Carry on only: 6 essentials for packing light

Someone with blue lace up sneakers with thier feet up on a grey suitcase with a busy airport in the background

Traveling with just your carry-on means one thing: more freedom when you’re on the go. Not only will packing light save you precious time at the airport, but knowing your belongings are with you at all times this season will give you peace of mind from take-off to touchdown.

Here are six essentials to minimalist and mindful packing that will make any over-packer rethink checking a bag.

1. Pick the right bag

Packing carry-on only begins with choosing the bag you can make the most of. Start small – if you follow the urge to use a bag larger than needed, you’ll be tempted to fill it.

If you’re traveling to remote areas without paved roads, you’ll want to consider a carry-on backpack that can expand to fit all your essentials without worrying about wheels getting stuck on uneven paths. If you’re typically gliding through airport lounges and hotel lobbies, check out a spinner bag that will help you effortlessly get to your destination.

Whatever carry-on you choose, make sure it has enough pockets and compartments for you to organize your things and that it’s as spacious as possible without exceeding your favorite airlines’ size requirements.

silver carry on suitcase next to phone plugged in to charger in a hotel room

2. Take advantage of your personal item

Most airlines allow you to bring one personal item on board along with your overhead carry-on bag. This should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you comfortably but be roomy enough to hold all your essentials – passport, wallet, phone, AirPods, portable charger, etc.

Don’t waste this precious cargo on a small purse that only holds a few things; choose a personal item that’s convenient to take on day trips when at your destination so it’s a 2-in-1 solution. This could be a small foldable backpack or tote bag – both of which can fit a smaller purse inside as well.

3. Make a must-have essential list

Now it’s time to decide what to pack. Do you really need more than one hat?

Practice the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule.

1-2-3-4-5-6 packing image

Pack one hat, two pairs of shoes, three bottoms, four tops, five pairs of socks and six pairs of underwear and you should have just enough to last you two weeks. Choose clothes that you can mix and match so you’re not sporting the same outfit every few days (even if you do, we won’t tell). Don’t forget to adjust this list for items specific to your trip, like bathing suits or hiking boots (which are bulky, so wear those in-flight). 

Pro tip: find out if your accommodation offers laundry services.

4. Pack a capsule wardrobe

You don’t have to sacrifice style to save space. Create your own capsule wardrobe, a collection of basic, functional and versatile pieces that are easily interchangeable. With your simple but stylish wardrobe, you can maximize the number of outfits you create. Put together outfits that work for more than one type of activity: from sightseeing, to beach days and even nights out on the town.

Think multi-use staples, not this season’s must-haves.

capsule wardrobe packing, some clothes hangin on a rack and a suitcase with a map, globes and a passport on the floor

5. Don’t pack more than three pairs of shoes

The majority of shoes are not only bulky, but they also take up way too much space in your carry-on. 

Bring shoes that are both versatile and comfortable. Easier said than done, we know.

For a warm weather vacay, pack your comfiest sneaker and two pairs of sandals you can dress down or up. And for your chillier destinations, we recommend one pair of weather-proof boots, one pair of dress shoes for a fancy dinner and one stylish sneaker or flat shoe (that’s comfortable if we hadn’t mentioned that enough).

girl in a car on a road trip with her while sneakers hanging out the window

6. Know what to roll and what to fold

It’s the great packing debate – should you roll or fold your clothes?

Folding clothes helps to prevent wrinkles, but rolling clothes helps you make the most of the gaps in your suitcase that folding can leave. Packing experts’ solution to this – a mix of both. Folding your clothes typically works best for garments made from heavier fabrics, like blazers, button-downs and jeans, while the rolling method is best for softer materials that are less likely to wrinkle, like cotton and wool. By rolling and folding when packing your suitcase, you can ensure your wardrobe stays wrinkle-free while still taking full advantage of any open space.

Bonus: must-have items

Traveling is the perfect time to let loose and relax, and knowing what essentials to pack is key in making for the best vacation. With the proper items, your trip will be even more comfortable and enjoyable especially when in transit. 

Here are eight must-have items you should be sure to pack on your next trip:

  1. Travel pillow
  2. Portable charger
  3. Travel adapter
  4. Reusable water bottle
  5. Noise-canceling headphones
  6. Travel-size toiletries 
  7. Passport wallet

Get packing

Adventure awaits. No matter where you choose – make your journey as stress-free as possible by bringing your essentials and Faye Travel Insurance along for the ride.

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