The Ultimate Guide to Packing for Carryon Travel

Carry-On Packing Tips
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Do you know what not to pack in your carry-on?

As someone that usually only uses carry-ons, regardless of the trip, I’ve learned a thing or two.  I generally only pack my camera gear and some essential items in my backpack carry-on, or personal item, while the rest is in a carry-on suitcase in the required size.

If you want to see more of what I like to pack, check out my Like to Know It page that will give you the links to everything for carry-ons and packing must-haves.

Carry-On Sizes: What You Need to Know Before You Fly

  • Make sure that your bag fits the standard carry-on size of 22 inches tall by 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. That means that everything you pack must be essential unless you are using an additional checked bag.
  • On some international flights, the carry-on size can be a little bit bigger, while domestic flights tend to be sticklers about size. I usually use my Away “the bigger carry-on flex” bag for my clothes and shoes. I have never had a problem with this bag and have really fallen in love with the ease of use and packability. It even expands to give you a bit more room which comes in handy for longer trips. Check out the small zippered pouch inside the suitcase which holds a small bag that you can use for dirty laundry or several pairs of shoes. I cannot tell you how invaluable this is!
  • The general international carry on size is 62 total inches and domestic carry on size is 22” x 14” x 9”.
  • If you are planning on buying souvenirs, clothes etc during your travels, a packable duffle bag will be your best friend. This one fits in the overhead bin on the plane and you wont waste time at your destination trying to find a cheap bag to transport your goodies back. It also fits in your carry-on in a compact pouch. If you don’t plan on buying anything it is still helpful to use as a dirty clothes bag or to carry soiled shoes around.

Maximizing Space: Packing Accessories for Efficient Travel

Use packing cubes. This is not a marketing ploy, they really work! Roll up your clothes and use different cubes for individual categories such as one for shirts, one for pants, etc. I carry an empty one for dirty clothes so when I reach a place that has laundry facilities or a laundry service, I can basically dump the cube out into the washing machine or laundry service bag. I really like the Shacke Pak 5 Set Packing Cubes and the Gonex Compression Packing Cubes that smush down to become even more compact. I tend to use these on longer trips to fit more items into my luggage.

I absolutely love Cadence. They make capsules that are produced out of consumer waste and are leakproof and magnetic. The tops can be customized with whatever label you need to have on it or use one of the premade labels. Use the “capacity calculator” to find out how many uses each capsule will hold depending on the contents.

You will need a clear container to hold your liquids and toiletries and I really like this TSA approved bag.

The SAOQI makeup bag is a great way to transport your makeup because it has separate zippered sides for makeup and brushes.

I also love the Truffle cases! I own several of them in different sizes and they keep everything organized and easy to access. I usually use the Clarity Jumbo Jetset Case at home and the Clarity Jetset case for travel.

Truffle cases for carry-on luggage

Packing your jewelry for travel can be frustrating sometimes. First, let give you a piece of advice. Don’t bring expensive jewelry! If you lose something you don’t want it to be a priceless item. I had this experience in South Africa with my wedding set… Yeah, it wasn’t fun. The Truffle Privacy Jewelry Case is a great way to transport your inexpensive necklaces and bangles.

If you need individual sections for each category then I suggest this one from Bagsmart.

Packing Tips for a Stress-Free Travel Experience

Do not pack your jacket, especially if it is heavy or bulky. It is better just to hold on to it or put it through the straps of your purse or backpack. This will give you plenty of room in your bag. However, if you have a really thin raincoat such as my favorite, Kuhl W’s Stretch Voyagr Jacket, roll it up very tight and place it in your bag. Kuhl’s rain jacket is extremely thin and breathable. If you are a taller woman like me, this coat comes down onto your hands slightly, you will love it! 

I also love the thicker, but not too thick, Helly Hansen Sailing Jacket. It comes in a number of gorgeous colors, but my favorite is the white. 

Do not pack books, pillows, or magazines. Instead, use your phone or a tablet to read your books or watch movies. I use the Libby app that allows me to check out books and audiobooks from my local library. You can also pay for a card to some of the larger libraries such as Boston if your local is small.

Pack a battery backup that can recharge your phone easily. My favorite is the Anker PowerCore 10,000 Portable Power Bank that you can find on Amazon. I always carry one in my purse and camera bag. Charge it up before your trip and recharge as needed to not have to worry about any of your devices losing power. I carry this power bank with me as I am exploring cities or hiking. I can usually charge two or three devices which makes it invaluable.

A travel pillow is generally a waste of space, however, there are a few that are easy to use such as the AirComfy Inflatable Travel Pillow from Amazon. 

I sometimes bring a whale by Kikkerland that transforms into a neck pillow. This whale is clipped on the outside of my backpack and is a great supplement when you encounter hotels that only provide pillows that are super flat. I am looking at you Europe…

I hope this list helps you on your next journey. Some of it may seem obvious, but we women tend to overpack (especially me) and bring unnecessary things causing us to have less space for the important things like… socks, shirts, etc. If you want to see more of what I like to pack, check out my Like to Know It page that will give you the links to everything!

Let me know if you have some favorite packing tips or items.

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Kristal Ham

Hi fellow nomads!

Traveler and Photographer

My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site! 

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