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How to stuff a Carry-On

Packing light and smart can save on baggage fees and travel hassles

These days packing light doesn't just save backaches, it also can save a bundle of cash.

Many airlines now charge passengers to check their luggage, usually about $25 a bag.

But even if you're only going away for four days or four weeks, you can usually avoid the fees by fitting everything into an approved carry-on bag.

By bringing less luggage, you save the hassle of schlepping bags from one hotel to the next, and you save more room to bring home lots of souvenirs. Until you try packing ultralight, you'll never believe it's possible.

Here's how:

The right luggage

Most airlines require carry-on bags to be no bigger than 22-by-14-by-9 inches. Weight counts too. If you can't lift the bag to put it in the overhead, it's too heavy. It is recommended no more than 20 pounds total. Check each airline's website for specific requirements.

Roll, roll, roll

One key to making everything fit is to roll up shirts and pants. Fold shirt sleeves in, then fold in half and then roll it up like a jelly roll. Same goes for pants. It saves space and cuts down on wrinkles.

Think cubism

Use packing cubes. These are commercial products that cost about $20 for a set of three and do a nice job reducing bulk and making it easy to find clothes quickly in a crowded bag. One cube holds shirts and pants, another holds loose items. A third can be used for dirty laundry. Don't have cubes? Use half-gallon zippered plastic bags instead.


Put toiletries and your jammies at the top of your bag. When you arrive jet lagged and tired, they'll be within easy reach.

Three-use rule

If you're not going to wear something more than three times, leave it out. Plan to wear clothes multiple times and really limit yourself to just what you need.


Wear one pair on the plane, the second gets packed. That's it. Period. End of story.

Casual is king

Even in conservative countries such as England, it's very rare for restaurants to require formal clothes. Khakis for men and a simple black dress for women should be enough, Robinson said.

Wash it

Plan to wash and rinse clothes in the sink. Synthetic underwear typically dries in hours. Just wash the stinky or messy spots on shirts. Bring stain remover wipes or pens and a travel clothesline. Shampoo will do for laundry soap. Don't pay for laundry at a hotel; there's usually a laundromat around the corner that will cost a fraction of the price.


Plan to buy accessories or clothes during your trip. You save space and create memories.

Tote it

Pack a foldable tote bag to bring home extra gifts, or to carry laundry. Plastic zippered bags also are great for hauling underwear, a wet bathing suit or gadget power cords.

Security belt

Pickpockets are a real problem in Europe and other parts of the world. Keep cash and valuables in a security belt tucked beneath your clothes.


A small umbrella doesn't take up much space and can save the day. If you forget to pack one, you can usually haggle vendors down to a lower price.


Remember that liquids must be in 3-ounce containers and must fit in a 1-quart-size zip-top plastic bag. The Transportation Security Administration website, www.tsa.gov/, tells you what you need to know. Many bath products now come in powdered form to avoid security problems. Put nonliquid toiletries in a bigger bag that can hang up and save space in small hotel bathrooms.

Outer layers

Plan to dress in layers. Wear a warm sweater on the plane even if you're headed to Hawaii. Airlines crank up the cold air to prevent germs from spreading. And you'll have something to wear on chilly nights. In winter, wear all your layers on the plane and stash heavier coats in the overhead.

Rent it

If you plan to play golf, go skiing or do anything else that requires bulky athletic gear, rent it. It's not worth it to bring a bag of clubs all the way to Scotland for one round.

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