Travel Cheap: 8 Tricks to Fitting Everything in a Carry-On

Packing is hard. Regardless of the length of your stay, the idea of narrowing drawers, cabinets, and closets worth of essentials down to a suitcase is nightmarish. And with the cost of over-sized or extra luggage, not to mention the possibility of baggage claim losing your possessions, fitting everything you need into a single carry-on seems like the best alternative. However, it is no easy feat. Rest assured, dear reader: With a few simple packing tricks, bringing all your necessities to your next getaway is possible. Read on for eight space-saving packing hacks that will make prepping for your next trip stress-free.

1. Fold to perfection

Packing, travel, suitcase, clothes

Man folding his clothes as he packs |

It’s common knowledge that a neatly folded pile of clothes will fit in your suitcase better than a chaotic clump. But it’s a well-kept packing secret that the way you fold your pieces can actually impact the amount of space they take up. According to USA Today, there are three crucial folding techniques you need to know: the traditional fold, rolling fold, and bundle fold. In layman’s terms? A traditional fold is perfect for those pieces that wrinkle easy such as your dress shirt or a pair of trousers. Just as you would with your laundry, fold each garment along the seams for neat results. For those thicker clothes such as pajamas and sweats, a rolling fold does the trick. Simply fold the garment once vertically and then wind it up into a compact roll. As for the bundle fold? Use this if you’re hopping to allot one section of your suitcase to your threads. For the best results, surround small, wrinkle-proof pieces with your heavier, crinkle-prone apparel.

2. Invest in multipurpose grooming products

Taking a hot shower | Source: iStock

Try a conditioning shampoo|

You may consider yourself low-maintenance, but you’d be surprised at how many cosmetics you use daily: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, makeup, shaving cream, deodorant, and hair gel, just to name a few. As predicted, your precious products easily take up a considerable portion of your suitcase. Alleviate the bulk by opting for some multipurpose picks. Why bring a separate shampoo, conditioner, and body wash when you can pack one bottle of a triple-duty formula? Or go ahead and splurge on that nice hair pomade that can also remedy razor burn. Save even more room by purchasing small sizes of each product. This works for cosmetics as well.

3. Get creative with your storage containers

Travel toiletries |

Travel toiletries |

Multipurpose products are ideal for those aren’t very particular about their grooming products, but what are you to do if you’re not willing to give up your favorite moisturizer for a few days? Using your beauty picks on vacation without needing to check your bag is as easy as transferring your treasured cosmetics to smaller containers. Have a few hotel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles lying around from your last vacation? Simply empty the contents and refill the bottles with your preferred formulas. Or, as beauty website Byrdie recommends, store liquids such as your moisturizer or body wash in contact containers.

4. Layer up

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 02: Travelers go through the TSA PreCheck security point at Miami International Airport on June 2, 2016 in Miami, Florida. As the busy summer travel season heats up the Transportation Security Administration is encouraging people to sign up for the TSA PreCheck program to save time going through the airports security lines. Those enrolled in the program can leave their shoes, light outerwear and belt on during the terminal screening process as well as keeping their laptop in the carry-on suitcase without having to remove them at the checkpoint.

Wearing layers frees up space in your bag | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Layering your airport outfit seems foolish, especially when the climate at your departure location or destination is unbearably warm already, right? Not necessarily. While your sweatpants and chunky gym shoes may not make for the most stylish travel ensemble, one thing’s for sure: They take up a lot of room in your bag. We’re not recommending you sport your pajamas to the terminal, but prevent overweight luggage by adding heavier pieces such as your jacket and beefy cardigan to your en route ensemble. On the plus side, your cozy clothes will double as blankets and pillows on that chilly airplane.

5. Store items in your accessories

Shoes are basically free storage spaces |

Many frequent flyers have the mundane task of packing down to a science. For example, they first place their shoes at the bottom of the bag and always use those interior zip compartments for socks and cosmetics. Stop right there: If you’re hoping to save space, you’re doing it wrong. For optimal packing results, take advantage of every inch of your luggage by storing small pieces inside items you are already packing. Why waste the space your shoes take up? Instead, place some electronic chargers or socks — after all, they will eventually go inside your kicks — in the inside of your shoes. Just do yourself a favor and don’t place any pieces of apparel inside your shoes. Fresh clothes and a worn shoe scent do not mix. Not sure what to do with your glass cologne bottle? Pack breakables inside your socks.

6. Go digital

Reading on a smartphone saves space |

Whether you’re enduring a six-hour flight to Europe or spending a relaxing week by the shore, curling up with a good book is mandatory for any vacation. But we don’t need to tell you that the hard copy of that suspense thriller all your friends have been raving about is cumbersome. Save a big chunk of space by downloading your vacation reading on your tablet. Don’t have one? Just add a Kindle or iBook app to your smartphone.

7. Explore your soft side

Man wearing gym clothes and a gym bag grabs fruit and a bottle of water for after his workout

Skip the structured luggage |

Not only do your folding and storing techniques impact the amount of space you’re occupying, but the bag you’re using also plays a hand in your efficient packing game. While you may love your super sleek, hard-shelled rolling bag, Hostel Bookers recommends opting for a soft-sided bag. Unlike structured luggage, a duffel bag or soft-sided suitcase is more malleable and will allow you to squeeze in that last-minute essential. Let’s not forget that conforming a duffel bag into your airline’s bag cage tester is easier than convincing your flight attendant that your bulkier luggage is of appropriate carry-on size.

8. Create a packing list beforehand

taking notes, signing contract, checklist

Writing out a list keeps you organized |

Seems too obvious to be a hack, right? Not so fast. It’s easy to over-pack when you wait until the last minute to select all your essentials. Not only do you not have time to check your destination’s weather or convert your cosmetics into smaller containers, you’ve probably packed duplicates or clothes you won’t even wear without realizing it. After all, nobody needs five t-shirts, two long-sleeved shirts, three dress shirts, and a sweater for a long weekend getaway. A few days before your vacation, take 20 minutes to plan your outfits ahead of time. By creating a list of your essentials, you’ll be able smartly throw in some last-minute additions without bulking up your bag.