Monday, February 14, 2022

How to Pack for Carry-On Only

This post is all about packing for carry on to avoid luggage fees and wasted time!  Note, that this article contains affiliate links and I may make a small commission off your purchases.
Carry on my wayward son!

As you might know, I used to be a travel agent. I also happen to love travelling but I hate spending unnecessary money. I have perfected the best way to pack for any length trip which will allow you to save big bucks by doing carry-on only. Join me, won't you?

So, it's 2022 and travel aboard an airplane has become a nickel and dime business. Find a great deal on a ticket price? Great, that will be another 30% for your luggage, 10% for a snack, 30% to pick your seat, 20% for a drink, and 10% for the flight attendant to say hello when you board. Now your great deal is twice the price. Congrats!

Obviously, that's an exaggeration (unless you're flying Spirit Airlines) but it's not too far off. Nearly every airline charges for luggage. A notable exception is Southwest. Nearly every airline charges for food. Hawaiian Airlines is a notable exception. The point is, there are always going to be extras because times have changed. You're not wearing a suit to fly anymore and the airlines aren't so much about the experience as they are about the act of delivering you to a destination. I can't help with the fees to pick your seat or to have an adult beverage, but I can help with luggage costs and meal charges.

Luggage can run you $50 per suitcase per leg of flight.  Let's assume a couple is flying round trip with only one suitcase each.  That's $200 extra on your trip that could be spent on mai tais.  You're a fool to give the airlines money that you really don't have to.  I am going to teach you how to pack carry-on only for a trip of any length.  My wife and I packed carry-on only for our 4 day cruise this winter, our 11 night trip to Maui in 2012, and our 18 night, 4 island trip to Hawaii last spring.  Yes, 18 nights in Hawaii, carry-on only.

First, let's define carry-on.  Carry-on luggage is a single suitcase, per person, that does not exceed 22" tall by 14" wide by 9" deep (45 linear inches).  The suitcase cannot weigh more than 25 pounds.  Now some airlines are more flexible with these sizes and weight limits.  Hell, some gate attendants are more flexible than others within the same airline.  Also, if you're using a soft-sided duffel bag that can squish into these sizes, you're golden. All four members in my family have hard sided luggage.

I know what you're thinking.  How in God's green earth did I fit 18 nights worth of luggage in 45 linear inches.  How did my wife?

I didn't  She didn't.  See, you don't just get to carry-on this one suitcase.  You also get to take a personal item on board the flight.  For most, this would be eaten up by your purse or laptop bag.  That's a huge waste.  First, why the hell are you taking a laptop on vacation?!?!?!  The only reason you need that is if it's a business trip, in which case your company should be paying so this article isn't for you. And ladies, you don't need the purse you need at home while on vacation.  There's no real size restriction for the personal item.  If you show up with a body bag, they won't allow it, but a large backpack?  Hell yes!  We use an Ozark Trail Daypack but any backpack will do.  The bigger, the better. We prefer ones that have hydropacks inside.  Obviously, you cannot travel through security with water in them, but that's more space for stuff.  I will explain more in a bit.

OK, so each member of your travel party has a 45 linear inch suitcase and a large backpack.  Look at all that space!  I know I know.  You're still in doubt.  Perhaps I should have mentioned that for this plan to work, you may be required to do laundry while on vacation.  Oh my!  I hear the villagers sharpening their pitchforks.  It will be ok.  You were going to take that laptop anyway so obviously, you're not above working on vacation.  Get over it.  I always recommend staying in a condo on vacation any way, which I will dive into in a future blog.  Condos usually have laundry machines inside so you can throw a load in at night and it's no skin off your back.  We've also gone the route of grabbing breakfast from a delicious local joint and heading to the laundry mat first thing in the morning.  No big deal.  You only have to do it once or twice on your trip.  You'll survive.

OK, so here's how to do it:

1. Wear heavier clothing on the plane.

It's only a few hours and most people get cold on the flight anyway.  Wear your jacket, jeans, and biggest shoes.  Your jacket can double as a pillow if you get sleepy.

2. Roll everything else into the suitcase.

Yes, roll.  It takes up less space and prevents wrinkles.  Using this method, we even fit full snorkel gear, including fins, inside the suitcase.

3. Don't pack what you don't need.

Seriously, you don't need six pairs of shoes and 12 outfits for 4 days.  You don't.  Depending on where you're going, what activities you'll be doing, and the weather, you might need three pairs of shoes.  Let's say  you wear hiking boots on the plane.  You pack flip-flops and maybe water shoes or heels if you are 100% sure you'll wear them at least twice on the trip.  As far as clothing goes, pack stuff that is interchangeable.  Remember, you're doing laundry.  I wear one pair of jeans on the plane and might pack one more pair but more likely I pack two pairs of shorts.  Yes, 1 pair of jeans and two pairs of shorts for 18 nights in Hawaii.  I planned ahead.  I realized the weather was mostly warm so one pair of jeans would only be worn a few chilly nights.  I'd be in my bathing suit most days so more than two shorts is unnecessary.  Seriously.  We hiked a bit so the shorts worked great for those days.  The only things you need more of is underwear, socks, and tops.  Those are the things that touch your gross, sweaty bits.  Those are the things that can't be reworn between washings.

4. Do the math.

Figure out how long you'll be gone and how many times you can really do laundry.  Divide those two numbers.  That's how many pairs of socks, underwear and tops you need to pack. In a carry-on suitcase, you can fit up to 6 days worth of clothing if you follow this list.

5. Plan activities well ahead of time.

If you know what you'll be doing on vacation, you know what you need to pack. If you're not snorkeling, don't pack a snorkel.  Not going fishing?  No need to take a pole.  Skipping the fine dining?  You don't need a suit.

6. Use the backpack to your advantage.

I pack my travel documents, snacks for the flight, entertainment (most of which fits on my phone), a hat, accouterments like a flashlight, "Survival items",  and first-aid kit, and my toiletries, which are all travel size and all within a 1 quart bag.  Remember that liquids must adhere to the TSA specifications.  Anything that doesn't fit can be purchased cheaply wherever you're going and thrown out or donated before you return.  Once you arrive at your destination and your backpack can be a backpack again, fill up the bladder and you've got drinking water with you all day.

It's very simple and you'll find that not having to go through baggage claim will not only save you time but headaches as well.  I promise that you can make the carry-on work for you.  Feel free to ask me questions in the comments.

Hopefully this Hobbit has Helped you today!