Mastering the Art of Carry-On Packing

8 Items and Recommendations to Help You Pack Light on Your Next Travel Adventure

Savvy travelers know that a large part of enjoying a trip comes down to optimizing travel essentials and luggage. Packing light with carry-on luggage can be a great way to save money and stay adaptive while on an exciting trip. Here are 10 great items and recommendations to consider when packing for your next trip.

Foldable or Collapsible Duffel or Shopping Bag 

Your carry-on luggage could take the form of a small rolling bag or a hefty, yet mobile backpack. Whatever your preference, consider bringing an additional carrying solution for different circumstances that might crop up during your trip. Hannah Ackroyd of Get Lost Travel Blog, uses a smaller, supplementary bag for added utility while traveling. 

“Once I get to the gate, I put all of my ‘in-flight’ essentials into this bag (my book, headphones, phone, etc.) that I will need during the flight,” said Ackroyd. “This smaller bag of essentials will fit under the seat in front without taking up all of the legroom.”

Aside from in-flight organization, the flexibility of having a smaller bag can help you pare down to everyday essentials and stay mobile on your trip.

Soap and Shampoo Bars 

For those who plan to pack light and carry-on for their next flight, negotiating the TSA security line is an important hurdle of your journey to keep in mind. Packing efficiently for the intent to carry on means you need to pay special attention to your essentials — namely toiletries. Remember, TSA caps permissible liquids containers for products like shampoo and body wash to 3.2oz.

“I always pack regular soap as well as a solid shampoo bar,” said Marek Bron of Indie Traveller. “Body wash and shampoo are mostly water, so packing the ‘concentrated’ version is a lot more efficient when traveling light.”

Also consider soap concentrates that easily dilute like Doctor Bronner’s Soaps, that keep you clean, and refreshed without overpacking.

Wear Your Heaviest Clothing on the Flight 

Another carry-on conundrum to be aware of — especially when considering travel to a brisker locale — is how to handle larger and warmer articles of clothing. Alex Tran, an excursionist from Schimiggy Reviews explains how she deals with her extra layers while traveling.

“Instead of packing your heavy clothing, which can cause you to go over carry-on weight limits, wear it on your body until you arrive at your destination.” 

This nifty trick is sure to keep you warm on a long-haul flight as well as ensure you are more mobile with your luggage once you arrive. Consider, coats and jackets often have more, and larger, pockets — perfect for some additional storage in addition to your carry-on.

Bring Copies of Your Essential Documentation

When your luggage capacity is at a premium, making sure your essentials are traveling with you is critical. “When it comes to copies of ID, it’s easy to accidentally lose your documents and you can get in a lot of trouble without any identification,” said Torben Lonne of Dive In. “I like having multiple copies to at least show as a reference if need be.”

Man looking in his baggage on an airplane.
Photo by: Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Losing key documents when on the move can surely put a wrench in your ability to enjoy a vacation, or worse. Having backups of key items like IDs, itineraries, and other essential documentation can serve as insurance and contribute to greater peace of mind while out exploring.

Modular & Flexible Travel Luggage 

Being flexible and choosing luggage that serves for multiple occasions can be a really great way to pack light and accommodate a variety of circumstances while traveling. For your carry-on luggage, you might benefit from considering a modular design, with a range of options. Tys Sniffen of Idea Mountain discussed the benefits he receives from utilizing a modular backpack design.

Luggage containing multiple travel related items.
Photo by: STIL on Unsplash

“I drop my day pack and just take my hip pack — no repacking needed — and head out with just my essentials. A great day with no slowdowns,” said Sniffen.

Carry-on luggage can take many forms and there are a wealth of designs and options available for every traveler. With a little research, finding a great bag that facilitates an even greater range of functionality while on the move, is in reach. 


Whether you are planning for an extended duration or a quick couple of days, choosing the right clothing is a great way to capitalize on your carry-on potential. You are going to have to plan for a relatively sparse wardrobe, and depending on your length of stay, you may even consider doing laundry. Also, consider the types of garments you plan on taking. 

“Having clothes that are multi-functional means you do less with more, ” said Jacob Pacheco of Prone to Ride. “If you have to be mobile and on the go, moisture-wicking helps keep you dry and odor to a minimum.”

Top down view of an outfit
Photo by: Mnz on Unsplash

There are a wealth of options on the market that can cover the bases of smart travel wear. These can be great options that will facilitate your ability to stay mobile, cut costs, and look put together, even when living out of a backpack.

Travel Snacks 

With carry-on luggage, your essentials stay with you wherever you go. This makes a great opportunity to plan for those moments between meals where your stomach is giving you the business. 

“I always get the munchies whenever I’m on a plane, ” said Daniel Carter of Zippy Electrics. “I always have an assortment of dry snacks in ziplock bags and portable containers [e.g. fruits and nuts, on-the-go salad, hummus, and veggies].”

With these shelf-stable go-to’s in your pack, a quick fuel-up can take place when you need it most. Get creative with what you want to bring and cater to your personal needs and preferences. While other travelers are shelling out at the convenience kiosk, you can stride with confidence (and a full belly), toward your final destination. 

Portable Power Bank 

In our ever-increasing digital world, the importance of power is a sure consideration to undertake. You don’t want to find yourself missing out on great pictures or an opportunity to complete some important work because you can’t find a power outlet. Rax Suen of Nomads Unveiled comments on how having a portable power bank has been a must-have while traveling.

“This has been a lifesaver many times when traveling. Your mobile phone can often run low on battery if you are using it as your main camera as well. Having a power bank helps to ensure my multi-purpose tech is always available when I need it most.”

There are many great options on the market, offering coverage for a variety of devices and charge capacities. You never know when a travel adventure will come calling. Preparing with a little portable power means you can feel secure in your tech and your ability to enjoy the day.

For more packing tips and tricks, check out our Packing Essentials traveler guide. For more inspiration and all things travel, visit Vacationist USA!