7 tips for flying with just hand luggage, even for a long trip

Packing can be overwhelming no matter where you go, but it’s especially stressful when you’re preparing for an extended vacation or when you’ll need different outfit options. Many of us tend to overpack, which makes the process all the more cumbersome. You may prefer to check in a bag or two to ensure you can carry everything you need, but given the long waits at baggage claim and the skyrocketing number of lost bags, you should consider checking in. swap your bigger bag for a smaller carry-on. Even if you think it’s absolutely impossible to pack a two-week trip with so little luggage, travel experts insist it’s possible. Read on to find out the seven tips they recommend for flying with just hand luggage, no matter how long your trip.

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Packing cubes are all the rage these days. Not only do they keep you organized when packing, but they also make unpacking easier.

“Packing cubes allow me to organize my clothes into neat cubes that fit perfectly in my carry-on,” Suzanne Casamentoauthor and digital nomad, tells Better life. “The cubes are labeled with a shirt or pants icon so I know exactly what’s in each cube. [They] zip up and allow me to fit a lot more in my carry-on than fits if I’m packing “normally”. »

But you will have to pay attention to something else when choosing your packing cubes, Mikkel Woodruff, professional photographer and blogger for the travel sites Sometimes Home and Sometimes Sailing, explains. “Everyone talks about packing cubes, but they miss the mark unless they have compression packing cubes,” he says. “They compress the clothes in the cube after you’ve packed them, so they take up less space.

If you already have regular packing cubes, never fear, you can easily invest in some stuff sacks to put inside the cubes.

rolling clothes in a suitcase
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In your packing cubes – and even if you decide to do without them – you’ll want to roll your clothes instead of folding them.

“It takes up less space and also has the advantage of reducing creases in your clothes”, jessie moore, founder of luxury travel brand Pocket Wanderings, says. “Start with larger items, then use smaller items, such as socks and underwear, to fill in any gaps, including the insides of shoes.”

If you are planning a getaway to a winter destination, John Hubbard, founder and CEO of outdoor travel blog Urban Dare, says you need to take advantage of every inch of your carry-on. “If you’re going on a ski trip and need to pack bulky items, I have three words for you: rolling and all,” he explains. “Fill all the empty spaces in your luggage and between your gear with clothes. Use your ski boots as sock holders and underwear. Fill your helmet with your puffiest jacket. Slip layers of clothes between your ski gear. ski.”

Moore also suggests using your jacket pockets. They are the perfect home for small items like phone chargers or hats.

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laundry inside the machine
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Travel experts recommend packing less and doing laundry at some point, especially if you’re on a longer trip. Laundry detergent sheets are a must-have, according to Alisha McDarris, travel writer and blogger for Terradrift. These sheets are eco-friendly options, as they contain concentrated levels of laundry detergent and the paper dissolves during the wash.

“They don’t take up space in your bag and weigh next to nothing,” she says. “Plus, you won’t have to run to the store for expensive single-use detergent every time you want to wash a few items.”

When you book your trip, you can also take steps to ensure you have access to a washing machine that isn’t in a laundromat. “If you’re going on a trip longer than seven days, try to book accommodation halfway through your trip with a washer and dryer,” Emily Cuneo, full-time travel blogger and owner and author of Emily Embarks, recommends. “Airbnb is great for this and saves you having to pack enough clean clothes for a week or more.”

You can also wash your clothes by hand, but in that case, Woodruff also recommends throwing clothespins in your carry-on.

pack for the holidays
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We’re all guilty of throwing an extra sweatshirt, pair of shoes, or about five extra pairs of underwear into our bags when packing. But if you’re trying to maximize space in your carry-on, you’ll need to exercise restraint.

“Packing in a carry-on forces you out of the “just in case” items mindset,” Veronique Hanson, Nomad Veronica’s full-time “slowmad” travel agent, notes. “So many items are packed in case of possible situations and these items take up a lot of space. For example, you may pack a first aid kit because you are going on a hike, but you leave the kit in the hotel room, and when you get hurt, you have to find a solution in the world anyway. Bringing this article “just in case” had no point.”

Also keep in mind that unless you’re going somewhere totally remote, you’ll likely have access to purchase these items if you need them. “If a perfect sequence of events happens and you’re able to do the unlikely thing, you can get items at the location you’re visiting,” Hanson explains. “Don’t pack like the travel destination doesn’t have products available for your ‘just in case’ scenarios.”

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pile of neutral clothes

Deciding what to bring is hard enough, but travel experts say you should actually aim to packaged. Go for neutral clothes that can be mixed and matched.

“Pack a capsule-like wardrobe where multiple pants and tops complement each other, so you don’t have to pack a full outfit for every day,” Jaime Michaels, publisher of Magic Guides, suggests. “Besides, remember that on most trips you won’t see the same people day after day; chances are no one will notice that you were wearing the same shirt two days ago.”

It also enhances the versatility of your travel wardrobe, as basic leggings can be worn on their own or under pants to keep you warm, says McDarris. Think “light layers”. Fashionistas may consider this a challenge, and remember you’ve already packed your laundry detergent sheets, so you can wash whatever you need along the way!

woman in layered clothes
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While you’re organizing your capsule wardrobe, you need to consider the type of fabrics you’re packing. Some are lighter, which makes more room in your carry-on, but will still keep you warm in cold weather.

“Spend the extra money on quality, insulated but thin clothing,” says Woodruff. “We have very thin Patagonia Nano Puff coats that take up very little space in our bags. We can layer them with other clothes in the fall, for example, so we don’t need a huge winter coat. ‘fall.”

McDarris also recommends opting for synthetic fibers like rayon or spandex, as opposed to more tempting natural fibers like linen and wool. “Not only do they take up less space, but they’re often stain and rain resistant, don’t wrinkle as much, and can be worn multiple times before needing a wash,” she says.

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man with neck pillow at airport
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If you’ve whittled down your clothes pile and still can’t make any cuts, travel experts say you may need to be a little tricky. “For those who are really desperate for extra storage, one hack that’s gone viral on TikTok recently is to remove the stuffing from your travel pillow and stuff it with clothes instead,” Moore says. “It’s a bit extreme, but it does the trick!”

If all else fails, you might be forced to stack your bulky clothes for the flight, she says.

“There really isn’t a restriction on how many layers you can wear, so take advantage of that! you really don’t need to, as shoes tend to be one of the biggest space takers in luggage,” adds Moore.

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