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Travel Packing Tips For a Carry-On Bag

10 Packing Tips For Easier, Lighter Travel

By the end of next month, I will have taken 15 round-trip flights this year. That's a lot of schlepping, but it doesn't have to be a hassle if you know how to pack well. With one exception, I haven't checked luggage in more than a year — even when going on a two-week trip. I've pulled together some tips for getting everything you need into one carry-on suitcase. (If you want to know how to free up more space in that dinky little Ziploc bag, you've come to the right place.) For all of the tips, keep reading.

  1. Pack light
    Seasoned travelers know that the lighter your bag is, the easier things will be. I can fit everything I need into this carry-on bag. Unless you absolutely have to have an item, beauty or otherwise, leave it at home.
  2. Watch the size
    The three-ounce rule is a pain, but there's no getting around it. Before you leave for your trip, be sure that anything you've packed in that quart-sized plastic bag is small enough to go on the plane. If it's 100ml or less, you're fine. Anything more will be confiscated by the friendly TSA agents at the airport. Don't think you can skirt the rules by bringing a 200ml bottle that's less than half full. You'll still have to pitch it.
  3. No, really, watch the size
    While in Belize, an airport agent tried to confiscate a small bottle of sunscreen, claiming that the size was outside regulations. It wasn't, so I politely pointed that out. He grumbled, but I went on my way. To quote those great philosophers The Clash: know your rights.
  4. Have a "go bag"
    If you travel regularly, save time by keeping certain essentials ready to go. I keep a mini toothpaste, deodorant, toothpaste, sunscreen, floss, razor, and tinted moisturizer in a plastic bag. It's always in the suitcase, so I never have to worry about forgetting those items.
  5. Sample freely
    You can always transfer liquid products into small containers, but you might not need to. Instead, squirrel away free samples when you find them. They'll come in handy when you need only a weekend's worth of product. On the same note, if you don't use all of the hotel shampoo, take the wee bottle with you for future use. It'll be tossed otherwise, so why not use it on a future trip?
  6. Ditch the liquids
    Whenever possible, choose nonliquid beauty items. Instead of gel cleanser, I use a powder cleanser like Fix Wish Wash. Swap your liquid eye makeup remover for a package of makeup removal cloths. If you can use powder foundation, you're golden. Less liquid means more room in your plastic bag for everything else.
  7. Don't pack perfume
    Leave the Jean Nate at home, unless you're willing to risk a broken bottle that makes everything you packed smell like Jean Nate.
  8. Do the math
    Lots of airlines have $25 checked-baggage fees. Round-trip, that's a ridiculous $50. If you're tempted to check your bag just so you can pack that big bottle of nail polish remover, consider that you'll be essentially paying $50 to transport a $3 product. It's much cheaper to buy some products at your destination.
  9. Use the rules to your advantage
    If you have a prescription for tretinoin, clindamycin, or other doctor-approved liquid drugs, you're in luck. Such medicines are exempt from the three-ounce rule. Just keep the pharmacy packaging and label in case a TSA agent wants to know what's up.
  10. Keep these on hand
    No matter where you go, you'll be well-served by a nail clipper, bandages, an emery board, safety pins, floss, a small plastic comb, and period supplies.

Any other packing tips you've gathered from your travels?

Image Source: Thinkstock
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BellaH68 BellaH68 5 years
Start a list several days in advance and add to it as you think of things. Most phones have handy note functions if you think of something while you are out & about...I make an excel spreadsheet. It really helps you not forget anything. Soft sided bags fit under airline seats, give you access to items in flight, and expand for bringing home souveneirs, shopping scores, etc... Q-tips replace a huge variety of makeup tools and help you pack light! A neutral taupey eyeshadow duo with a lighter cream shade can go with any outfit & can be blended into any eyeliner for a custom look. Tinted solid lip balms dont have to be packed into your they help hydrate parched lips from the dehydrating recirculated air on planes.
Venus1 Venus1 5 years
Rosay All these rules are international. You may find a few countries that have interpreted them differently but very few. Enjoy Hong Kong.
Rosay77 Rosay77 6 years
I wish I knew #9 before I went on a week-long trip in late summer. I need my clindamycin, Differin, and Duac. I'm going to Hong Kong for the holidays and I would like to know if the prescription rule applies internationally.
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
Helpful. I'd like to add a couple of suggestions:- 1. Re: Number 9 - If possible also take a copy of your prescription with you; 2. Make sure liquids are in bottles with the amount clearly printed; 3. Contrary to popular rumour, sealed blade disposable razors are permitted.
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Anon: A lot of CO2... and a lot of carbon offset purchases, too. It's the best I can do, but I do feel guilty about flying so much. Advah, that's a good point. If you don't use something at home, you won't use it away from home.
Advah Advah 6 years
Good list! I'm a picky packer (hah) but it still took several trips to realise that no, if I don't use that fancy eyeshadow quad in my flat, I won't use it when travelling either - less is more, and now I only pack a couple of makeup things. And I agree with the always ready pouch in the suitcase, it prevents me from having to run to the drugstore 5 times before my trip to get things I've forgotten! I also took a few Ziplog bags from Dulles Airport the last times I was there, they come with a handle which is SO handy.
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