carry-on-bag-travelChecking a bag on an airplane is expensive and inconvenient. On domestic flights, checked bag fees start at $25 for the first bag and skyrocket from there. While you can check your first bag for free on most international flights, you’ll still experience the inconvenience of waiting for your bags at your destination and the anxiety of not being sure they’ll be there when you need them. Nothing can spoil a trip faster than lost luggage.

But there’s a better way.

If you would like to join the carry-on only revolution, here are a few tips that will help you pack the one-and-only bag you’ll need on your next international trip.

Measure and Weigh Your Bag
Packing the right bag is just as important as what you pack inside it. For domestic flights, the standard carry-on bag size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches (H x W x D). International carry-on bag sizes and weight limits vary a lot, so check with your airline or online resources like the Carry-On Guy for the most up-to-date standards.

Remember the 3-1-1 Rule
Follow the 3-1-1 rule, which requires that all liquids must be stored in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and stored within a 1-quart bag, one bag per traveler. Liquids will be your biggest challenge for carry-on only travel, so pack judiciously. If you must have a particular shampoo, soap, or contact lens solution, then bring it. Otherwise, plan to buy the basics at your destination.

Pack Versatile Outfits
Bring a lot of solid colors that you can mix and match with other outfits. Heavy items like sweaters take up a lot of space, so only bring one if the weather is cold. Shoes are bulky; if you must bring more than one pair, wear your heaviest shoes and stuff the ones your packing with socks, underwear, and belts to save space. And yes, it is possible to pack a suit and other work clothes in your carry-on bag.

Use a Folding Board and Don’t Be Afraid to Roll
If you’re packing dress shirts or blouses, use a folding board, packing cubes, and compression bags to help keep them tidy and maximize the space in your bag. For casual clothing that can withstand wrinkles better, rolling instead of folding them can help save space. When you arrive at your destination, don’t keep them in your bag. Hang them up to release the wrinkles.

Keep Important Things Accessible
You’ll have many more things in your bag when traveling with a carry-on only, so organization is essential. Remember that each time you go through security and customs, you’ll be asked to remove your laptop and liquids from your bag. Keep these near the top or otherwise accessible to speed things along. Also, dedicate a pocket on an item of clothing that you’re wearing for your passport and cash – never put these in your bag.

Don’t Forget Your Personal Item
In addition to your carry-on, most airlines also allow you to bring a personal item such as a laptop bag, backpack or purse. They must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. These personal items are great for “spillover” items that don’t fit in your carry-on, as well as the must-haves that you’ll need during the flight.

If you pack smart and pare down your list to the essentials, you’ll be traveling fast, light and comfortably on your next international trip with just a carry-on bag.

Photo from The New York Times.


About The Author

Bill Conn is a travel enthusiast and writer at Scribewise. His favorite travel destinations include Shanghai, Vancouver, Munich – and of course, his home town of Philadelphia. Visit

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