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Packing Tips to Avoid Checking a Bag On a Plane

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Whether I’m packing for a weekend or a one-week trip, I’m a carry-on girl through and through when it comes to plane travel. I like the convenience of avoiding baggage claim and always having my luggage with me so that I can easily grab from the overhead bin and take to my destination. And as an added bonus, when may bag is smaller I am forced to bring fewer items and focus just on what I actually need. For years I was using large rolling suitcases for every flight, but I found myself packing extra items just to fill up the space (why bring 3 shirts when I could fit 12?).

Earlier this summer I went on a trip to the west coast where I knew that I would be needing multiple outfits per day (leisure, business, and evening), and I’ve learned over the years some tips that keep my carry-on policy in tacts, despite a packed schedule and varying plans/dress codes. I am headed on multiple trips this over the next couple of months by land and air, and for each one I am only taking a carry-on.



  • Select a weight and style that you can keep up with. Travel days can be long and space is more than likely tight (whether you’re going by car or plane), so I lean towards luggage options that are a good shape and size that I can easily manage. Something that I can easily carry, like a duffel with adjustable straps, is lightweight yet sturdy (and comfortable) enough to schlep everything I need.
  • Create a packing list. I don’t know about you, but I rely on lists to reference in every aspect of my life and the same goes for when I’m packing. I have found it helpful to have a base packing list for every trip that you go on that includes your “must haves”, and then adapt as needed depending on the climate or activities that you will be doing on your trip.
  • Let the forecast and schedule dictate the options. Even though you may have been hoping to finally get to wear your new sleeveless dress and heels, if it’s not appropriate for the type of trip you are going on—and the expected temperature—then leave those options for another trip.


  • Be realistic. Those “what if” impulse items that get stuffed into you bag (you know, just in case the weather changes last minute) will just weigh down your bag and take up room that could be used to hold something you actually need.
  • Mix and match. Try on your full outfits (yes, even the shoes and accessories) so that you aren’t over-packing and to reduce the guesswork (or failed outfit attempts) during your travels. And remember: you don’t need nearly as many options as you may think! Pack exactly the amount of items that you need then throw in a versatile extra (like a top) in the off chance that something goes awry with your planned choices. Want to make the most out of your options? Choose one color family (black, brown, grey) and pack versatile pieces that you can mix and match. Same goes for your handbag options. Choose an option that will make it easy to switch up the style depending on what’s appropriate for what is on your travel agenda.

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