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Packing Tips

8 Tips for Squeezing *Everything* Into Your Carry-On

Planning a vacation can be stressful, but packing for your well-deserved R&R shouldn't be. Here, eight easy tips for making the most of your carry-on's limited space.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

Take Only What You Need

Plain and simple, right? But it doesn’t always seem so. Try not to pack more than a week’s worth of clothes. If you’ll be gone a long time, it’s more worthwhile to do laundry there than it is to overpack. Go light on items like jeans (you can re-wear them!), and don’t go overboard on shoes (no more than three pairs)—they’re bulky and add unnecessary weight. One last thing: leave the ultra-fashionable, hard-to-wear pieces at home. If you don’t wear those sky-high stilettos or that fuchsia mini dress on the reg, they’re not worth bringing on the road.

RELATED: The BEST Carry-On Bags for Your Next Flight (Plus Airline Size Restrictions)

Embrace Technology

We love dog-earring the pages of a paperback as much as the next person, but when we travel we trade bulky print books for an e-reader. Pack your Kindle or iPad (but keep it to one) for access to not only e-books, magazines, and online content, but streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

Make a Packing List

Last-second packers are more likely to overpack. Try to sidestep procrastinated packing the best you can by at least putting together a list in advance. This guarantees that you won’t forget anything important, and that you’re only bringing what’s absolutely necessary.

RELATED: Jetsetter’s Perfect Packing List for Every Trip Type

Choose Your Personal Item Wisely

Most airlines allow for a carry-on and a personal item. If you’re really hurting for extra space, opt for a backpack that can accommodate carry-on overflow.

Pack Versatile Pieces

If you read that more like “pack your most boring pieces,” think again. They may not be as exciting as your bolder statement looks, but basics are the key to versatile dressing on and off the road. So stock up on those simple tanks, cardigans, and tees and we promise you’ll never have an “I have nothing to wear” moment again. One of our trusty go-tos? A cashmere wrap that can serve as a scarf, blanket, pillow, or hood.

Leave the (Bulk of Your) Toiletries at Home

Rather than packing everything on your vanity and in your shower, take advantage of the free products readily available at your hotel. Most properties provide shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion, so there’s no reason to waste half your carry-on space with stuff from home. As for cosmetics and must-have products like facial moisturizers and hair treatments, try to find travel-size versions. This will not only save space, but it’ll also ensure you make it through TSA screening without a hitch.

Carefully Consider Roll vs. Fold

It seems like the two camps on this age old debate will never see eye to eye, but we see benefits to both. Consider rolling thinner, more wrinkle-prone items like blouses, while folding bulkier items like jeans and sweaters. Then put those rolled or folded items into compression packing cubes to save even more space.

Utilize Extra (Hidden) Space

Be creative when it comes to fitting in as much as possible. Capitalize on otherwise wasted space—like the inside of your shoes—for storing smaller objects like socks or breakables like perfume. You can also slip items into pouches or tech organizers to keep them safe.

Outfits to Pack for Your Next Trip

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