The secret to pulling off a quick fall trip is keeping things simple and streamlined. Whether you’re jetting to the mountains for a leaf-peeping hike or jumping on a great airfare to explore a new city, choosing to pack only a carry-on items will help you focus more time and energy on enjoying your trip. Without waiting for checked bags or schlepping around a large suitcase, you’ll be able to jump right into whatever adventure is waiting. But there’s an art to going carry-on only. It takes preparation and investing in the right type of clothes. Here are 12 tips for making the most of your carry-on item for your next fall trip.
Lay out outfits for specific events first.
If you know you’re going hiking, you’ll need different clothes and shoes than if you’re headed to a wedding. If there are important events on your trip requiring specific clothes, pick those out first and build the rest of what you take around that, so you’ll be sure you have room for those essentials. Taking a little time to lay out what you plan to take to wear for each day and scanning over them visually will make sure you don’t forget something important.
Choose items that coordinate.
The easiest way to slim down your packing list is to pack only clothing that works with everything else you pack—and focus on clothing you can wear more than once. Choosing clothes in black or neutral colors, or going with a monochromatic color scheme, will let you mix and match easily. Leave the “what it” items at home and use accessories like a beanie or a scarf to add pops of color or personality.
Opt for quick-drying clothes that pull double duty.
The beauty of much of today’s outdoor apparel is that it’s stylish enough to work on or off the trail. So you could pack a single pair of black soft shell pants that will be wicking and comfortable while you’re hiking and also look good at dinner or on the flight. Choose fabrics that shed moisture and also stretch, so they’ll keep their shape—and they’ll also be quick to dry in case you need to give them a quick wash.
Pack outerwear that’s compressible and flexible.
Fall is a great time for carry-on travel because you can often get away with packing mid-layers or a vest. Especially if they’re insulated with something like SOLARCORE, which is extra warm for how thin it is. Plus, you can mix and match vests and mid-layers with other items for whatever conditions you find yourself in.
Pick the right luggage.
Take the time to make sure your carry-on bag is actually the right size for your airline’s carry-on allowance. Why go to the effort to plan and pack everything efficiently if you’re going go end up having it gate checked anyway? Some manufacturers, like AWAY, also make packing cube sets that fit perfectly into their carry-on luggage, so there’s no puzzling over what goes where.
Ditch the toiletries if you can.
If you’re staying at a hotel or AirBnB, the odds are good they’ll provide you with basic soap, shampoo and conditioner. That offers a great opportunity to save a bit of space in your bag. Want to go even more minimalist? Pick up other necessities like toothpaste and deodorant when you get where you’re going.
Fill empty spaces in your bag.
As you’re packing your bag, take note of any spots left empty because of an awkward item—like shoes. The inside of your shoes is the perfect spot to shove some socks or underwear to use up the space.
Roll your clothes instead of folding them.
Rolling your clothes to pack them may not leave them perfectly wrinkle free, but it can help avoid the big, noticeable lines left by traditional folding. Plus, packing items in compact rolls helps you view all the clothes you packed more easily to find what you need, instead of having to paw through a stack of folded items to see what’s underneath.
Use compression bags or cubes.
Compression sacks or vacuum bags and can help you expel the air hiding within your stack of clothing to make more room for other items. It can help you keep clothes organized and make it easier to get you bag zipped when it’s time to check in. Plus, you can separate dirty or sweaty items from the clean ones.
Wear your bulkiest items on the flight.
Having trouble fitting that jacket or pair of boots into your carry on? Take them out of your bag and put them on your body. Ideally, avoiding bulky items is key to a minimalist packing job, but sometimes you just need that one item. That’s when it might be time to just wear it.
Only pack what you know works.
A carry on-only trip is not the time for trying out new clothes, outerwear or shoes you’ve never worn before. As fun as it is to wear something brand new on a trip, it’s an easy way to waste space on something that doesn’t actually fit perfectly or doesn’t actually work with the rest of what you packed. Make sure to try on all the combinations you laid out together—if they don’t actually work together, you won’t be likely to actually wear them on your trip. Same thing goes for shoes—plus, blisters from an untested pair of shoes are a quick way to ruin a trip.
Do a pack test ahead of time.
Nothing is more stressful than having to sit on your suitcase at the last minute, trying to smash everything in and decide what needs to be left behind. By laying everything out in advance, then actually packing it all beforehand, you’ll save yourself time when it’s time to actually head out. The beauty of spending a little time preparing is that it will allow you to breeze through your packing and travel time so you can enjoy every minute of your trip, stress free.