How to Pack a Carry on and Fit More in Your Bag

Two hours after landing in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam I realized my checked bag wasn’t showing up with me. Oh crap! My bag was in Taiwan sitting in the belly of the airplane. In my case, I was fortunate enough to eventually receive my bag. But for many, the odds of your bag getting back to you once lost aren’t al the best. This is why we always recommend you to try your best to use a carry-on vs. checked bags as often as possible. Learn some of our Life Nomading tricks and tips for how to pack a carry on and fit more in your suitcase for your next great adventure, where it may lead you.

As if we haven’t already convinced you to carry-on, it’s worth noting that airlines don’t always have our back when it comes to lost luggage. They will reimburse up to a certain dollar amount – for example, its only 3,500 dollars on American Airlines.

To avoid the inconvenience of replacing your stuff or coming out in the red it is in your best interest to pack as much as possible in your carry -on bag.

Let’s Get Started Packing Your Bag

First thing’s first, there are restricted items and limitations on what you can and can’t bring in your carry-on bag.

Be sure to read your airline’s policies and check other TSA restrictions on what you can or cannot take in your carry-on. This helpful checklist breaks down what you can or cannot take in your carry-on versus your checked bags. Lame, we know!

It’s also important to note that there are different rules that vary from one country to the next for what is considered a carry-on bag. Some countries let gigantic backpacks slide, while others seem to barely let purses count.

This list comprehensively covers weight and size regulations for carry-on luggage around the world. I had a lot of trouble finding the perfect bag, so I researched and developed an article outlining the best international carry-on bags.

Now that you know what you can pack, its time to figure out how much of it you can possibly fit in your suitcase. The more you can fit in a carry on bag the better (most airlines do not weigh your carry-on).

Here are some of our tried and true tips on how to pack a carry on to optimize space:

Plastic Bags, Vacuum Bags, and  Compression Bags


make more room to load up a bag with all your favorite clothes. They leave extra space for more items, and some even claim to reduce wrinkles! There are two main types of space saver bags, vacuum and manual rolled.

With vacuum bags, the downside is that a vacuum or hose is needed, and a puncture renders it useless. I personally prefer the myself. These work just like the vacuum bags only you push the air out manually. If you have delicate clothes that wrinkle easily these bags may leave a mark but you can spray the clothes with once you arrive at your hotel.

If you’d prefer to use vacuum bags, be sure to read our article: Best Vacuum Storage Bags For Travel

Roll Your Clothes by Hand


Rolling your clothes by hand may take a little time, but it is worth extra work! By rolling your clothes, it gives you more room in an otherwise small area in your suitcase.

An added benefit of rolling your clothes is that you can put the clothing around the sides of the luggage, and this will help protect the items placed in the middle.

Packing Cubes for Travel

Packing cubes are great for making space, but also for the organization. It is very handy and makes packing quicker by allowing you to organize items into separate cubes based on category. In the past, I would sort through all my clothes to find my underwear which I foolishly packed below my shirts. As a result, all the rest of my clothes get jostled about and unorganized. Now I pack them into cubes, and it makes it easier to organize my items. I have a set of

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that are perfect for this type of thing. They are easy to use and there are enough different sizes to fit any packing job.

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Downsize your toiletry items.

You need to downsize your toiletry items.

Spray cans and glass containers of any kind are not allowed in your luggage. Get small squirt bottles or a set of small plastic containers. Also, buy

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, plastic toothbrushes, and . Roll on deodorant also comes in travel sizes. If you run out of anything – most hotels or hostels have places to purchase the core items you need at the front desk.


Use every open space possible.


When you begin packing, start with all the heavy flat objects first. Spread the weight out evenly across the bottom of your luggage.

Next, place your rolled clothes against the outer walls. This leaves the middle part open for your more fragile items. When all your large items are in, fill the empty spaces with leftover clothes, space saver containers, and anything else you need like a stuffed animal… we won’t judge.

Hopefully, our tips help you on your next trip. Now you won’t get stuck in another country waiting on your checked-bag ever again. Instead, pack it all in the carry-on and maximize your travel! Pack more, spend less, and do more traveling!

Do you have any questions or comments? Please comment below!