10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Quit Checking my Luggage on Flights

10 Tips for Packing a Carry On Bag | The things I wish I would have known before a quit checking my luggage on flights

The year was 1999. I was 16 years old and barreling my way through London's Heathrow Airport with a 40 pound carry-on bag weighing down my right shoulder trying desperately to make my connecting flight to Paris.  It was a time when books were only available in paper and music was consumed on portable CD players. We were on the cusp of new technology that would allow us to significantly reduce the weight of our carry-on items, but not in 1999. And I was 16. It seemed completely necessary that I bring 'Heather's Rap Mix' Volumes 1-7 with me on my first flight crossing the Atlantic.

I couldn't tell which corridor I was running down in Heathrow when, after shifting the strap of my navy blue Nike athletic bag from one painful point on my shoulder to the other, I realized that I would have my 60-ish pound extra large suitcase waiting for me at Charles De Gaulle. That's right. I had managed to pack nearly 100 pounds of stuff for my two-week trip to France. 

I can trace the inspiration for the packing for my first trip across the Atlantic back to my childhood. My Dad went through this phase where he insisted we drive everywhere. I could toss all of the books, CD's, movies and games into the back of our SUV and be entertained for hours, even days, as we drove from east-central Iowa down to the middle of Florida to visit my grandparents. 

Fast forward a few years and couple that with the perceieved freedom that comes with traveling sans parents across the world, and I threw every bit of entertainment I thought I needed into that carry on. 

I'm happy to report that I not only survived but I learned my lesson about packing a carry-on; mainly that less really is more. And as the years ticked by and I traveled more and more I've slowly perfected my packing; almost to the point that I rarely even check a bag these days. It can be challenge at times, but it's always worth it to not have to worry about lost luggage - especially when you're visiting multiple cities during a trip.

Below are 10 things that I wish I would have known before I quite checking my luggage on flights. They're tips and tricks that may seem small, but can end up saving you so much precious space in your carry-on.

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10 Tips for Packing a Carry On Bag | The things I wish I would have known before a quit checking my luggage on flights

1. Make sure your carry-on is functional (and comfortable if you're going with straps).

Function and comfort are key, and thanks to the endless amounts of bag designs and options you don't have to sacrifice style to attain them. Read the reviews on products and think about your own trip. Are you going to be hopping from city to city via train or will you be spending a long weekend in one location? Knowing whether a backpack, weekend bag, or carry-on suitcase will best suit your travel needs is the first place to start.

Then begin to read, review, test and try. If you don't live in a bigger city where you check out different options in-person, then make the most of your Amazon Prime account and try a few different bags, being careful with the products so you can send back the ones that won't work for you. 

2. You don't need that 3rd hoodie. Trust me. 

A conversation often heard in our house is "you packed your gray hoodie, so tell me why you need your black hoodie"? And the answer is always "um, I don't know". Because it's not needed. There is no place that you're going to travel (except maybe Fashion Week?) where someone is going to think "if only he/she had on the black jacket instead of the gray jacket". And if you are going to fashion week than this post probably isn't for you :-)

I get it, when you open your closet at home you have a plethora of choices to suit your needs, but you're going on vacation for a small amount of time and you just don't need to bring your entire fall wardrobe. Make sure you have your basics covered, and minimize.

3. If you forget it, you can probably buy it.

In the rush of getting ready the morning of your flight did you forget to throw your contact lens solutions in your bag? Don't worry, wherever you're going you can likely buy it. With the exception of things like medicine or glasses, or going places like the dessert or a 3rd world country, you're likely to find a big box or convenience store that you can purchase any toiletry or other items you may have forgotten. 

4. You can buy toiletries (almost) anywhere.

That leads me to my fourth tip - you can buy toiletries almost anywhere and save lots of room by picking them up when you get to your destination. 

When Dylan and I went to Ireland we knew we were going to be gone for 2 weeks and packing 10 travel-sized toothpastes in each of our carry-on's seemed to be a big waste of space. Instead we each packed one travel-sized toothpaste to get us through our first couple of days, then found a convenience store when we touched down in Dublin to pick up a regular size tube of toothpaste that we shared for the remainder of our trip. 

5. Ditch the hairdryer.

They're big, they're bulky, and I haven't stayed in a hotel room where there wasn't one provided. We simply live in a time where you just don't need to travel with your hair dryer any longer, so ditch the bulky item and save yourself the valuable space in your carry on. 

10 Tips for Packing a Carry On Bag | The things I wish I would have known before a quit checking my luggage on flights

6. Jeans (and leggings) are meant to be worn multiple times.

Are you washing your jeans or leggings after every single time you wear them? If so, WHO ARE YOU? Aside from your gym clothes or dropping some guac on your left thigh after a binge at your local Mexican restaurant, there is no need to wash your pants after you wear them. It's not the norm. Give the delicate fabric on your favorite pair of skinny jeans a break and wear them 2-3 times before throwing them in the wash. Not only will your pants thank you, but you'll be able to pack fewer pieces in your carry-on saving yourself space.

7. Use the empty space.

Shoes and jacket pockets are great places to stuff socks and underwear. The hollow spaces will go un-used in your carry on and can save you space when used.

8. Black and neutrals. Mix and match.

If pops of color are your thing than invest in some fun and colorful jewelry and leave the blacks and neutrals for your clothes. They're never out of style and you can mix and match your pieces to create many different looks while packing less. 

9. Ditch regular folding. 

You're not folding your laundry to put in your dresser drawer, so ditch folding your clothes the "normal" way. Rolling your clothes will give you a lot more room in your carry on, and if you're using a suitcase than packing cubes will help you maximize your space the best.

10. Wear your heaviest clothes.

If you must bring those knee high boots or that chunky sweater than I suggest wearing them on the plane in order to maximize the space in your carry on. Be aware though; you want to be comfortable on your plane ride so maybe figure out how to pack the 4" heels, or leave them at home unless they're needed for a specific event that you're dressing up for. 

Do you have a carry-on packing trick? Share it with us! 


10 Tips for Packing a Carry On Bag | The things I wish I would have known before a quit checking my luggage on flights