How To Pack in a Carry-On

When I travel I’m most definitely not the type of person that can wear basic clothes - as in rotating a few t-shirts and shorts without caring if I look stylish or not. There are many people that can easily travel for weeks or months with just a few items on repeat. I do envy those types of travelers because I’m sure it makes life a little easier, but I just can’t do it. I’ve been to over 40 countries and I’ve figured out a way to optimize my luggage space and pack as much as possible into a carry-on size luggage while still having several fashionable outfit options. I’ll break down my packing tips in this blog so you can pack like a pro too!


I always pack in a carry-on luggage no matter how long I’m traveling for several reasons:

  • It forces me to pack only the essentials so I’m not lugging around things I’ll probably only use once.
  • I’ve had my luggage lost a few times and it’s not only frustrating but can spoil a trip. For this reason, having a carry-on I know where my luggage is at all times and I can assure it makes it to my destination with me.
  • Many airlines charge extra fees for checked luggage and if you’re traveling for a long period of time with several flights, fees can add up very quickly.
  • A carry-on is more light weight and manageable than a full size luggage. In many foreign countries elevators aren’t always available like they are in the U.S.


I like to call my packing method “the filing cabinet system” because once you’re all packed it will look like folders in a filing cabinet, one in front of the other. And, like a filing cabinet, it's easy to see the contents and easy to take something out and put it back in while staying organized. When folding your items be sure the height of the item is not taller than your luggage to avoid squishing or wrinkles. Let’s get right into the packing part:

  • First thing I do is get out all the items I’m going to pack. Then I put them in categorized piles. For example, I put all my dresses in a pile, shorts in a pile, tops in a pile, bikinis in a pile etc. This makes it easier once you start putting stuff in your suitcase you can put like-items together
  • I fold pile by pile to keep like-items in the same spot in my suitcase.
  • When I fold my items I try my best to keep the final shape as a square or rectangle
  • Dresses: First I fold once long ways (left to right) then I make several small folds top to bottom so the end product is square or rectangular.
  • Jeans: same as dresses, I fold once long ways (left to right) then several small folds top to bottom
  • Tops: this can be tricky depending on the type and shape of the top or blouse. For t-shirts I fold from left to right in half, fold the sleeves in then make several folds top to bottom until my end product is square or rectangular. For tanks I just fold left to right and then several small folds top to bottom. For long sleeve tops I fold left to right, one fold at the shoulder to put the sleeves in, then several small folds top to bottom.
  • Shorts: If there’s buttons, unbutton first. I make one fold from waist area to bottom, then one fold from left to right
  • Once you have your items folded you can start putting them in your suitcase like you would put a folder in a filing cabinet. As you put your items in, push out the excess air so you can keep putting more in. The items should feel compact inside your luggage but not too tight where if you pull a piece out it's going to be too hard to put it back in.
  • Once all your items are inside you can find small pockets of room where you can put socks, bikinis, or any other small items. This will make use of spaces that are not big enough for large clothing items. 
  • Lastly put your shoes in a plastic bag and place them on top of your folded clothes, that way when you arrive at your destination shoes are the first out and you don’t have to take anything else out of your luggage to get to your shoes. 
  • I like to put a luggage tag on the outside of my suitcase (Luggage Strap | this helps kind of squish out excess air and make it even more compact.


Other tips:

  • Put your toiletries (carry-on allowance is 3oz/100ml or less) in your backpack or tote so they are easily accessible when you go through security. I also put my makeup in my backpack to keep my items safe and unbroken.
  • In my backpack I usually put a smaller bag with in-flight essentials such as earphones, chapstick, a book, my phone, face wipes, hand sanitizer, gum, toothbrush, floss, etc. This way I just take the smaller bag with me to my seat, put my backpack in the overhead storage and have more room at my feet. 
  • I always take a bottle of water and snacks with me on the plane. Airlines are getting more basic and charge for everything. Plus, the air is very drying and I tend to get thirsty easier. Some of my favorite healthy snacks to take are Quest bars (, unsalted mixed nuts with cranberries ( Target also has good options), and Quaker rice crisps in kettle corn flavor  (
  • I always download a Netflix show or movie on my phone just incase there’s no in-flight entertainment. Most airlines in the U.S. have in-flight entertainment but foreign countries don’t always, so I like having something on my phone ready to go incase that happens.
  • I always take a journal with me to document my adventures so I can look back and remember details.
  • I like to take extra tampons (like 10-15) with me when traveling abroad, not all countries have access to sanitary supplies as the U.S.


If you have any questions or ideas for other blogs or videos please comment and I’ll respond! Thank you for reading and for your support! Free your wild!