• Rosanne Knorr

How to Pack Easily with Carry-On Luggage

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

So many people—women especially—say they can’t limit themselves to a carry-on bag. But most typical two-week trips, often longer, can be done without checking bags.

Take a wheeled, carry-on that is the largest within airline regulations. (There are no bonus points for those tiny bags half the approved size.) Check airlines for specific regulations. A sturdy, soft-side bag with an expandable zipper lets you stuff in extras on the return leg.

Use a backpack as your “personal” bag. (Ditto largest within regs) Fill it with passport, tickets, prescriptions, lightweight rain parka, cotton sweater, phone, tablet with reading material loaded or paperback, and other vitals. It's your fallback position if you end up on a small feeder flight or a major tightens up unexpectedly and takes bags at the gate.

I wanted a backpack that didn't look as though I was going hiking, that wasn’t bulky or tiny, just right. I found it online through the travel guru Rick Steves' shop. The pack even has a back band that fits over the wheeled carry-on handle to keep it in place on airport runs and over cobblestones. At the destination, the backpack works as an overnight bag, beach bag, picnic hamper, or day bag for shopping.


A carry-on set-up that fits most airline requirements.

Consolidate. Put a flexible, cross-body purse in the backpack before you go through security. If you need a coat don’t waste space packing it. (Planes are often cold, you’ll want it handy.)

Pack Smart. Mix and match is a given. Lay everything out a week in advance of the trip; juggle pieces around, deleting and adding until everything plays well with others.

Take separates, not outfits; rely on layers to stay warm. A thin insulated top layered under shirt or pj’s takes little space but does wonders to keep you warm.

Travel clothes should be comfortable, wrinkle-free, washable & fast drying. Travel Smith and Magellan's specialize in travel items; Chico’s Travelers collection offers women fashions that work at home or away. To avoid wasted space, roll clothes; small items go in corners.

Shoes & Etc. Take two pairs of shoes; wear the bulkiest (hopefully they are also easy to remove at security!) You might add sandals to double as slippers. Use the hearty walking shoes for touring a city or countryside; the second pair (for women) can be a bit smarter to work with slacks and skirts for dinner out, but cushioned and comfy for walking there (or as happens, running in the rain) Finally, save undergarments and socks that are have seen better days; wear them on the trip then throw out to make room for souvenirs!

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