How to pack so you only need a carry-on

How to pack so you only need a carry-on

Compress, cinch and carry: the guide to skipping checked bag queues and fees

Checked bags: a hassle for you, a revenue center for airlines.

Passengers on major U.S. carriers spent more than US$1.74 billion on bag fees in the first half of 2012, US$78 million more than in the first half of 2011, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports.

Some industry players are helping by adding incentives for packing light.

Essential Travel, a British travel insurance provider, started offering hand-luggage-only travel insurance at a 10 percent discount this September after a study by The Co-operative Travel claimed 233 percent more Brits were opting out of checking bags.

If you feel a fee coming on, the most frugal antidote seems to be: roll up two T-shirts, stuff a Ziploc bag with toiletries and make sure your on-board tote fits neatly beneath your seat where you won’t be charged for overhead stowage or forced to gate check your bag -- a service that could also soon carry a fee. 

But if you can’t bear cramming your snazzy outfits and Jimmy Choos into a miniature valise that competes for your already scant legroom, here are some tips to ease the agony of reducing your life to a carry-on.


1. Start with the right bag

Sharp, convenient and simple.
When it comes to a carry-on bag, you want it light enough that no one rushes to your aid in pity while you struggle to hoist it overhead, small enough that it fits once up there, and somehow still big enough to hold everything.

Behold the tarpaulin soft-sided luggage. Maxed-out to fit just within the average carry-on limit -- 45 linear inches (114 centimeters), length plus width plus height -- you can stuff this bag to capacity and then cinch it in with four side straps. Think of it as shapewear for luggage.

Weighing just 6.5 pounds (2.9 kilos) empty, you should still be set for hassle-free hoisting after filling it up.

Hideo Wakamatsu Tarpaulin Carry-On, US$179,

2. Pack what you actually need

For the ultimate check-lister.
Every overpacker’s personal therapist, this simple what-to-pack checklist keeps it real. It promises you don’t need that extra silk shirt and slacks. Or the shoes that simply must go with them. 

This all-inclusive list of essentials categorized into “Basics,” “Miscellaneous,” “Clothes,” and “Hygiene,” reminds you to grab specific items like anxiety meds, the money belt for your stash and dental floss.

Just tick the boxes for the things you actually need, round them up and check your list -- at least twice -- before zipping up. 

Pack This! Pad, 60 sheets, US$6.50,

3. Compress, compress, compress

packing a carry onEasy to find, easy to pack.  
Smaller than your acceptable size carry-on but big enough to fit eight pairs of men’s jeans plus four or five shirts and a light sweater, this compression bag is more than just a space saver -- it’s your key to having your necessities and supplementing them too.

The double-compression organizer does two things: gets you folding your garments tidily to maximize space and exhales excess air to condense it all. 

When you’re done donning your well-packed threads, flip the bag over and place them neatly into the “Laundry” compartment where they’ll be stored away from your clean clothes. 

F1 Spacepak Clothes Blue, US$46,

4. Hide your undies

Much better than stuffing them in your pocket.
Taking a nod from its mama bear compression bag, this smaller Spacepak for your underthings keeps private matters private, and dirty laundry separate.

When the security guard opens your luggage to poke for illegal substances and finds a zippered bag decorated with delightful drawings of bras or boxer briefs, he’ll probably opt for giving it a swipe instead of opening it. 

F1 Spacepak Lingerie, US$42, Spacepak Underwear, US$42,

5. Bag your shoes

Even your shoes should be comfortable.
Superior to wrapping your shoes in tacky grocery bags, these cotton shoe covers keep things clean and classy in your luggage. They’re big enough to fit both men’s and women’s shoes and can be washed. 

That one order only comes with bags for two pairs of shoes should be a reminder of your shoe allowance -- one casual, one dress and one athletic -- the clunkiest of which should be worn on board.

Tuck shoes around the edges of your carry-on to leave ample room for your Spacepaks.

Magellan’s StowAways Shoe Bags, 2 Pair, US$14.50,

6. Tailor your toiletries 

To Toob or not to Toob?
Instead of fussing when the not-your-brand hotel shampoo leaves your hair dry and limp, fill some to-go tubes with exactly what you want. 

Made of silicone with a wide opening and no-drip cap, these travel containers are easy to fill and easy to squeeze. And half a dozen three-ounce (80 gram) bottles can fit in your allotted toiletry baggie.  

The dial-a-content feature allows you to select options like shampoo and lotion or write your own in the designated blank space so you don’t accidently end up rubbing conditioner all over your face.  

Humangear GoToob 3 Ounce Travel Bottle, 3 pack, US$20.13,

7. Get tech savvy

Ah, my iEverything.

If you can’t be separated from your iEverything, at least keep it organized for travel.

Slide your gear under the elastic straps of this tech accessory grid and your computer charger, digital camera and whatever else keeps you plugged in while away, will be held snug in place.

Convenient and sleek, your electronics pad can fit perfectly into the inside flap of your suitcase and deplete little space.

CPG20 GRID-IT! Organizer, US$24.99,

8.  Pack more space

The ultimate way to light travel.
For the shoppers out there, traveling with exact space means you won’t be able to say, “Oh, this old thing? I picked it up in Melbourne,” when someone compliments your worldly fare because you had zilch room for bringing goodies back.

To skirt that sad scenario, travel with a foldaway duffel. Condensed, it’s small enough to slip discreetly into the pocket at the back of your carry-on. Expanded, it’s big enough to fit souvenirs, gifts or last-day-of-holiday shopping spree loot. 

The nylon construction, sturdy handles and shoulder strap make the bag easy to lug around the airport and safe to send through as a checked bag. A one-way bag fee might be worth it in exchange for the freedom to shop.

Travel Bag Light foldaway, US$23.95,

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