Today I will teach you how to have an organized carry-on bag. After packing in only carry-on bags for over 20 years as a pilot’s wife flying standby, these organization tips will help you before, mid-flight and after your trips.
Tips to Organize Every Part of Your Carry-On Luggage
Take the organization tips that will actually help you save space.
The most helpful tip is to organize your personal item bag that you carry on to the airplane:
1. Stack your flight essentials.
I start at the bottom of my backpack with a compression cube of 2 shirts, one pair of socks and 2 undies in case the airline leaves me stranded.
I then stack my toiletry bag or a pouch of in-flight toiletries.
Travel Tip: pack these horizontally not vertically.
Next I pack my electronic cords travel case.
2. Organize toiletries.
This video is full of tips for organizing toiletries, but here are two ways:
- Pack toiletries by time of day in pouches. For instance, I will pack my comb, makeup remover wipes, toothbrush in one small pouch that can fit in open pockets of space throughout my bag.
- Pack in a sectioned toiletry kit like I use. TIP: you can keep it unzipped and pack it flat if it seems bulky.
3. Organize your medical bag.
Take it from me, this bag does not have to be pretty. Use gallon bags or small pouches or a pill organizer.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, dry pills can be packed anywhere and they do not need to see them in the TSA line. If you are flying to other countries, research their rules for medicine. For example, Sudafed is not allowed in Mexico!
Liquid medications are allowed and do not have to be in liquids bags. I took my prescription bottle of shampoo to Belgium. I first told the officers in Houston that I had prescription liquids and did they need to see them. I had it in the outermost pocket of my backpack in its own little sandwich bag. The officer did pick it up and read the label. But in Belgium, they did not want to see it.
You never know so just have the liquid meds easily accessible.
Travel Tip: do not pack medicine in suitcase.
As you know, airplanes do not have room in the overhead bins for all of the passengers’ carry-on luggage if the plane is older. That means your bag could be checked last minute.
Here are 2 tips to prevent airlines from losing your medicine:
- Pack meds in your personal item bag.
- Pack a baggie of your medicine at the very top of your carry-on bag so that if the airline needs to check the suitcase last minute, you can pull them out and put them in the top of your backpack.
Organize Vacation Outfits:
Travel Tip: Only pack 2 pairs of shoes. You also have the airport outfit shoes. Make every vacation outfit match with those 3 pairs of shoes.
Make 2 lists.
- the excursions or tours you will take while on this vacation
- a list of what shoes needed for those activities
Now consider what are the cute things you really want to wear. You cannot go on this vacation without _____ cute outfit piece or accessory for example. I pack in compression cubes that do not use a vacuum cleaner. These come in a set of 6 with 2 large ones. Learn more why compression cubes are essential for carry-on travel.
Minimalize outfits with these 2 questions:
- Can the travel outfits be worn with the same shoes?
- Do you really need to wear that if you have to pack a pair of shoes for only that outfit?
If so, pack that extra pair of shoes. If not, choose another cute outfit piece that can be worn with the shoes you will already have packed based on the tours.
Here are 3 organized ways to pack outfits:
- Pack all tops in one cube. I like to separate by tops and then fill in spaces with undies or pajama shorts for example.
- Pack outfits day by day or
- Pack according to the activity.
Just choose a method and try it. See what does NOT work for you and what really helps you.
Separate shoes if it opens more space.
Fit extra shorts or leggings in-between the carryon handles.
If you have precheck pack your liquids bag in the left side so the screening machine can see it easily. It does not HAVE TO be in your personal item bag.
Then fill in the pockets of empty space with toiletry pouches, curling iron, converter blocks.
Do not miss my video of 10 outfit ideas for Europe in only a carry-on.
Organize Bags After Trip
- I pack my cubes inside the largest one in the set and zip it all up.
- I store my pouches, crossbody bags, fanny packs, travel-sized umbrella, hotel slippers etc in one of my carry-0n suitcases until the next trip.
- Take pictures of toiletries on your hotel counter to help you remember what you did not need.
- Make a list of what you did not wear.
Travel hack for your vacation outfits if you use an iPhone:
After vacation find a picture of your outfit (I take selfies in the hotel room), hold your finger down on the photo to cut out just you in the outfit, tap copy. Now open the notes section of your iPhone and press down anywhere and tap paste to import that outfit. Keep adding more so you will have a list of the outfits and what did not look quite right or the ones that were versatile or helpful when traveling.
The only things I keep in my liquids bag in-between trips is
- toothpaste and
- no-leak liquid containers for shampoo or lotion.
Need to pack for 2 seasons? I remember escaping the cold temperatures of DC to fly to a warm beach vacation during winter. We left our coats in the car when we parked at the airport. I show you more tips in this video that will help you pack for both climates!
There are 5 things I never leave home without packing. See if you agree below!