Carryon Culture: 5 tips to hack your travel like a PRO!

July 31, 2019

5 tips to hack your travel and pack like a pro

Me on any given day at home: yoga pants (or anything with stretch), tshirt pulled from the laundry basket, ratty flip flops, & hair up in a messy topknot. Total effort: 10 minutes.

Me on vacation: A perfectly curated colorful outfit complete with a fun bag, statement earrings, fancy shoes, an actual hairdo, and full-face makeup (with lashes). Total effort: 1 hour.. minimum, plus the other 500+ I put into to actually planning all said vacation outfits.

Who else can relate? Like I’ve said before, I’m a planner, so it shouldn’t come as (much) of a surprise to know that I curate my vacay outfits prior to a trip (usually months ahead I’ll start thinking about what I want to wear. That’s half the fun for me!) and then the day before, I’ll lay out each look and take a quick photo to actually remember what I packed & what I had paired all together. Obsessive? Maybe. Proven method? Absolutely! And guess what? Those 500+ outfits all get packed into ONE. TINY. CARRY-ON.

Spoiler alert: only one of these suitcases is mine :) #forthegram
If I’m flying, you better believe I’m cramming as many clothes as humanly possible into a tiny carry-on because A. I’m super paranoid about luggage being lost en-route to the final destination (it’s happened to a friend. There were tears) & B. checking a bag can turn your already super cheap budget airline coach fare into first class prices when its all said & done (damn you add-on fees!).

I’m a bit of a jedi master when it comes to packing. Just ask anyone that has ever traveled with me. They will personally attest to the fact that my carry-on for a 5 day trip was more impressive than Mary Poppin’s carpetbag. While I didn’t pull a lamp out of that suitcase, I probably could have. In fact, I know I could have. I can only image the eyebrow raise security would have given me for that one! 

We all know that packing for a vacation requires a lot of clothes. Especially if you're Disney-bound, because on any given day you could need 2 outfit changes (or more. Where my fellow instagrammers & bloggers at!?), a poncho, and approximately 48 pairs of mouse ears, plus assorted accessories. So what’s a girl to do? Ship a box of clothes to your friend who lives in Palm Beach & is meeting you in Orlando, of course! (Yes, I did that with a box of shoes. I have no shame. And it was still cheaper than checking a bag.). But packing cubes work too.

  • T i p    n u m b e r    o n e :   R o l l   y o u r   c l o t h e s   i n   p a c k i n g   c u b e s !
My #1 tip for jamming as much junk in a carry-on as possible is roll those clothes into packing cubes, girl! Rolling saves soooo much space, and when used in conjunction with packing cubes, not only will your stuff stay organized, you will be amazed at how much you can fit in such a small space.

I use these packing cubes, but Amazon has tons of different kinds, all at varying price points. This set came with 6 cubes of varying sizes, and I generally only use about 4 or 5 at a time. I use the large one for thicker items like pants or dresses, and the smaller bags are great for tops, swimsuits, or unmentionables. It will take some trial & error to see what works best for you to fit everything in, but before you know it, your bag will be like a real life game of Tetris. Good luck remembering which cube that purple crop top was in (I sure didn’t. But once I’ve arrived at my destination with my clothes safely in tact & in my possession, who really cares? My hotel room will look like my suitcase threw up all over it as soon as I unpack anyway!)

  • T i p    n u m b e r    t w o :   Y o u r   c a r r y - o n   i s   K E Y !
Invest is a good carry-on. Full disclosure here: I'm a Prime member and thank goodness for that, because when it came time to find the perfect carry-on bag for me, I had a case of Goldilocks & the 3 suitcases. I cycled through 2 other suitcases before I found one I love (so yes, I ordered - and returned - 2 other bags before I found my forever-bag).

At first, I was drawn to this adorable Minnie-inspired suitcase - it's 100% me. But while I have a full size set of American Tourister already and love it (plain, but very durable - it's my old luggage set from college #foreverago), I knew I wanted to put a hardshell case into my luggage rotation.

Then I tried this CarryOn brand pink bag, because let's face it - this was an impulse buy because I liked the way it looked, and it had decent reviews. But when it arrived, the quality wasn't there, and it looked a lot smaller than the standard carry-on size.

Finally, I found I this Rockland carry-on (no, this post is not sponsored! I'm just sharing my absolutely favorite bag). It had a ton of positive reviews on Amazon & YouTube, and the pink+mint combo was a total bonus. It is great quality and has held up on all my trips.

  • T i p    n u m b e r    t h r e e :   M a x i m i z e   t h a t   " p e r s o n a l   i t e m ! "
Most airlines will let you take your carry-on plus an oversized purse or backpack. I generally opt for a backpack because you can fit way more stuff into it & it doubles as overflow space for things you couldn't fit in your carry-on (like shoes. They take up a ton of precious & valuable space in the suitcase, so I cram them at the bottom of my backpack). Anything you need quick access to like passports/tickets, phone, wallet, etc. should be readily accessible in your personal item. I stuff my toiletry bag in my personal item as well since it has to come out to go through security anyway because of the liquids. That one time I had a sleepover at Chicago O’Hare with 1.5 million other people, I was so glad I had quick access to a toothbrush & toothpaste.

  • T i p    n u m b e r    f o u r :   S t r a t e g y   g o e s   a   l o n g   w a y !
Be strategic in what you pack. While you can absolutely fit multiple outfits in a carry-on, you do still want to be conscious of your available space. Do you really need to bring 5 different pairs of shoes? Probably not. I planned my outfits in such a way that could be worn with the 3 total pairs of shoes I was bringing: Keds for the parks, sandals for basically anything & everything, and a pair of wedges for dressier outfits. The same goes for pants or shorts that are generally bulkier material. Pick one or two and mix and match your tops and accessories to create multiple outfits. When all else fails, pick pieces made of thinner fabrics (think silks, chiffons, or cotton - things that can easily be rolled up tightly). It's hard to get a pair of jeans to roll really super tight, but if you have several chiffon tops or cotton tees, those can be squished into the tiniest of spaces.

  • T i p    n u m b e r    f i v e :   O n l y   b r i n g   t h e   e s s e n t i a l s !
Leave the hairdryer and curling wands at home. Most hotels have hairdryers for use, and if you're going to FL, a curling iron is a waste of time (your hair will frizz the second you step out the door). And you definitely don't need full size items if you're using the carry-on method. I pack mini versions of everything: shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, perfume, and even sunscreen (which actually lasts a lot longer than you'd think; don’t get caught paying $14 for it at the parks!).

Something that is an absolute must? Charging banks. I travel with 2 because I drain my battery a lot faster when I'm on vacation. I know several places have the Fuel Rod stations, but I just like having my own. I use these Anker ones and have 2 at all times. Other essentials are sunglasses, earbuds, and a portable fan. These Amazon ones are an absolute lifesaver and they are rechargeable! I also always have to travel with a cute luggage tag, coffee cozies, and a mini-wallet. Full size wallets take up too much space, and I really only need my ID, credit cards, and cash, which can all go in a tiny wallet.

Hope some of these tips will help you on your next trip! If you’ve got a pro-tip, please share with me on @cakeaftermidnight or in the comments below; I’d love to hear! I’m always looking for new travel tips & ways to get creative with packing!

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