The 6 Keys to Packing Light for your Flight

With airlines becoming less reliable for keeping your luggage safe on even short-haul flights, the time has never been better to up your packing skills and learn to travel light.

This usually means traveling with carry-on baggage only. You have the option of both an overhead bag and a bag under the seat in front of you, so here are some tips to optimize those spaces to make your travel as seamless and stress-free as possible!

Tip 1: Make a list and stick to it.

Organization starts with a great plan, and if you have a clear list of what you need to bring on your trip, you’ll be less tempted to overpack.

I recommend starting this list on your phone in the Notes app as far in advance as you can. That way, as your trip gets closer and you start thinking of things you might need, you can keep track of them.

Then, when the time comes to pack your bags, you can be really critical of that list and see if there’s anything you can eliminate.

Try dividing the list into categories, like personal care, electronics, entertainment or work gear, and clothing for the different occasions or environments you’ll be seeing.

You can also reference this list if you are purchasing small travel-sized cosmetics or personal care items ahead of time. That way, you aren’t left trying to pack a full-sized bottle of shampoo at the last minute!

Tip 2: Choose versatile clothing pieces.

While it’s really tempting to bring a lot of unique pieces of clothing to look good in your vacation photos, this can add a lot of volume and weight to your bags.

Instead, try picking clothing pieces that all work well together – like sticking to a color palette, for example – and that you can create several outfits from.

If you’re worried about originality and making each outfit look unique, consider bringing some lightweight accessories like jewelry or scarves to add extra color and make outfits a little more creative.

If you’re traveling at a time of year where the weather is on the colder side, then you might want to bring some warmer key pieces and then a few more interesting lighter ones (like blouses or t-shirts) to layer with. Then, when you’re in warmer places, you can remove layers and feel more comfortable.

A good strategy for packing a more versatile wardrobe is to plan a couple outfits in advance, and to see if there are any laundry facilities where you’re staying. Then, pick a couple of neutral base pieces and a few more unique ones to mix it up.

Tip 3: Roll your clothes to save space in your luggage.

It’s not just about what you bring; it’s also about how you bring it!

Rolling your clothes into little sausages can be a great way to compress them into a smaller space, minimizing the wasted space around the edges of your suitcase.

If you have them, you can also use hair elastics to cinch your clothes rolls together.

Another option that you can use in conjunction with rolling your clothes are packing cubes (and I’m a huge fan of these!)

Packing cubes let you compress a lot of clothes into a small space. The geometric shape means they’re easy to stack or pack into a rectangular suitcase, and it also keeps your luggage very organized which is helpful once you start unpacking.

Once you start saving more space by doing this, just keep in mind the weight restrictions for your bags! Compressed clothes can weigh a deceptive amount!

Tip 4: Wear your heaviest items on the plane.

Want to bring a big comfy sweater, or take a winter jacket with you? Maybe you want to bring both leggings and sweatpants and you can’t fit both in your bag?

You can bring some of those bulkier items of clothing by wearing them on the plane. Either put them on ahead of time, or bring them in a tote bag to the airport and put them on in the washroom before its time to board (especially if it’s hot in your starting destination!)

Layering can work well here; if you’re not a stickler for airport fashion, then you can layer two or three shirts/sweaters to keep your bags lighter. I also like to wear a pair of leggings with my baggy sweatpants over them – super comfy for sleeping on the plane, and lets me have both my favourite lounge pieces on my trip!

Also, airlines frequently ignore if you’re carrying a sweatshirt or jacket over your arm in addition to your bags when you board the plane. Just make sure you can stow it under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins when you settle into your seat.

Tip 5: Put all your liquids into travel-sized bottles.

This one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people get their full-sized bottles of products confiscated every day at the airport!

If you’re checking a bag, you might be tempted to just bring the full-sized products. But are you really going to need that quantity of shampoo and conditioner for the length of trip you’re on? Or are you bringing something you could easily pick up at a shop in your destination?

For carry-on bags, you’ll want to adhere to the liquid restriction rules, which is 100 ml or 3.4 oz. Some toothpaste tubes are below this size, but you’ll definitely want to check.

There are a variety of little travel-sized bottles that you can get for a pretty reasonable price – and they’re reusable for future trips!

Also be aware that liquid rules apply to snacks, too. Consider bringing a collapsible water bottle that you can tuck away when needed, but you can refill whenever convenient!

Tip 6: Pack a tote or collapsible duffle bag for extras.

Even if you tell yourself you aren’t going to shop on your trip, it can be hard to resist when you’re exploring somewhere exciting!

Packing a flat bag like a tote or collapsible duffle bag in your carry-on can be a great way to expand your storage space on the go without adding extra bulk.

This is great for carrying snacks, extra shopping, or holding your entertainment during the flight while your carry-on is packed in the overhead bins.

My preference for shorter trips is to pack a backpack with a tote bag. On the departing flight, I have the backpack underneath the seat ahead of me. But on the return flight, I’ll have some souvenirs and snacks in my tote, and put my backpack overhead instead.

Traveling light is totally possible with a little planning, the right gear, and a good attitude. Consider whether it’s more important for you to have everything you might possibly want/need, or a more stress-free and lightweight holiday experience.

What would lighter luggage allow you to do? Save money by taking public transit instead of having to hire a car to move everything? Let you sneak in a little extra sightseeing before your hotel booking instead of sitting around with your suitcases?

Enjoy your travel more and worry less with a lighter packing plan! I hope these tips are helpful, and if you liked this article, check out my other blog posts on the topic of packing light and traveling easier!






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