How to pack for a trip using only a carry on bag

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Well… that happened. Recently, Southwest Airlines finally became the last major carrier to fall into line with a policy that fliers everywhere have long loathed: they began to charge for checked baggage. For many years, travelers have thought they needed to bring their entire wardrobe, lest they be short of an item of clothing that would cover some unanticipated need.

As a result of this expense, instead of complaining endlessly about how things have gotten more expensive these days, a growing number of intrepid individuals have begun to question whether it was possible to travel overseas using only a significantly smaller space that a carry-on bag affords.

While it requires the adoption of a minimalist/pragmatist’s mindset, we are happy to report that it can be done, as successful case studies have begun to pile up. From the efforts of these pioneers, you too can learn how to pack for a trip using only a carry on bag. Here’s how to pull it off…

Learn about your airline’s carry-on policy

While you can skirt rules surrounding checked baggage by traveling with a carry-on only, if you pack it too full or if the bag itself it is too big for the overhead bins or to fit underneath your seat, you will be subject to penalties, or be forced to check your bag (which defeats the purpose of this article).

Many airlines have a maximum size for bags, which is defined by those metal bins that you see at check-in. Further, if the weight of your bag exceeds a certain amount, disccount airlines like Ryanair will charge fees that can exceed 50 Euros. Ouch.

Do you really need it? Can you buy it there?

Aside from a basic allotment of clothes (3-4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants/shorts, a few pairs of underwear), there is not much else you really need to take with you. If you can go without it for the duration of your trip, leave it at home.

If you will definitely need something, can you buy it in the country where you will be visiting? About 90% of things fall into this category, even toiletries (except for maybe a toothbrush and tiny tube of toothpaste to freshen up your mouth on arrival), so get ruthless about not taking certain things.

Roll, don’t fold

When it comes time to pack your bag, ignore the years of social programming that came from home ed class or from your well-meaning mother and roll up your clothes tight instead of folding them. This will compact the space they take up in your bag, making room for the Macbook, camera and e-reader that you never thought would fit in such a small piece of luggage.

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