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As someone who goes on frequent weekend getaways (or did BQ -- before quarantine), I'm a big fan of fitting everything into a carry-on. Why pay $25-$30 for a suitcase when you could take a carry-on for free? Why lug around a giant suitcase when you could carry a little one?
Carry-ons are the way to go. Travel smarter, not harder.
Keep in mind that each airline has different policies about how big the carry on can be. You can typically find the dimensions listed on the airline's website. If your carry on is too big when you get to the airport, you will have to check it - and pay.
Now for some vacations, like international trips or lengthy trips (10+ days), it may not be possible to fit everything in a carry-on. But for getaways, they work just fine and they're cheaper and easier to carry around.
Before you do anything, lay out the outfits you'll need. Are you planning on going to a nice dinner? Will you be doing something active or outdoorsy? What tours will you be going on? Do you need good walking shoes? Once you've got a general idea of what you need, lay out your outfits and get to packin'!
Here's how I fit everything into my carry-on for a short vacation:
1) Invest in a good size, durable carry-on. I prefer the hardside suitcases - I think they last longer. I got mine from Kohl's on clearance and it's been almost 2 years with no problems at all.
2) Pack shoes first - wear your chunkiest ones on the plane (the plane is cold anyway!)
3) Use a corner of the suitcase for underwear
4) Put any "bigger" clothes in first - sweats, jackets, etc. I usually prefer the rolling technique, but if the sweats are too thick then I'll fold them. Whatever it takes for them to take up the least amount of space possible.
5) Add clothes in "outfit by outfit" (Instead of all tops and then all bottoms - This helps you make sure all of your outfit pieces make it into the bag!) Extra points if you can wear the same pair of pants for two different outfits.
6) Put toiletries in ziploc baggies and make sure your liquids are under 3 oz.
7) Add in sunglasses, computer/charger, or anything else you'll need to be protected
Now, not every trip is one where you'll be able to shove everything in a carry-on. And truthfully, for long trips to new places, you'll want a full suitcase so you can bring back some souvenirs. But when the carry-on-only path works, boyyyyy is it GLORIOUS!
If you need help figuring out what to pack, check out my Ultimate Packing List.
About the Author:
I'm Anna Mills - a travel agent, blogger, and author of the book "100 Ways to Make Travel More Affordable". I have been a guest on the Trip Sister's Podcast and TripScout's Roadtrip Expert Panel. You may have seen me in Texas Lifestyle Magazine, Opploans.com, or as a Rising Star for Travel Market Report.