Depending on what way you look at it, packing can either be the best or worst part about travelling. With many airlines charging for checked luggage, there’s certainly more incentive these days to do carry-on only (not to mention lost luggage), but for many people the thought of doing it is extremely intimidating. Will I have enough space? How do I pack for different situations? What about shoes?
The reality is, it’s not as difficult as one would lead you to believe. First, get yourself a quality carry-on piece of luggage, ideally with wheels and a handle, then get organized. It’s all about knowing where and why you’re going to a destination.
To help you with the ins and outs of travelling only with a carry-on, we spoke to Amy Jakubaitis of RIMOWA North America Inc, who shares her expert packing tips with us.
What’s the secret to packing for a week-long trip in a carry-on suitcase? Tell us how to make this possible!
It is possible! It just takes a little extra planning. Before I pack, I like to plan my trip so I know what I’ll be doing throughout the week. If it’s a business trip, I plan out each meeting, client dinner or casual event I will be attending. This allows me to plan all of my outfits in advance so I know exactly what I’ll be wearing throughout the week. I always try to pack double-duty items, such as shirts that can be layered, solid pants that can work either for business with a blazer, silk top and heels or as a casual outfit with a layered t-shirt, a scarf and flats. I accessories with a few chosen necklaces, bracelets, one belt that can do it all, one scarf and a couple pairs of earrings. Accessories can really change an outfit so if the clothing is simple, the accessories can make a big difference. All of my small accessories should fit into a zipper bag, any more and it doesn’t make the cut. If my clothes get soiled on the trip, I use the money I saved on checking the bag to have the item cleaned at the hotel.
Once I’ve done my planning and set aside the outfits, then I start the packing. I use the RIMOWA Salsa Deluxe Hybrid carry-on, which is equipped with the flex-divider on both sides of the case. With this, I can use every nook and cranny of the case, and still compress the contents down. I start by folding the clothing (not rolling) into one side of the case. I prefer to fold flat and try not to fold too many times, therefore eliminating extra bulk. I start with larger items such as pants and blazers, and fill in the top with lighter items such as tank tops and scarves. On the other side of the case, I start filling it with odd-shaped items such as shoes and non-liquid toiletries. I pack only one pair of heels and one pair of flats, which can be stuffed into each other and don’t take up too much space. Inside my shoes, I insert any toiletries that don’t have to be pulled out during the security check, including a small hairbrush and a small baggie of other toiletry items such as dental floss, facial cleansing wipes and hair ties. I tend not to pack an actual toiletry kit, as it just takes up extra space. For any other non-liquid toiletries and small items, I simply use zipper bags and find a space in the bag to stuff the items, perhaps beside shoes or in between clothing items.
Once I have all my clothes on one side of the case and my odd-shaped items on the other, I finish by filling in the extra spaces with socks and undergarments, my bag of jewellery and any other small items on my list such as a pyjama shirt or a small sweater that I roll into any open space.
In the front pocket of my bag I pack my laptop and charger. It’s the perfect size, and being made of an extra-durable Keprotec blended with Kevlar, I trust that my computer is secure.
It’s tempting to bring a lot of “maybe” items, as in I need this for that, etc. How do you deal with this?
If you’re planning to carry-on, “maybe” items just simply have to be kept to a minimum. If you’re gone for 7 days and you’ve packed your double-duty outfits for each day, anything extra has to be very small if you insist on bringing them. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t belong. Sometimes when I’m on my trip and I don’t have a choice but to wear what I planned, it makes my decision very easy. If I fear spilling on my favourite shirt or changing my mind mid-trip, a couple small shirts and maybe an extra scarf may fit, but other than that, extras just don’t make the cut.
Shoes are always the most difficult item to pack since they take up so much space and it’s easy to feel like you need so many options. What’s the best way to deal with this dilemma?
I always pack one of each type, therefore one heel or wedge, one pair of flats and maybe a pair of runners if I plan on going to the gym. As much as I’d love to pack more, I know that I have to make some sacrifices when packing in a carry-on. What’s important to remember is that just because you don’t have a vast array of shoes, doesn’t mean that your outfits can’t be fashionable. I always pack a pair of black pumps that can work day or night with any colour, one pair of flats that can give a professional yet casual feel to my outfit at night, and I tend to wear my boots when I fly. When I carry-on for a week, this is not the place to pack my colourful spring heels, unless of course they are my one pair of heels for the week that work with every outfit.
Are there any luggage accessories that can help you maximize the space inside your suitcase?
The flex-divider in the suitcase allows me to compress my clothing into the case. That way, you can have one side of the luggage full of odd-shaped items, and there’s no fear of having them fall out when opening and closing the case. RIMOWA also provides shoe bags and laundry bags if I am feeling the need for added organization. When packing a carry-on, though, I prefer to save space and use a simple, empty case with minimal accessories.
When are garment bags useful?
Garment bags can help when you have very delicate items that can’t be ironed or if you have multiple dresses or suits that need to stay neat. RIMOWA offers a garment bag that doubles as the flex-divider system, saving space and adding extra organization. I try to stay away from garment bags when I pack in my carry-on to conserve space, especially because I am not packing too many outfits.
What’s one thing people don’t do when they pack, but should?
Most people don’t use the full allowed capacity of their personal item. Don’t underestimate the potential space in this bag! I always pack a large tote bag that zips up neatly. Inside I pack a smaller purse to carry on my trip, all of my liquids easily packed in a zipper bag to be taken out during security, my regular purse items (makeup, wallet, phone, charger) a sweater in case I get cold on the plane, a book or magazine and I leave room for a drink and a snack that I buy at the airport. I even have room for my trusty travel pillow which often comes with me for a longer flight. The bag can still easily fit under the seat in front of me and allows for easy access to essential items.
What’s the best way to pack toiletries when you’re planning to carry-on?
My rule is to keep liquid toiletries to a minimum. If you’re planning on only taking a carry-on, then packing a bottle of hairspray or your favorite conditioner isn’t an option. Since most hotels offer shampoo, conditioner and lotion, I don’t pack these at all. I pack only a travel-sized toothpaste, travel sized hairspray, a perfume sample bottle and a small bottle of hand lotion. Many items that traditionally come in liquid form also come in other forms as well. I bring facial cleansing wipes that lather when wet, hand sanitizing wipes and powdered makeup. I always remember that in a pinch, I can always visit the local drugstore and buy what I need.