatever) they will ask you to place your bag in their metal “sizer.” If it doesn’t fit, you’re out of luck. Two, it needs to be sturdy and of good quality. Don’t waste your time trying to stuff all of your things in a cheap suitcase or attempt running through the airport with it–the zippers will bust, the wheels will come off, and the plastic will bend. Trust me. Invest in one. And three, make sure it has no dead space. Neither the wheels nor weird, unnecessary pockets should take up space. Every empty square inch is precious space, and you should be determining what takes up 90% of your suitcase.
Personally, I prefer suitcases with four wheels because they roll easier and have two distinct sections that don’t take away from space; however, if you prefer suitcases with only two wheels (as they are better when walking up inclines) just make sure the inside depth as deep as the dimensions allow, and that it isn’t a hard-shell.
*Tumi luggage is expensive, but it’s my favorite brand and what I use for comparison. Lots of business travelers cycle through suitcases regularly, so don’t be afraid to check resale stores and websites for gently used products. I just spotted a few great Tumi suitcases on eBay while creating this post. A good suitcase can last a really long time.
Tip 2: Convert as many toiletries as you can to travel-sized containers
Sure, you may have gotten some liquid past TSA that you shouldn’t have, but don’t count on that happening every time, because chances are you’re going to get stopped, they’re going to search your bag, and it’s going to add 10 minutes (minimum) to your process. Not to mention the obvious, but space is what you’re trying to maximize! Why waste it all in products? Prioritize what is most important. What can’t you get where you’re going, or what would cost the most to replace? Start by packing those into travel containers first. Target has tons of plastic containers that are super inexpensive, so you can get several. Also be sure to have travel-sized toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, etc. because you’d be surprised by how much room all of those things take up. Yes, travel-sized items give only a small supply, but if you run out you can always find a local drug store to buy another little tube. Trust me, it’s worth the saved space.
Tip 3: Roll clothes (or pack them flat) instead of folding them
Two different techniques, one concept…take up the least amount of space. I personally roll my clothes; that way I can roll other things (see next tip) into them. Well, that and I think my clothes tend to be a little less wrinkled when I roll them. But I have laid clothes flat on top of one another and recognized the saved space. Whichever you prefer, choose a technique and use it. Your clothes will ultimately take up the most room so the more you can squish them together, the more room you free up!
Tip 4: Fight your urge to use bags–put things inside of other things
I’m pretty OCD when it comes to organization. I don’t like messes or for things to be sloppy, so understand when I say this tip is a constant struggle even for me. But if you don’t want to stand in lines that wrap around the airport or at baggage claim for 20 minutes, you have to make sacrifices somewhere and for most of us, this will be it. Too many bags inside your luggage will take up precious space that you have to be willing to give up. Granted, something things NEED small bags. My makeup is always in a small bag because I’m not going to chance a catastrophe just to save a little space. My toiletries are also usually in a bag. I say usually because there have been times when I truly needed that extra space, so I threw the liquids in a Ziploc bag and wrapped other things (such as my toothbrush and soap holder) in a t-shirt I was already planning on taking. My hair products and tools are things that start off in a small bag, but usually end up packed in the crevices of other things. In that case, I throw my liquid products in with my toiletries, wrap the other things in clothes/tuck them next to my shoes, and keep it moving. The goal here? NO DEAD SPACE! Fill space with things you need to pack.
Tip 5: One pair of heels (two MAX)
I know this one sucks too. Trust me, I know. But this tip helps in two ways. Firstly, heels take up soooo much space, it’s ridiculous. One pair is ideal; two pairs you can work around. Secondly, cutting your shoe game down to just one or two pairs helps rein in your wardrobe choices to a definite color palette. That alone will help reduce excess clothing and accessories.
Pro tip: always pack shoes in shoe bags; having the bottoms of your shoes touch your clean clothes or any of the other things you have floating in your bag is actually pretty gross if you think about it
Tip 6: One bag + one personal item
This tip is what sets the seasoned travelers apart from the people who travel a few times a year. Every airline allows one bag and one personal item. They define the personal item as a purse, laptop bag, or baby bag. However, if you’re smart you can use this personal item as much-needed extra space. The key is getting the perfect-sized personal item. It has to be large enough to hold your purse along with other random items, but must be small enough not to have attention brought to it. Aside from my purse, my personal item usually holds my makeup (because chances are I’m flying early and apply at some point on the flight) which frees up so much more space in my suitcase, an extra pair of heels or tennis shoes, my laptop charger (my laptop is in the front pocket of my suitcase), and other miscellaneous items. If your suitcase has a spot for a hook, buy one so you can latch your bag onto your suitcase. That way, when you’re in a hurry, you can just attach it and go. The catch to this tip? Being a good flyer means you’re a considerate flyer, and you should keep this bag at your feet (like they ask you to), especially if you are on a completely full flight. BUT, if there’s room in my overhead bin I’ll stick it up there. Shhh!
**Of course, every rule has an exception or two. There are a few circumstances for which packing just a carry-on is not an option. One, if you like to use hairspray. Chances are your super expensive hairspray doesn’t come in a travel size and there’s no way to put it in a travel container, so if you REALLY need your hairspray, this won’t work for you If you’re packing to compete at Miss USA, even if only for two weeks, these tips won’t work. You’ll probably need four suitcases and a box to ship things! Changing outfits four times a day won’t allow for a carry-on, sorry. If you plan on carrying a garment bag, these tips also won’t work, at least not if you plan on carrying a purse. I couldn’t function without a purse. so that isn’t an option for me. And lastly, if you plan on being somewhere for more than two weeks I suggest biting the bullet and checking a bag–just ask the good Lord to watch over it as you hand it over to the airlines.