When it comes to airline travel, luggage space is a luxury. Theoretically, it should be easy to fit everything you need for a weekend away in a carry-on, but in reality, cramming multiple vacation outfits, shoes, cosmetics, and electronics chargers into a 12-by-22-inch bag can induce more stress than sitting next to a coughing stranger on a long-haul flight. Think it can’t be done? We spoke to a handful of travel insiders, from pilots and first-class attendants to seasoned travelers, to find out their top hacks. Follow this step-by-step guide to pack your carry-on like a jet-setting pro. Long weekend, we’re ready for you.
Travel insiders agree: The biggest mistake you’re making is packing too many tech accessories. “You don't need a USB cable for all three of your devices, and different adapters are a waste of space,” says Wright.
The solution? “Carrying a micro-USB cord with a mini adapter tip uses far less space than a cable for each.” Wright also swears by multi-plug devices that allow you to charge your laptop and other items at once. “There are a few tradeoffs, like sacrificing a bit of power for a convenient size, but it’s generally worth it,” he says.
If you’re still feel nervous about parting with your cords and chargers, Cathay Pacific Airways first class officer Brendan Mullan says there’s a simple fallback. “Every hotel always has a spare set of phone chargers or adaptors, so if all else fails, you can just borrow them,” he says. In other words, stress less. There’s always a plan B.
There’s no need to be limited to a carry-on suitcase—most airlines allow a small piece of luggage and a handbag. According to Wright, that’s something travelers often overlook. Make the most of your extra bag by keeping essentials and breakable items close so don’t have to crawl over passengers to access them mid-flight. “This allows me to quickly grab a charging cable during a flight or pull out my little bag of liquids when passing through the TSA checkpoint.” Bonus: You’ll never open your suitcase to find a burst container of shampoo again.
So, what are the essentials you should be packing? Shop a few of our carry-on must-haves: