Keep it to a Carry On Bag

Keep it to a Carry On Bag


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.(via CNN).

I’m sorry, WHAT? Come-a-freaking-gain?!?!? Nuh uh!!! That was just in 2011!

I’m an over-packer. It’s in my nature. Since I never know how I’ll “feel” when I get up, I never know what I’ll want to pack. ‘Is it a shorts day or a skirt day? Should I bring a tank top AND a cardigan or would a cropped jacket be more appropriate? What if I go out and do something fun? I’ll need a nice outfit…but not too nice. Oh no, where would we go? Is it dressy dressy or dressy casual? What shoes will I wear with it?’

This is what goes through my head EVERY SINGLE time I travel.

Now it’s time to put myself to the test.

I’m traveling to my dad’s house in upstate New York. I’ll be outside most of the time so there’s no need to dress up but I also don’t want to look like a total bag lady because we’ll be taking lots of pictures. Oh, and we’re going to two fairs (It’s for my son- I’m sooooooo not the farm/agriculture type. I like makeup and smelling good).

The other thing: I don’t want to pay $25 per bag for each of us. My challenge is to fit 6 days in a carry on bag.


Here are some packing tricks I’ve learned (and will attempt).

An updated report is at the end of this post! Is it truly possible?

Rules for Clothing

  1. Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes and two pairs of pants.
  2. Don’t pack more than a week’s worth of clothes. For longer trips, plan to do laundry.
  3. Pack only garments that can be color-coordinated with everything else in your travel wardrobe. If it doesn’t work in multiple outfits, leave it at home.
  4. Maximize your personal item. In addition to a carry-on bag, airlines allow you to bring a personal item such as a purse or laptop bag. I generally bring a small backpack, which can hold a lot more than a purse but will still fit easily under the seat in front of me. (Pack an empty purse in your backpack.)
  5. Take multipurpose items such as a sarong that can easily become a scarf, a towel, a hair wrap, a pillow case or a picnic blanket.
  6. Pack three tops for every bottom.
  7. Stick with a color scheme so you can mix and match.
  8. Plan your colors around the shoes you want to take. (How about we not wear navy shoes with black capris, mmmmkay?)
  9. Pack underwear for each day…then add one.

Packing Tips

Shoving into suitcase red

  • Set everything out so you can pack mentally. This is like a game of Tetris.
  • Load books on an eReader or bring just one. You can swap en route.
  • Pack socks and underwear inside any shoes you aren’t wearing
  • Wear your bulkiest items on the plane. (All I can think of is Joey wearing Chandler’s clothes in Friends)
  • Roll your clothes
  • Fit tank tops and smaller/thinner items in the crevices of the very bottom of your bag (like, in between the metal handles)
  • Place your shoes, individually, in bags (ziplock gallon bags will do), and line the perimeter of the suitcase.
  • Use packing cubes to keep your clothing compact and categorized.
  • Opt for toiletry bags so you can keep all your bathroom essentials in one place and able to hang easily once you reach your destination.
  • Pack limited makeup. Unless you’re traveling for beauty reasons, choose your most versatile colors and leave behind all the options. Go with what works.
  • Choose accessories that can be worn with everything. Think: Simple.
  • When going through a normal day, take notes of what you typically use. (You can write it on your printable packing list provided at the end of this post.)

There’s a great list on Beginner Beans. She talks about faking low maintenance. I love that. I need to try it.

joey as chandler

Wear your bulk…or anything you can.

Rolling, Folding and Bundling

Click image for a flight attendant's packing tutorial

click for a flight attendant’s packing tutorial

Real Simple has outlined how to roll, fold or bundle clothing for travel.


  • Pants: Fold pants in half lengthwise so that the back pockets face outward. Roll tightly from the cuffs to the waistband.
  • A Straight Skirt or Dress: If the dress has sleeves, first fold each sleeve backward. Fold the entire garment in half lengthwise. Roll from the bottom hem up.
  • A Winter Down Jacket: Zip it, then roll it the same way you would a top, trying to squeeze as much air out of it as possible as you go. Secure it tightly with string or large rubber bands so that it doesn’t come undone. Slip it into a pillowcase and you’ve even got a germ-free headrest for the plane.
How to roll a SHIRT
Another tip: Use a pillowcase to roll your clothing like a burrito. Here’s how.
  • A Dress Shirt: Lay a buttoned-up shirt face-down and flat. Center a magazine below the collar. Fold in the right side of the shirt, using the magazine’s edge as a guide. Take the arm and position it straight down, parallel to the shirt’s body. Repeat on the opposite side. Fold the bottom of the shirt so that the hem touches the shoulders. Slide out the magazine from the top. If you have several shirts of similar shape and size, you can stack them, folding them all as one to cushion the creases.
  • Dress Pants: Fold along the center creases or the side seams so that the legs stack on top of each other. Fold in half so that the waist touches the hem. Fold in half again.
  • A Full Skirt or Dress: Put it in a large plastic trash bag to avoid wrinkles from setting. Fold it in half lengthwise so that the side seams line up—you’ll have an angle down one side. Fold the angled edge inward to form a rectangle. Fold the garment in half horizontally or, if it’s on the longer side, in thirds. Pack it on top of everything else in the suitcase.

How to fold a BLAZER


  • Lay Out All Your Clothes: You can bundle everything besides underwear, swimsuits, and accessories. Each garment should be buttoned or zipped and placed faceup (but jackets should be facedown). You’ll need a core, like a packing cube, to bundle around.
  • Follow the Right Order: Start with tailored garments that wrinkle easily (they’ll be on the outside of the bundle, cushioned by both the other clothes and the core). Then add pieces that are less likely to wrinkle (these will be near the core). To keep the bundle balanced, lay short dresses and tops vertically, alternating north and south, and long dresses and bottoms horizontally, alternating east and west. Here’s the general sequence from the outer layer in: jackets, short dresses, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, pants, long dresses, skirts, sweaters, knits, and shorts.
  • Add the Core: Then, starting from the top of the pile, wrap each garment around the core.


A How-To Video

This woman is referred to as Mary Poppins because she can fit so much in a carry-on bag. Talk about a great tutorial! I watched the ENTIRE thing and her tips on travel cosmetics. Just a warning if you’re not loaded in the finance department: You’ll have to improvise on what you use. As in: Ziplocks over designer shoe plastic bags. You’ll see what I mean. She offers great tips and is likeable on camera. I may want to be her friend. We’ll discuss that another time.

Printable Packing List

Each time I travel, I have to write a list. Duh. It’s categorized by what I’ll need to take (casual clothes, toiletries, shoes, etc.) To make things easy, we created a free printable packing list you can fill out to fit your travel needs.


[download id=”15190″]


[download id=”18″]

Safe travels,

tawsha connell



I did it

I STILL over packed and got everything in there. It’s a true carry-on bag. Nothing oversized or fancy. See the clothing in the picture to the left? You’re seeing the second layer. There’s stuff underneath it, too. Holy crap! This is amazing!