How to Pack a Carry-on Bag to Save Money

Carrying luggage through terminals (Photo: Index Open)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on August 20, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, clothing and gear, Kate H. Knapp, security.

With airlines rolling out new checked-baggage fees at every turn, and security lines adding to hassles at the airport, packing can make an already stressful situation worse. However, knowing how to pack a carry-on bag may offer the perfect way to lessen the load.

To start, it's important to have a suitcase that abides by airline requirements. Most carry-on bags cannot be larger than 45 linear inches or weigh more than 40 pounds. Once you have a bag you know will fit, you're ready to pack.

Here are a few tips to save space, outsmart the 3-1-1 rule, and avoid fees.

  • Since all liquids must be in a three-ounce container, use refillable bottles to store all of your favorite products.
  • Purchase multi-purpose products, such as Dr. Bronner's Magic 18-In-One Soaps, which promise 18 different uses (including shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, etc.).
  • Pack non-liquid alternatives to your regular toiletries.
  • Choose outfits with a similar color palette, so you can mix and match items.
  • Roll your clothes to save space.
  • Use vacuum travel bags to compress your clothing and keep it wrinkle-free.
  • Take only one pair of shoes for walking, and one for more formal events.
  • Wear bulkier items on the plane, such as boots or a heavier jacket.
  • Keep all items organized and easily accessible in case of a security check.


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