5 Tips to Fit Everything in Your Carry-on

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Hi everyone! Clarissa here from The View From Here, and I’m stoked to be guest posting for The Daily Bustle! Rachel is such a sweetheart and we’ve had fun coming up with this post idea for you!

Today you are going to get my five top tips for fitting everything into your carry-on bag. My fiancé and I are leaving for San Francisco for the weekend to see our dear friends, who are taking our engagement photos for us, so this post came at the perfect time!

Why not just check a bag? Because don’t you just HATE checking bags?  Yea sure, it allows you to bring way more of your closet to your destination, but to me it’s such a hassle to wait in line to check bags and some airlines even charge you to do so!

And further, once you arrive at your destination, you have to wait SO long for baggage claim (not to mention push your way through the rude dude blocking your access to the luggage carousel – “Ok STEVE, we’re ALL in a hurry here”).

So, I usually opt to try and fit everything between my carry-on, and my purse. And since this trip is for our engagement photos, I will need a whole lotta stuff to make sure I’m prepared (ya know, like basically my entire bathroom and make-up vanity), which means, as much space and efficiency as possible is needed!

Before we even get started, my first piece of advice is to grab the largest carry-on allowed by your airline. Almost all airlines have a guideline on their website that tells you the exact dimensions you are allowed. I usually always fly Southwest because of their awesome rewards program (gotta earn them points baby!), and their guidelines can be found here for both bag size, and liquid restrictions (more on that later).


My carry-on:

So you’ve got your big bag ready – fabulous. This bag will only be used for clothing, jewelry, toiletries, and shoes. For things like magazines, head phones, snacks, and other items you’ll want access to on the plane, make sure your “personal item” is large enough to hold these.  Remember, we’re maximizing efficiency so we don’t want to take up any space in our carry-on (which will go in an overhead bin) for these things, if we can put them in our personal item instead.

I usually bring a larger purse as my personal item (just make sure it’s still small enough to fit under the seat in front of you!), so that I can fit all my essentials:

  • Magazines
  • My Kindle (life-changing for airline lighting if you enjoy reading on planes)
  • My snacks (currently doing Paleo so I bring That's It Bars and Parmesan Whisps to keep myself full so I don’t derail as soon as I get off the plane)
  • Travel size Ibuprofen (literally nothing worse than a headache on a plane ride, especially if you have one of those lovely people behind you that constantly readjust and knock your seat with their knees)
  • Eos lip balm (airplane cabins have low humidity and circulated air – I always have lip balm and a bottle of water to avoid mummifying on the plane. Ok, a bit dramatic, but I do always get dehydrated during plane rides so these are good to have!)
  • My wallet, sunglasses, phone, vitamins, (store your trip’s worth of days in zip-lock baggies instead of bringing the whole bottle to save space), medications, and all chargers.


Now that your basics are taken care of, we’re ready to pack your carry-on!


TIP #1: Pick items that you can mix and match easily

This is crucial. I went with a neutral palette so that everything could be paired differently to provide a wider range of outfits. Keep more bold statement pieces to a minimum so that they can easily be incorporated with your neutrals. If you have too many, you won’t have room for enough of your “basics” that are needed to make outfits versatile.

Remember WHERE you are going and pack accordingly and realistically. I know I’m going to San Francisco to spend time with my outdoors-y friends and to take engagement photos. I likely won’t need heels and can get away with casual sandals (the best brand you'll ever buy – they may look worn, but that’s because I’ve had this pair for 8 years!), nude flats, black flats, a pair of fun sandals (make your own here!), and sneakers (sneakers not shown, more on that later!)

As much as I’d like to bring a pair of heels “just in case”, I know that it’s very unlikely I’ll wear them the entire trip, so it’s best not to waste the space. Always remember that unless you’re going somewhere off the grid, you can always run to Target if you forget something like toothpaste, or if you desperately need a pair of heels for an impromptu night out.


TIP #2: Use your shoe space

We’ve got a lot of stuff to pack so there shouldn’t be any dead space, including inside your shoes. Put things such as underwear and socks into zip-lock baggies, and stuff into your shoes!


TIP #3: Pack necklaces in tissues paper

I used to bring a small bead-organizer from the craft section of Michaels, with me on every trip. I would use each compartment for a different necklace or pair of earrings to avoid tangling. BUT, these are bulky and take up valuable space (because YES I do need that extra blouse ….what if I don’t feel like blue is my color that particular morning?!)

Now, I put my earrings in baggies and stuff them inside of shoes (see TIP #2), and necklaces are wrapped in tissues paper! Spread out a piece of tissue paper, and lay your necklaces out with a few inches of space between them.

Then start to roll! Each necklace is wrapped by itself length-wise (which also, unlike my old craft box, prevents the necklace from getting tangled within itself), and the end result can be folded in half and takes up minimal space!

TIP #4: Invest in samples

Samples are everything. They’re small, TSA compliant if under 3.4 ounces each, and you can re-use the container for your personal items!  

I used my Sephora points to purchase a sample-size face lotion (small white ball below), and once it was used, I saved the little ball container and now use it to bring coconut oil with me (that I use as a make-up remover). I also have a tiny plastic container that once held a sample of foundation, that once gone, I washed clean and now use to bring pimple cream in (just in case!).

It really helps when you don’t need to make room for your full-size items, even if they’re small enough to be TSA-compliant, when you only need a small amount for a few days.

I would recommend buying your basic toiletries in sample size from Target (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.) and making an investment in the travel-size version of the nicer items you’d want to have with you (ya know, in case you’re also doing an engagement photo shoot), such as dry shampoo, eye cream, hair spray, make-up setting spray, etc.  And remember to save the containers for future travels!

I always bring my canvas-zipper pouch (make your own here!), for toiletries and make-up. You are restricted on liquids/creams to a quart-sized bag, so I place all of my liquid items in a quart-sized freezer bag, toss it in my canvas zipper pouch, and then fill the rest of the bag with non-liquid make-up products. All of your bathroom items in one spot, with your liquids separated for TSA compliance.  

When you go to pack your carry-on, keep this on top and easily accessible as they almost always make you take out your baggie of liquids at security.

TIP #5: Wear your bulky items

You don’t want to take up valuable space in your carry-on with bulky items like jackets, sneakers, and jeans, so wear them on the plane! I personally love leggings on a plane for comfort, but if I’m lacking space in my bag, I’ll forgo them for a pair of jeans. I always wear sneakers on a plane since they would take up so much room (as opposed to my flats and sandals which take up almost no space in my bag), along with my hoodie since it’s bulky (and bonus, I might need it on the plane!).


And that’s it! With these 5 tips, I’m always left with enough room for the clothing choices I want to bring, as well as my bigger items: hair straightener, hair dryer, and my precious DSLR camera that I do not travel without: all of which take up quite some room together.

Thanks for having me here on The Daily Bustle – I hope these tips help you in your next packing endeavor!



I’m Clarissa! The author & creative genius (ha) behind The View From Here – a blog devoted to DIY, food, and adventure. Check out the blog for weekly projects, recipes, travel guides and more, as I document the facets of my creative journey!






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