How to Pack Your Life into a Carry-on Bag


There are few things more self-affirming in life than the feeling that comes from walking past the lines of people waiting for their luggage to appear on the baggage carousel because you only have a carry-on bag. You can look at the forlorn faces of those poor souls waiting for their oversized suitcases packed with needless additions to their trip while you happily stroll off on an adventure without a care in the world.

If you’ve never experienced this, then don’t panic, your days of awkwardly elbowing fellow travellers while you try and work out which suitcase is yours are over. Here are our top tips on how to pack your life into a carry-on bag.


1. Lay Everything out

Before you start packing, lay out everything you are planning on taking. Importantly, this includes things like your camera, your toiletries, even your passport and tickets. Put everything in a big pile on the floor or on your bed and then make sure you’ve missed nothing. To achieve carry-on bag level packing, you need to be pedantic; an extra pair of shoes can ruin everything.


2. Get Rid of Everything You Don’t Need

Importantly, taking a carry-on bag only doesn’t mean not having everything you need, it just means not having everything else. It’s about being effective rather than planning for every single scenario that could arise.

How many times have you packed your hair straightener or hair dryer and it has never left your bag? Or put in that formal attire, “just in case.” Did you honestly expect some foreign dignitary was going to realise you were in town and invite you to their chalet?

The magic formula is this: if you don’t know if you’ll need it, you won’t.



Don’t start packing yet, first look at everything you are planning on packing and consider whether you have some things that could double up. Meaning, do you have items of clothing that could be worn more often, or in multiple scenarios? If you are carrying different types of technology, perhaps one could be left behind (a smartphone doubling as a camera is an obvious example). Shoes take up ridiculous amounts of space, could you do without a pair?


4. There Are No Gaps

When packing a carry-on bag, every space must be filled to its optimal. This means that you don’t need that big fancy leather toiletries bag, instead put your toothbrush and hairbrush in a plastic bag, and put that plastic bag in a shoe.

Remember to use corners to their utmost and pack to the very edge of your carry-on bag to make sure there is no room to move when you zip up.


5. You Are Part of the Formula

Oh, so you like to dress light on the plane, so that you are comfortable? Not anymore. It’s important to be comfortable once you are in the air, but while you are boarding, wear as many clothes as is practical. This is especially important if you are taking a large jacket, which also has pockets that can be filled with small items that take up space in your luggage.

Once you get on the plane, feel free to stuff everything into the overhead locker next to your conveniently sized carry-on bag.


6. Pack

There are far too many arguments when it comes to rolling your clothes or folding them. Rollers say they don’t need to iron their clothes after unpacking, and folders say they can fit more in. The carry-on bag mentality is to fill all the spaces, so a combination of rolling and folding is probably beneficial.


And if all else fails …

Shop! It’s one of the true, enduring delights of travelling to a new destination: shopping in an unfamiliar place for items you need or might like, in shops you may not know, among items you don’t recognise and along with locals you’d like to meet. Particularly useful for toiletries and small items as they are cheap and you can buy just enough for your time away.  And any of those extra wardrobe purchases can be worn on the plane on the return trip home.

Happy travels!!