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One-bag travel: 7 must-know tips to pack everything you need in carry-on luggage

Avoid airport hassles by packing light

Man packing suitcase on a bed
Xavier Lorenzo / Shutterstock

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of overpacking? It’s OK. Most of us have stuffed much more than is necessary into our luggage when heading on a trip. It’s not easy to decide what to bring or leave home when you’re packing for a trip for pleasure or business.

Do you always think you never know when you’re going to need a particular item? Well, then it’s time to learn the art of packing light. There really is a method to learning how to streamline your packing — and would you believe you can actually get everything you need into your carry-on luggage — just one bag? It’s true.

Lost luggage is a major concern to many travelers. Imagine the nightmare of arriving at your dream destination only to find your luggage is on the other side of the world. If you want to trim down your packing and learn how to travel light, we’ve got the travel tips you need so that you can achieve one-bag travel and limit the odds of your stuff going missing on your flight.

Well-dressed man rolling a luxury carry-on bag through a private plane terminal hallway
Gustavo Fring / Pexels

Travel tips on packing light

One of the best travel tips is packing light. Having everything you need for your trip in your carry-on makes it easier for you to get where you’re going without the stress of trying to manage multiple pieces of luggage. You also have the added peace of mind of knowing the things you need for your trip are safely right over your head. There isn’t any time spent on the flight fretting over whether your bag made it on the plane. When you land, you are good to go with your carry-on luggage. There isn’t a need to crowd around the baggage carousel hoping your bags appear. Of course, packing light is easier said than done. So, here’s your go-to list for packing light for your next trip.

Choose the right carry-on

There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a carry-on bag. Roller suitcases are convenient and protective, but you end up losing a lot of potential interior space due to the handle and wheel attachments. Traditional hiking backpacks can be too long for overhead compartments, and they’re also a pain to dig through because of their layout.

Tortuga solves this by fusing a suitcase-like design with a backpack setup. It’s specifically fashioned to maximize every square inch allowed to you by airline restrictions, and it has a functional assortment of pockets and other organizational features. What’s more, Tortuga travel backpacks are durable, comfortable, and water-resistance. The bottom line is that no other bag allows you to pack so much into the carry-on space allowance.

How to pack a suitcase

Packing everything in your suitcase is all about space efficiency. You’ve probably heard the old “roll, don’t fold” adage in regard to packing clothes. Stuff socks and underwear into your shoes or better yet, don’t bring along an extra set of shoes at all. You’re packing light, remember.

In the end, proper packing isn’t so much about using specific tactics but more a matter of keeping organization in mind. If you just throw everything into a bag, very little will fit. If you take the time to find the right place for each item, you’ll be able to pack far more into a smaller space.

Forget “just-in-case” items

We’ve all packed those “just-in-case” items like an extra sweatshirt or a sweater, even if you’re headed to the tropics. The best packing tip is to leave those what-if items at home. Instead, when packing, keep in mind the things you actually use on a day-to-day basis. Anything that has you thinking “just in case” should stay at home.

Vacation packing list

Keeping a packing list when traveling is great for not only making sure that you don’t forget anything essential, but also for ensuring that you don’t bring anything extra. Wondering what to pack in a carry-on? We’ve got a go-to list vacation packing list to help you get your carry-on ready to go.

  • 4 T-shirts
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 pairs of gym shorts
  • 2 gym shirts
  • 1 rain shell
  • 1 hoody
  • 1 belt
  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • Toothbrush
  • Razor
  • Toothpaste
  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Kindle
  • Laptop
  • 2 USB-C cables
  • 2 USB-A cables
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • 1 power bank
  • Wireless headphones

You can also have a pair of running shoes clipped to the outside of my bag by a carabiner. Feel free to adjust the clothing items you need to bring based on your destination and travel purpose. Just remember need, not just in case.

Make the most of your personal item

In addition to your larger bag, travelers are allowed a smaller personal item that can fit below the seat in front of you. A large purse, laptop bag, small backpack, camera bag, or whatever else will fit works great. This is the perfect place to carry extra items that won’t fit in your carry-on, or to pack souvenirs from your trip.

Make the most of your jacket

If you’re headed to a chillier climate or even a warm one, think of your jacket as a third bag you wear over your body. Those pockets can be a place to store smaller items on your packing list and you’ll have a jacket for when the temperatures dip.

Buy toiletries at your destination

Don’t fill up your bag with everything from your bathroom sink. Bring a few essential items, then get everything else when you arrive at your destination. This can also help speed things along at airport security by skipping the part where you forget that you packed a bottle of whatever exceeds the 3.4-ounce liquid rule.

A man using a checklist to pack his suitcase.
Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Travel like a pro by packing light

While stress is unavoidable when traveling, there are travel tips to streamline the whole process. It comes down to striking a balance between planning and improvisation. For people who travel often for business or pleasure, packing light is key. It may be hard to fathom, but you can actually take one bag on a trip when you know what to pack in a carry-on. A packing list when traveling is essential to putting together a carry-on that can get you comfortably through your entire trip.

Keep our other travel tips in mind when packing for your next trip. You’ll see that you may actually enjoy your flight when you’re not worried about whether your luggage got on the plane. When you touch down, you will really love not waiting around for the baggage to catch up.

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Nick Hilden
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Hilden is a lifestyle and culture writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Afar…
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