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9 tips for packing a small carry-on for international travel

I’m just gonna say it; in the United States, we’re spoiled. You know it. I know it. We all know it.

We’re spoiled in many obvious ways—Disneyland, Netflix, and free refills to name a few—and we’re also spoiled in a less obvious and often overlooked way: free carry-on luggage with unlimitedweight.

The unlimited part is what we take for granted. Sure, many airlines outside of the United States offer free carry-on bags, but they typically add on a fee for every kilogram over their strict luggage weight restrictions. Others don’t even offer free carry-ons.

As I mentioned in 7 tips to save you big bucks on your European adventure, super cheap flights usually come with extra fees for luggage, so, cheapskates like you and me, we’ve got to cut down on what we bring.

Why pack less and pack light? It saves you money. It saves you time. It saves your arms. Seriously, those bags get heavy after a while.

Here are tips to help you pack a week’s worth of must-haves into a small carry-on:

‘Am I going to use this daily?’

Ask yourself with each and every item you pack: “Am I going to use this daily?” If not, simply don’t bring it.

However, if you’ll be staying for a month or longer on your trip, you have permission to fudge a little and instead ask, “Am I going to use this weekly?”

Lighter is better

With everything you pack, try to come up with a lighter and space-conserving alternative. For example, swap umbrellas for lightweight rain jackets, or switch wedges for sandals.

Buy disposable toiletries while you’re there

Nearly every city you visit will have drug and convenience stores where you can get necessary toiletries. There’s no need to pack five palettes of eye shadow, 16 ounces of gel and three bottles of perfume.

Trust me.

You don’t want to carry around all that extra weight anyway.

‘Can I wear this with more than one outfit?’

Come on. Who is going to notice that you’ve worn the same shirt twice in one week when you’re in a foreign country surrounded by complete strangers?

You can still be trendy without packing your whole wardrobe. Simply pack only clothing, shoes, and accessories that are versatile and can be worn with many outfits.

Here’s a tip: Neutral colors are your best friend when travelling.

Plan on doing laundry

Since you won’t be bringing a separate outfit for each day, dirty laundry is inevitable. Some hotels, bed ‘n’ breakfasts, and hostels offer laundry facilities. Paying $2 for a load of laundry is cheaper than paying extra baggage fees brought on by bringing more clothes than necessary.

…or don’t

If you’re not perspiring like a pig, don’t do laundry and consider wearing clothes multiple times while on vacation.

Re-wear shirts, pants, dresses and for those articles you can’t stand to wear again (I’m that way with undies and socks.), do what the traveling guru, Rick Steves, suggests: wash them in a sink with shampoo and let them hang dry while you’re out and about sight-seeing.

Roll, roll, roll

Once you’ve got your minimalist outfits planned, roll them to save room in your suitcase. It’s like magic how much rolling clothing can save room.

Plan on souvenirs

If you’re able to get under the weight restrictions on the way to your destinations, great! But do realize that you’ll probably grab a few souvenirs along the way. Save room and weight, so you won’t have to leave anything behind.

Weigh before you go

Be OK with what you’ve packed and weigh your carry-on before you go. You don’t want to be surprised at the airport with extra fees.

I’ve invested in a small and lightweight hand scale, specifically designed to weigh luggage, which I keep with me on vacation.

Again, fitting all of your necessities into one small carry-on will make traveling so much easier!

It will also save you a pretty penny along the way.

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