How to Pack for a Long Trip Using Only a Carry-On

Long trips are often thrilling adventures, but they come with unique challenges, especially when it comes to packing. Often, people tend to check large suitcases so they have enough supplies for a long trip, but this may not be ideal for you.

If you’re flying, checked bags usually come with hefty fees, and there’s the risk they could be lost during connecting flights. Because of this and other reasons, you may be wondering how to pack for a long trip using only a carry-on so you can avoid fees and keep your belongings close. Here’s how.

Plan and Prioritize

Planning is key when packing efficiently for a long trip. Before packing, plan your outfits so you’re not overpacking unnecessary clothes. You should base your outfits on the activities you’ll be doing and the weather at your destination.

For ease and convenience, you should prioritize neutral or versatile pieces that are easy to mix and match and can be worn multiple times.

Choose the Right Carry-On Suitcase

The type of carry-on you choose will make packing harder or more accessible. A durable, lightweight carry-on with multiple compartments can help you keep everything organized.

Carry-on suitcases which are “soft-sided” rather than hardshell are sometimes optimal as they help you maximize space and can expand to fit more items. Whatever suitcase you choose, however, ensure it matches the restrictions set by the airlines you’re flying with.

Don’t Fold — Roll!

Rolling your clothes can help maximize space while preventing wrinkles. When packing, place heavier items like jeans at the bottom of the carry-on, and follow with lighter items like shirts. You can fill in any gaps with smaller pieces like bandanas or socks.

Wear Bulky Items

Although it’s not incredibly comfortable, you should wear your bulky items to maximize space in your carry-on. Sweaters, boots, jackets, and other bulky items should be worn to free up space in your bag.

Try Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are useful items that can help you organize your carry-on by separating your items into different categories. Some packing cubes also compress your clothes so you can fit more into your bag!

Limit Shoes

Shoes are bulky and heavy, so limit yourself to only the essentials. Choose versatile options that fit your destination activities and are comfortable.

Pack Travel-Size Toiletries

Because of TSA regulations, travel-size toiletries are usually required for carry-on luggage, but they also help you conserve space. Most brands sell mini versions of their products, but if your favorite brands don’t, you can easily buy travel-size reusable bottles and containers and fill them up from your home stash.

Leave Space for Souvenirs

Most people forget this — leaving space for anything purchased while traveling. As you plan and pack, don’t forget that you may want to bring back souvenirs or other items from your trip.

Although, if you do find yourself running out of room, you can always ship lightweight souvenirs or personal belongings back home.

The Key to Traveling with a Carry-On Is Thorough Planning

It isn’t impossible to take long trips with just a carry-on. It does take some careful planning, though! Slow down, think through all scenarios, layer your clothes when necessary, and use resources like packing cubes to enjoy your travels without worrying about many heavy suitcases.

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Paul Stella

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