How to pack for carry-on

Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and the founders of Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog, NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off the beaten path destinations.


Need to take your travel adventures to the next level? De-stress, avoid extra luggage fees and feel super organised by planning ahead and packing strategically with shrewd carry-on hacks.

Consider just taking a carry-on pack and you’ll skip the queue at the baggage carousel, be one of the first to grab a taxi and know your luggage is with you at all times. There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving in a new destination to discover the airline has lost your luggage.

1. Choose the right bag

Airlines are getting stricter with weight and dimension limits for overhead luggage, which can make packing for a plane harder than when Tetris obviously speeds by 300%. Be sure to select the right carry-on pack, which needs to be more than just a certain size. It also has to:

  • Make your packing life simple
  • Be easy to carry or wheel around
  • Have multiple internal compartments for organising your gear
  • Be durable enough to withstand inflight rigours

A bag made of softer materials can mould its way into tight spaces and compress down if you still have some room available. It also makes packing lightly for a trip that much easier due to its lighter weight.

An image of a woman waiting for her transport with her carry-on packAn image of a woman waiting for her transport with her carry-on pack
Investing in a compact, carry-on pack will be the best travel decision you make

2. Make a detailed packing list

A list can help keep you on the right track so you’re only taking what you really need when packing carry-on luggage. It will also ensure you don’t forget anything.

Write absolutely everything you think you’ll need on your list, such as:

  • Clothing – if your list states three tees, then only pack three
  • Toiletries – keep these minimal
  • Electronics – small and packable is best
  • Medications – can you store them without their excessive packaging?

3. Take quick-drying, adaptable clothing

Adaptable clothing that you can layer is the key to packing for a plane. Take a few high-quality items of clothing that serve multiple purposes rather than lots of single-use items. Not only is this better for the environment, but it’s also better for your packing list and budget. Investing in high-quality materials, such as merino wool, will mean you have go-to items when it comes to packing for a flight, rather than rushing to a discount store for clothes that may have been made with low-quality materials and under questionable and opaque factory standards. 

If you’re going to be mixing outdoor activities with city-sightseeing, take hiking pants that also look quite smart for day-to-day wear. Rather than taking a very thick winter coat, take a lightweight, waterproof shell that you can use in bad weather, no matter what the temperature.

Likewise, choose clothing with quick-drying materials. You’ll be able to hang it overnight if it’s wet, and expect it to be dry by morning.

4. Limit your pairs of shoes

Choosing which shoes to take can be a challenge. Consider the activities you plan on doing over your travels and take a pair for:

  • All occasions – simple and versatile for urban exploring, dinners out and whatever else your travels might throw at you
  • Hiking – rugged and waterproof for the outdoors yet also stylish enough to wear out to a bar
  • Casual activities – lightweight sandals that suit the beach, river activities and hot days

Remember to wear your heaviest shoes on the plane and when packing for carry-on only, strap your pair of sandals to the outside of your bag.


You can't pack for carry-on without the right pack...

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